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Louise Elerding: Boasting your new toasting skills

You’ve got manners

Posted: August 26, 2010 10:39 p.m.
Updated: August 27, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Just because a toast is usually shorter than a regular speech does not mean it won’t bring up those frightening feelings of public speaking — fear, nervousness and next-to-death panic. Being on the receiving end of a toast can bring up some self-conscious feelings, too.

If we look at toasting as a festive message which gives any social gathering a personal touch, however, and learn the tricks of giving and receiving a toast, maybe we can all relax and just enjoy the moment.

Toasting is not limited to a specific time of year, place, or occasion.

It’s always welcome and appropriate. Think of a toast as gift time — and smile all the way through it. People feel special when they are being honored.

Delivering a good toast is easy, but here are some tips on how to avoid any bungling.

* It is customary for the host to give the initial toast. Then it’s your turn. Other toasts may follow  — there is no rule as to how many toasts you can have.

* You can toast more than one person in your speech — it could be an entire department in your firm, a group of visitors from a particular area, a clan of family members, or perhaps an athletic team.

* If you are the one being toasted because you are the guest of honor, it is very gracious to return the favor and make a toast back to your host. It can be done on the heels of his toast, or you may wait until later, perhaps just before the event is closing. There is no correct time rule. Remember, toasts add smiles to any occasion at any given time.

* Though it’s often done, a serenade of tapping knives on crystal glasses is not the best way to get everyone’s attention.

This can be hazardous by potentially causing damage to the crystal or injury to you or those around you. It’s better to announce a toast with a strong voice.

Perhaps you’ve heard the humorous saying that a toast is like a lady’s skirt — long enough to cover the subject but short enough to be entertaining. Limit your toast to about one minute. You can get through 60 seconds and survive, I promise you. When you toast, look at the recipient and pretend it’s just the two of you in the room. When you are the recipient, do the same and focus on the face of the person giving you the toast.

Forget there’s a big crowd around you, if it is a concern. If it’s not, look around and gather up all the love.

It’s best to speak naturally when giving your toast, so don’t bring written notes. If it’s too long to memorize, then it’s likely too long a toast. Make it heartfelt, to the point, and brief.

The toast you give is all about the person you are honoring, not about you. This is not a time for you to have your own stage or audience. Keep the complimentary comments strictly about the person you are acknowledging.

You would never toast yourself. If you are deserving of such a compliment and no one is aware, there is no rule that says you could not make arrangements ahead of time with a close friend or colleague to create a few words in your behalf.

Determine if this is appropriate under the specific circumstances. If you are the one being toasted, this is the time to sit perfectly still and without a glass in your hand. Listen intently and say your thanks at the end.

Only then may you lift your glass and take a sip.

Toasts can be made with any type of beverage — non-alcoholic, alcoholic, even fresh water. It’s the sentiment that is important, and what is in the glass is secondary. This opens up toasting to any age group.

Cheers to all of you who will toast, have toasted, received a toast, and will continue toasting.

Louise Elerding, is a manners, etiquette, and personal appearance coach, and the author of “You’ve Got Manners!” — an illustrated series of children’s books. For information on table manners classes held at Salt Creek Grille in Valencia, and to submit questions for the “Ask Louise’ column, call (818) 259-3961 or e-mail Info:


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