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4 Storytelling Tips for Giving The Perfect Toast

We’re heading into the time of year when we say nice things about the people we care about – at work and at home. As we head into the holiday season, many of us will be called upon to give toasts as we celebrate the wins behind us and look ahead to new ones.

Good news is – as great storytellers – you’re most of the way to being a great toaster!

So, as you “cheers” all your wins (New business! Great ideas! Clever campaigns!) and affirm relationships with peers and clients, here’s how to use storytelling tools to make every toast memorable and meaningful this season

1. Center yourself around the occasion and the audience

  • What is the occasion? You should totally know this. You’re there! It’s a freebie!

  • Jot down some facts about your audience: Old or young? Colleagues or strangers? Intimate and friendly or professional and formal?

  • Know if you want to toast a person, a team accomplishment or the moment.

All great storytellers plan the right story for a specific audience. This step enables you to quickly decide on the tone of your toast and what language to use.

2. Think of something true about the moment or person and/or team that all can agree on. This could be:

  • What a great year it’s been.

  • What a good leader someone is.

  • What a strong team you are.

  • What a wonderful occasion this is.

All great storytellers develop rapport with the audience before telling. This step enables you to draw the room to you by getting them to agree with you about something pleasant.

3. Think about something the person or group you’re toasting taught you this year. Or, frame the accomplishment you’re toasting in terms of what it taught the team. This could be:

  • How a person showed everyone perseverance or teamwork or cleverness.

  • How the team banded together to achieve a goal.

  • How one person made a difference for a client or the team.

All great storytellers know learning or change is the heart of all stories. So we have to make sure that your toast has a tiny little story IN it. In that little chunk of text, we have all the parts of a story:

  • People, place and time

  • Issue/opportunity

  • How the person/organization intervened/helped.

  • What you learned/how it matters.

It could be as simple as:

“Earlier this year, when Katie developed that new-client intake questionnaire to use during our first meetings with clients, she really went above and beyond to make us a more client-centric firm. It’s so important to improve our practices when it comes understanding our clients.

4. Wrap it up by drawing the audience together to celebrate the point of the toast. Lift you glass and say something to the effect of:

  • I know I’m not the only person who appreciates this person’s work… Here’s to the time she’s helped all of us.

  • I know we all appreciate how strong this team is… Here’s to all of you.

  • I know we all have learned something from this person… Here’s to all the lesson’s she’s taught us.

Great storytellers wrap up stories as inclusively as they open them. A great toast starts out a little personal, but always expands to include the room, so everyone feels personally involved in the moment physically and emotionally.

Cheers to you and your team and all the celebrations you’re going to have!


About Megan Finnerty

Megan is a journalist and storytelling consultant. Essentially, she’s a professional listener, who likes to talk. It’s complicated. She’s the director of the Storytellers Brand Studio, which curates and hosts live storytelling events for brands and nonprofits. And she’s the founder and director of the Storytellers Project, a nationwide series of live storytelling events from the USA TODAY Network. She’s coached thousands of people to share true, first-person stories. She graduated from Purdue University, and was a news features reporter at The Arizona Republic for 14 years. She feels strongly about feminism, cocktails, and NPR, and prefers a bold lip to a smoky eye.

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