Have you ever been traumatized by the thought of giving a toast or having to stand up and say something about a friend at a party? If so, I’ve got just the thing for you. A quick, easy, two-step, way to put together an honoring speech, even at a moment’s notice.
Recently my mother-in-law was preparing to give a eulogy at her mother’s memorial service; she had gathered memories and favorite stories from the kids and had come to that difficult moment of trying to put it all together. And something occurred to me that I wish would have popped into my brain a dozen years ago. An easy way to prepare a toast, eulogy, or other honoring “speech” that will get you through the crisis phase in no time at all.
Now, this is the very basic of templates. A map that will take you from 0% to 85% of a solid honoring speech. For the finer points, keep looking. For toasts, I highly recommend the Art of Manliness article about giving a great toast as a best man. It covers the finer points of this art and gives great guidelines and reminders for all sorts of toasts.
As you prepare, I suggest capturing thoughts and notes on paper. It will keep you from trying to keep it all straight in your head, and a second draft can serve as a cheat sheet. Shall we begin?
How to do it
1) Make a list of favorable characteristics of the person you’re speaking about.
Be sure to include something that speaks to the “heart” of the individual. As the wife of a dude who is regularly remembered for being quite funny and a great storyteller, I know that when this is the only thing people compliment him on, he wonders if he actually contributes anything else to the world. Everyone likes to know they’re enjoyed. Definitely talk about that. But also mention how generous the person is, or how they are always the first to serve, or that they are tender-hearted, or whatever.
2) Pick two or three things from your list (depending on how much time you’re given for your speech and your propensity for being long-winded) and think of anecdotes or examples of that characteristic.
If you’re talking about the person’s generosity, tell about the time they had pizza delivered to your house during a particularly trying time. If you’re taking about what a prankster they were, tell about how they put your office phone in a full mold of jello. But not in front of the boss.
Which leads me to this reminder: always consider your audience and whether your statements might offend someone, get the honored person into any trouble, or cast them in a negative light.
If in doubt, ask the person (or for a memorial service, ask the person’s immediate family) if they mind. “Hey, I was thinking about what I might say tomorrow night and wanted to run something by you. Do you mind if I share the story about sneaking out to go get frosties at the 24-hour Wendy’s the night before graduation? Your mom already knows about that, right?” Something like that will do just fine.
That’s it. Two easy steps. And you can reverse them, too. If you have a favorite story you want to tell, start with that and figure out what it is about your friend that made those times so great. Was it their spontaneity? Their availability? Their kindness? Now you have your characteristic and your anecdote.
Sandwich your positive characteristics and anecdotes between an intro and a closing (definitely see that art of manliness article for tips on transitioning to a toast), and include thanks to those in attendance and/or for the opportunity to share about the honored person. Voila!
Oh! And know how you’re going to land the plane
One final tip. Before you get up to speak, have in mind how you’re going to finish your speech. It’s easy to rattle on for several minutes after you’re done simply because you haven’t found a stopping point. So practice ahead of time a closing statement and use it. You will feel less awkward and everyone will appreciate your succinct closure.
What do you think?
Would this one-two method work for you? Do you have any additional tips? Please share!