Giving Thanksgiving Holiday Toast

It’s every Thanksgiving guest’s nightmare. You’re on the way to the table to devour the grand feast. You sit, grab your napkin, and the host puts you on the spot to make a toast. Your heart pounds, your knees quiver. The entire table starts shaking! What can you do?

You can PLAN a toast in advance and give the guests a memorable experience without embarrassing yourself! Here are a few steps to help you through the planning and delivery process of a great Thanksgiving toast this year.

  1. Plan in advance – If you are the host, accept the role fully and plan an opening toast for your dinner event. Deliver it about 10 minutes after your opening prayer, if you have choose to open the dinner with prayer. If there’s no prayer to kick-off the event, your toast may occur just after everyone is served up or even before food is passed around. If you are a guest and would like to offer a toast, allow the host to make a toast first. You can add yours later after dinner before desert.

  2. Decide in advance if you will sit or stand to give your toast – With less than 10 people around a table, sitting is fine. More than that and it’s probably a better idea to stand so that everyone knows you have command of the floor. The most important part of your toast is the beginning so have it planned in advance whether you should sit or stand.

  3. Know your audience – I tend to stay away from religious or political humor. Somehow one or the other always seems to find their way into Thanksgiving toasts. My suggestion is to avoid both of those topics, but if you can’t resist, then at know in advance what might be offensive to your guests and avoid direct insult even if you’re just joking.

  4. Scope out a time that everyone is at the table – You want everyone to be engaged at your table when you make your toast without interruption by people getting up out of their chairs to fill their wine glass or go to the bathroom.

  5. Plan for a prelude – Most Thanksgiving tables include a swarm of adults and children all talking at the same time. How anyone can hear anyone else has always been a mystery to me. You’ll need usually about 15-20 seconds of a what I call “warm-up words” get people around the table to stop talking so that they know to pay attention to your toast. I like to start with announcing that “I would like to make a toast but what I wrote on a paper towel I wound up using to wipe the snow off the windshield [fill-in weather type here] and it dissinegrated right before my very eyes. So, I’ll have to just make this up as I go. So, no heckling aloud!” That always seems to bring a few laughs and gets everyone wanting more.

  6. Keep it under “1” minute – People are hungry! They want to eat! Keep it short.

  7. Keep it general so that everyone understands what you’re talking about – One toast I heard quoted some actor from a foreign film. I, along with every other person at the table, missed the entire toast because we were all whispering to each other wondering who the actor’s name was and why we should know that name.

  8. Memorize your toast – It’s okay if you miss a word here and there. You don’t have to deliver a toast flawlessly in order for it to be done well. Most people are a bit tipsy anyway by the time Thanksgiving dinner comes along and they’re not going to remember every word of every sentence. Memorize your toast and then paraphrase it the best you can. The most important thing is the meaning you leave them with at the end of the toast.

  9. Sandwich your serious point with humor – Think of an oreo cookie and the good white stuff is in the middle. Surround the serious or inspiring point with light humor on both ends. The best toasts leave ’em laughing at the end. If you’re making a toast and showcasing someone in the room, like your 98-year-old grandmother, you probably want to stay serious in your point, then lead applause for the grandmother, then as the applause dies down, add a last bit of humor on the end.

  10. Avoid putting people on-the-spot – Keep in mind that public speaking in large or small forums is still the nation’s #1 fear. If you’re going to call on someone to contribute to your toast or make a comment of their own, consult with them before the dinner starts and seek permission. Nothing ruins a perfectly good Thanksgiving dinner more quickly than someone getting unexpectedly embarrassed.

Plan for these 10 steps and your Thanksgiving toast will be not only fun, funny, and engaging, but it will be memorable for days and even months and years later by your guests.
Have a great Thanksgiving and we all hope to see YOU at a George Sutton Toastmasters meeting soon!