Lessons in Etiquette

Q) I will be hosting my first business dinner in a couple of weeks, and am going to have to make a toast to a retiring executive from my company.  I’ve never done this before.  What should I do?



A) First of all, sit down and write out what you want to say.  It will allow you to give a much more heartfelt and entertaining speech.  If you need to use cue cards, that’s fine but keep them small and discreet.

Limit your toast to two to three minutes.  Practice repeatedly ahead of time, and if you can, visit the venue where the dinner is to be held.  Practicing at the site will make you feel much more comfortable at the event itself. 

Before dinner is served, speak with members of the audience.  That way, you can focus on them as you speak for more comfort. 

You will actually make two toasts that evening.  The first will be made before the meal is served.  It welcomes the guests.  For example,  “I’d like to welcome all of you this evening.  Bon Appetit!” 

The second and more formal toast recognizes the guest of honor.  You will give that toast after the meal is finished and before dessert is served.  Wine or champagne glasses should be refilled before you begin to speak.

When making your toast, stand up straight with your feet firmly on the floor, slightly apart, and do not cross your arms. 

Don’t bang on your glass with silverware.  Simply hold your glass in the air to get everyone’s attention.  Then set your glass down for the toast.  Make eye contact.  Look at the guest of honor whom you are toasting.  Then look around the rest of the audience and make eye contact with a few people.  It will appear as though you are talking to everyone.

When you are finished speaking, raise your glass again and invite everyone else to do the same.  Your guests should respond by raising their glasses and taking a sip.  However, do not expect your guest of honor to join in at this point.  He does not take a drink when receiving the toast.

Keep your toast lighthearted, warm and humorous.  Include personal anecdotes and praise for the honored guest.  Conclude your speech with a short and clever proverb, such as:  “As you slide down the banisters of life, may the splinters never point the wrong way.”  Good luck!


Follow Carolyn Davenport at AGraciousYou.com.