I've been thinking that many speaking-type activities we do in the course of our lives can be adapted to business speaking situations, such as speeches and presentations. I recently suggested handshakes as a model and now I'm going to show you how the ingredients of a great toast also work for opening your speech or presentation.
1. It's about the audience, not about you. When toasting a couple on their wedding or a person receiving an award, you must always--and only--talk about that person. It's not about you then, and it's not about you when you're speaking to a business audience.
2. Keep it short. Attention spans are briefer than ever and audiences are unforgiving when speakers bore them. This is true for toasts and equally true for business speakers. The opening of your speech or presentation should be less than three minutes and delivered crisply and with energy.
3. Pick one story. Toasts that go into excruciating detail about a several events are not interesting. You're speaking, not delivering a novel. Business speakers also need to pick one story about the audience and write it crisply and artistically--you are not a reporter, nor are you giving testimony in court. Give the hero a name, briefly describe the challenge, actions and outcomes.
4. Humor is great and very, very hard to do well. What may have been hysterically funny at the time is probably much less so when retold later to people who weren't there. So focus on lightly funny comments-self-deprecating is especially successful--and leave comedy to the professionals. For your business audience, focus your humor on commonly shared experiences and unexpected outcomes.
5. Write it down and practice a lot. Every toast that is remembered and appreciated has been written down and practiced. No one, and I stress no one, is capable of their best toast when they wing it. The same holds true for business speakers. Practice for yourself and rehearse for your audience.
Giving a toast is a moment of influence that can make you a person of interest, as is speaking and presenting to a business audience. Communicate your high regard for those who are listening by using these 5 steps to create a memorable speech that is appreciated and remembered by all.