Raise Your Glass

Several of you may find yourselves preparing for a toast in the coming year, so take this advice to heart from CHS Speech and Debate Coach, Jeff Robbins, with his tips on overcoming the nervous tendencies of public speaking.

Make a Plan

You might be asked to give a toast months in advance, or possibly just a few minutes beforehand. Alternatively, you might be asked to “say just a few words.” Regardless of the request, make a plan. Think in this order: Introduce yourself and explain your relation to the couple, communicate what you like about their relationship (include an anecdote), then finish by wishing them well in the future.

Keep it Simple and Genuine 

Don’t try to be something you are not. Using the normal language you would use, speak about the relationship from your point of view. Using more complex language than the speaker is used to is one of the places where people get tripped up. If your toast sounds like a school essay, you did it wrong. Oh and by the way, you are not required to be funny. Don’t force comedy into your toast if you haven’t had much time to prepare. 

Don’t Go Viral 

This is really obvious. Do not get inebriated before you speak. Seriously. I know you are nervous but don’t do it – it will end badly for you. Also, don’t tell inappropriate jokes or anecdotes. Before you say anything, ask yourself this simple question: Would I want this said about me in front of my friends and family?


Carry a handkerchief. Not because it’s classy (it is), but because you need an exit strategy if everything goes wrong. If you get up there and blank, start to say something and then act like your voice caught in your throat. Take a pause. Exhale audibly. Move the microphone away from your mouth and act frustrated, like you can’t believe this is happening. Now, take your handkerchief, and dab at your eyes (making them slightly red). Do you remember what you were going to say? If so, jump right back in. If not, uh-oh, you were too overcome with emotion. Skip to the end and wish them well for the future! 

By: Jeff Robbins

Collierville High School Speech & Debate Coach