Dec 082004
 
Authors: Andrew Nuth

The holidays are a time to enjoy the company of friends and family. But they can quickly turn into some people's worst nightmare: a public-speaking opportunity.

Short speeches and toasts are common on special occasions, and they can be nerve-racking even among friends and family.

"Toasting is one of the few pure forms of speech left," said senior speech communication major Brandon Bianco. Bianco has given toasts in the past and said they are fun to do because they are personal and positive.

Toastmasters International, a new club on campus, can help students with their public-speaking skills – from prepared speeches for classes or business to off-the-cuff speeches and even toasts.

"The goal of toastmasters is to improve your speaking skills. It's all self-motivated," said Bob Sturtevant, founder of the CSU Toastmasters and a CSU forestry extension specialist. Toastmasters is a fun way to meet people and practice public speaking in a supportive environment, Sturtevant said.

Javad Fields, a senior speech major and former toastmasters member, is comfortable with speaking publicly. Fields gave his mother a toast on her 50th birthday.

"I had a few things I wanted to say, and it came from the heart," Fields said. He said being a part of the Toastmasters made him careful to not include words such as "um" while speaking. Club members would ring a bell every time he said it while practicing.

While the toastmasters focus on all types of public-speaking skills, they have a few pieces of advice for making toasts. If the opportunity to give a toast comes up during the holidays, follow these suggestions from the toastmasters and have fun with it.

Breakout box-ish:

1. To get everyone's attention it's acceptable to clink a fork against a glass.

2. Before proposing a toast, ensure that all glasses are filled.

3. When proposing a toast, raise the glass in your right hand held straight out from your shoulder. Look at the person being toasted while you speak.

4. Keep your toast short – no more than three lines – and focused on the person being toasted.

5. It is acceptable to use traditional toasts or quotes, or shared memories, but not embarrassing ones.

6. Opt for sincerity rather than levity – speaking from the heart usually goes over better than awkward attempts at humor. Avoid private jokes or references other guest wouldn't understand.

7. End by inviting the other guests to drink: "Please join me in a toast to John. To John!"

8. If you are being toasted, don't stand, raise your glass or drink the toast – just smile and look modest, then thank the toaster. You don't have to return the toast.

For more information about Toastmasters International, join the CSU Toastmasters for a meeting at 5 p.m. Wednesdays in Clark Building C-363 beginning next semester. Guests are welcome. Or check out www.toastmasters.org.

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