It’s time for end-of-year bonuses and holiday party speeches and toasts by CEOs and team leaders. While you should definitely keep your remarks short (and ditch any powerpoints with flow charts), you should also come prepared with what to say than trying to wing it. Here are some questions that can help you figure out what to say in your toast to make it memorable. You don’t need to include the answers to each and every one—just use each one as a jumping-off point to get the creative juices flowing.
What has your team been successful at accomplishing?
Celebrate wins both big and small. Maybe you landed a major account or a pitch went well. Think back to moments earlier in the year that may have escaped recent memory.
What are you looking forward to for next year?
Paint a picture of the upcoming year. Rather than list of a bunch of talking points or projects, talk about what the next year will look like for you and your team when you’re successful. If something big is coming up, talk it up.
What are you grateful for over the past year?
It’s easy to get lost in the daily deluge of emails and memos and forget to show your gratitude to your team. This is the perfect time to praise the people you lead and show your gratitude for their hard work. Choose specific instances to make this more meaningful than just saying, “I’m really grateful for your hard work.”
What are some things that your employees have accomplished or done regularly that you hadn’t always recognized in the past?
Sometimes small things that employees and team members have gone unnoticed. See if you can find times when someone really stepped up. Other times, you have team members that do things well consistently that it seems like second nature. Make sure to recognize those efforts, too.
What were some of the funnier moments from the past year that your team still talks about?
Effective teams and companies seem to have endless inside jokes. This is the perfect time to bring up the funnier moments from the past year provided they aren’t embarrassing to anyone. If you can handle, throw in some self-deprecating humor to show some humility as a leader.
What makes you want to come into work each day and work with your team?
-The best way to show gratitude to your team is to tell them exactly why you are excited to come into work with them each and every day. Very often, great coworkers make tough jobs bearable (and the opposite is very well true).
Did something go wrong that you can spin into a positive outcome?
Sometimes a given year isn’t “the best we’ve had yet as a company.” There may have been some bumps along the way. Is there a way to turn anything negative into a positive? At the very least, you can touch on the lessons learned from any failures or hurdles along the way.
End of year speeches are a time to remember the great stuff from the previous year and to look forward to the next year with great expectations. Rather than laying out new company policies or long lists of “initiatives,” take the time to show your gratitude and end the year on a positive note. Your employees will thank you for your brevity and grace.
For more advice on similar speeches, get my upcoming book, “Toast: Short Speeches, Big Impact.”
Eddie Rice is an executive speech writer, who has worked with CEOs, college presidents, government officials, and business owners. Let him help you tell your story. Your words can move your company and your people to action; they can make the difference between a lackluster or thriving culture. Need help on your next speech?
Photo credit: Yi Lang on Flickr