You have put together a huge party for someone you love or care about deeply. A best friend, a spouse, a parent. It’s a milestone occasion—40th birthday, 50th birthday, 25th wedding anniversary. The event locale is booked, the food ordered, you went all out and booked a band or DJ. At the event, the crowd goes quiet and someone asks, “Do you want to say a few words?”
To help prepare you for the inevitable question, use the following 7 writing prompts to deliver a memorable toast on someone’s birthday or anniversary. The goal is to keep the toast to about 3-5 minutes, maybe a bit more if you’re the only one speaking. The goal is to honor the person and celebrate their life.
- What do you love most about this person? What are you most proud of them for accomplishing? What funny or heartwarming stories can you tell to illustrate those qualities?
- When have they been there for you? How so?
- What lessons from a life well lived can we learn from them?
- What mark have they left on the world? How can we follow in their footsteps?
- Have they triumphed over any obstacles in their life? How so? How are they better for it?
- If you had one moment to say everything you wanted to say, what would you say?
- How has your life (and that of others) been made better by the person you’re honoring at this event?
How to use the prompts:
Use the prompts to get a head start on what you want to write. Each one doesn’t need to be fully answered in your toast and it’s not a middle school essay. Instead, use each one as a jumping-off point and follow the threads that give you the best (and most material). It’s no use dwelling on parts that keep you stuck.
A few more tips:
- Keep the stories upbeat, short, and just go with the highlights
- Prepare ahead of time and use notes to keep your place rather than reading from a script
- If you don’t want to speak at the event, consider putting your thoughts into a letter and delivering that instead as a gift after the event.
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?