17Toasts and Tributes

An executive I know wanted to pay tribute to a retiring staff member at a luncheon. He asked his team for anecdotes about this individual—and then built his impromptu remarks around those stories. At the end of the meal, he stood up and began his speech: “Chris is a memorable figure. One colleague will remember him for being late, another for his crazy sense of humor, and still another for his antics as a party animal.” Each point was fleshed out by the speaker in embarrassing detail, and he concluded by saying, “So we'll always remember you, Chris, for the things you may wish to forget!”

Everyone laughed—Chris the loudest—but no one was laughing inside. They were embarrassed for Chris, for the executive, and for those who had provided the comments.

Even though you want to be entertaining when you offer a toast or tribute, never let humor supersede leadership. Always adhere to the following guidelines that will help you delight your audiences.

Creating Winning Toasts and Tributes

The formula for a successful impromptu tribute or toast is simple: be positive, do your research, and use the Leader's Script.

Be positive. When thinking out your toast or tribute, stay positive. There's nothing wrong with humor—usually. It can make for a memorable wedding toast, but take care that your humor is not cutting. The executive in the opening example erred badly in collecting and using embarrassing stories about the honoree. If the speaker had instead asked for ...

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