Our expert: Michael Flynn, a principal at West Wing Writers, in DC, who has written speeches and toasts for, among others, Vice President Joe Biden.
“Say what only you can say to this audience. That’s the number-one speech-giving rule. If you offer insight that anyone in the audience can give, you’re missing an opportunity. Ask yourself: Why did they ask you to give this toast and not another friend? I officiated a wedding for two of my oldest friends. I was there the night they met, so that was something I made a point of talking about.
“Stories are always better than generalities. If you’re talking about your friend John, don’t just say John’s a great guy. Tell about the time John drove three hours to pick you up when your car died.
“The microphone is in your hand, but the spotlight is still on the couple. Make sure the story you tell is about the couple and not about you.
“Keep it short. Five minutes is a long toast.
“Don’t read your toast off your iPhone. It looks tacky, and you might have glare issues. Or the phone might die. Don’t read it off a piece of paper, either—if you’re nervous and your hand shakes, the paper will shake, too. Index cards are a toaster’s best friend.”
Read more advice, tips, and tricks from Washington natives in our Secrets of the City package.
This article appears in our January 2016 issue of Washingtonian.