Last month I received a question, “Michael you tell us, ‘Remember the rhyme and you’ll do fine,’ but sometimes I want to say a little bit more at a celebration. How do I figure out what to say?” Always thrilled to receive requests – a.k.a. fan mail (in my mind) – I’m equally happy to share the five key questions for proper praise for an extended tasteful toast.
The most successful toasts are inspirational and praise the honoree’s meaningful contributions to their family or community. Discovering the right material to use is easy when you know what questions to ask.
Prepping for Proper Praise
1. What qualities make this person great or worthy of praise?
2. What is his/her source of power or inspiration?
3. What debt do we owe for his/her efforts?
4. What lessons can we learn from his/her actions?
5. What is his/her place in history?
It’s best to ask family, friends and co-workers these questions about the honoree days or weeks before the event to prepare my material. Here are some tips from award-winning journalist and editor of the book, Kauai Stories, Pamela Brown.
In-Person Interview Techniques*
My initial inquiry, “What in-person interview techniques can you share?” was answered by a query of her own, “If you were being interviewed, would you rather feel like you’re chatting with a reporter or being peppered with questions?” Point taken, so have a list of what you want to talk about but flow the conversation as if you are talking with the person normally. Next?
Set the Scene: Meet in a quiet place where your interviewee is comfortable, like in their home. Ask that there be no distractions so you can both concentrate on your conversation.
Record Your Interview: Your conversation will flow more smoothly and you’ll be more present and will enjoy it more – and when you’re enjoying it more, the person you are interviewing will tell you more about memorable times.
Be Interested: The more you want to learn, the more your person will want to share. In my experience, as soon as I say, “I’ve got all the information I need,” and reach to turn off your recording device, your person will say something wonderful that you are going to want to capture, so keep recording until you are out the door.
Once you’ve transcribed your interview, you’ll want to extract one to three examples that best illustrate the rich character of the person you want to praise.
Keep to the winning Tasteful Toasts formula (be brief, be bold, be done) and you’ll have beautiful outcome.
*Kauai Stories is filled with rich personal stories culled using the above interview techniques. Special thank you to Pamela Brown for her expert contributions.
Your turn: What actions have you recently praised?