Maybe your office holiday party has come and gone, and your team members are beginning to put up out-of-office messages. But before folks start heading home to spend time with friends and family, don’t miss your chance to gather around, sum up the year’s accomplishments, and set everyone’s sights on the year ahead.
How? Well, for starters, you can do a lot better than just, “Great work this year, happy holidays!” Here’s a foolproof formula for a toast that inspires, motivates, and avoids the typical platitudes.
Step 1: Collect Your Thoughts
It’s not uncommon for leaders to say a few words at year-end events, but they often give it too little forethought and wind up rattling off a bunch of clichés–starting with, “Haven’t we had a great year?” and ending with something like, “I’d want to offer a toast to our team–the best in the company,” with a handful of forgettable lines in between.
Instead, start by making a list of your team’s accomplishments, followed by the goals for the coming year. Your team’s achievements can include successful projects, lessons learned, and the values you’ve demonstrated together–it doesn’t have to be all hard numbers (and probably shouldn’t be). Be sure to recognize people by name, too–that shows you’re talking to your team as individuals, and you know who’s been responsible for which successes.
Your list of challenges and objectives for the coming year should include departmental goals and projects as well as cultural expectations, such as collaboration, teamwork, and individual fulfillment. Once you’ve got a few of these specifics laid out in front of you, you’re ready to shape them into an effective toast.
Step 2: Add Some Structure
Now it’s time to draw up some notes, but don’t worry about sounding too scripted or formal–you won’t read from them. Those jottings are just a roadmap for delivering a quick, clear, inspiring message naturally.
A good toast–or any set of remarks–consists of four things:
First, there’s an opening “grabber” or warm-up statement. You might begin with something simple just to gather your listeners’ attention and let them know what you’re going to talk about:
This is the season to celebrate, and I’d like to take a moment to share a few brief remarks with all of you.
Next comes your message. Convey your main idea in a single sentence. For a year-end toast, the message might be:
We’ve had a wonderful year of accomplishments, and I know we can build on those successes as we pursue new goals in the year ahead.
Third, back up your message with proof points. Since your message in this case has two elements–looking back and looking ahead–your structure should also consist of two parts. Maybe the proof points you’ll offer will be something like:
- “We’ve been one amazing team this year!”
- “I’m confident you’ll do me proud in 2018.”
But don’t put these statements back-to-back. Each one needs to be elaborated on–very briefly–with examples. (Hint: now’s your chance to call out individual team members who did exceptional work.)
Lastly, return to your message and end with a call to action.
So you can see why I say this has been a year we should all be proud of [restated message], and why I’m confident next year will take us even further. Let’s take a moment to celebrate with this these homemade cookies I brought in! [call to action].
Step 3: Practice, Then Go For It
Once you’ve written your remarks, start practicing–but don’t feel you have to memorize the words. Practice only until you can deliver your comments naturally and with confidence (without looking at the text). As you head for the meeting with your team, repeat the toast in your head, until it mentally flows.
Finally, make sure you’ve picked the right moment to deliver your remarks. A toast is best done at the end of a group meeting or just before or after a meal. Don’t speak until you have the full attention of the room. Silence the chatter and draw all eyes to you. Then just go for it! Your team will not only think you’re a natural, but they’ll hopefully also be moved by your remarks and glad they work for such a thoughtful manager. When next year rolls around and everyone heads back to work, they’ll be much more centered on the vision you shared just before the holidays.