Holiday time is here as we count down to the end of 2023. Office parties and gatherings come with many opportunities for leaders to deliver the appropriate words to set the celebratory mood, unite everyone and build momentum for the year ahead. Holiday speeches and toasts have evolved into something of a verbal souvenir. They are something people take home as a sort of remembrance of the moment.
Whether you’re the designated speaker or the toastmaster of the festivities, a well-crafted speech can uplift spirits and rally people around a common cause. If you are in person or virtually for remote teams, your remarks should be upbeat, positive, and focused on the collective WE, and most importantly, brief.
The theme sets the tone of your speech and creates the throughline that connects everything you say, creates coherence, and makes your words memorable. What is your intention? What do you want your audience to remember? How do you want them to feel after you have spoken?
You can’t afford to wing it no matter if you are the boss, a department head, or a team leader charged with delivering the remarks. Planning, practicing, and writing it down in advance will make your remarks more relevant, resonant, and easier for you to deliver.
Here’s your guide to crafting the perfect holiday speech that will leave your colleagues feeling warm and festive.
1. Keep it brief
How long should it be? If you are making a speech, it should be no more than five minutes. That’s about 750 words given the average rate of speech of 125 to 150 words per minute. The secrets to a good speech are relevance and brevity, which most people find daunting. Brevity takes time and requires surgical removal of what doesn’t serve your throughline.
If you are doing a holiday toast, aim for a length of two to three minutes, allowing enough time to convey your message without overtalking and risking boredom. Designing your content in three-parts provides a structure on which to build your remarks: a) Why we are here. b) Thank you and acknowledgements. c) What lies ahead.
2. Know your audience
Before you start drafting your remarks, take a moment to consider the diverse group of individuals in your organization and their physical locations. Contemplate the various holiday traditions and celebrations that people may observe. A thoughtful and inclusive speech or toast respects everyone’s background and fosters a sense of unity. Remember to keep the focus on them and keep the ratio of “You-to-I” references high (more YOU than I).
3. Start with gratitude
Express your gratitude for the hard work and dedication of the team throughout the year. Acknowledge the challenges everyone has faced and conquered together. A sincere appreciation sets a positive tone and reminds every member of the organization of the collective efforts that make the company a great place to work.
4. Inject humor and vivid language
Lighten the atmosphere with a touch of humor. Share a lighthearted anecdote without putting anyone on the spot. Use colorful, vivid language that will energize your message. Take a verbal time-out from the pressures of the business and keep company jargon to a minimum.
5. Reflect on achievements
Take a moment to reflect on the team’s accomplishments and successes over the past year. Recognizing and celebrating small and big wins fosters a sense of pride and camaraderie. It’s an opportunity to highlight the collective impact of everyone’s hard work. Spread the praise evenly so no one feels left out or ignored.
6. Look forward with optimism
Inspire members of your organization by expressing optimism for the future. Share your hopes and aspirations for the upcoming year, both personally and professionally. A forward-looking perspective can instill a sense of purpose and motivation as the team heads into the new year.
7. Deliver with warmth and sincerity
Apply the verbal and non-verbal communication cues that signal sincerity. Use vocal variety and intonation. Deliver slowly and pause at intervals. Smile, keep good eye contact, gesture appropriately to add warmth and authenticity to your words.
Remember, the goal of your holiday speech or party toast is to uplift and unite your colleagues and employees in celebration. With a thoughtful and inclusive approach, your words can set the stage for a joyful and memorable year ahead.
And if you are challenged by the small talk that accompanies office parties, you may find solace in this Master Communicator Blog from last year: Talking tips to survive your holiday parties. Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, these pro tips will help you overcome feeling awkward and shine as a communicator.