HOW TO WRITE A 60TH BIRTHDAY SPEECH
- Gather your content – brainstorm your favourite moments and best stories
- Find a theme – identify a common thread that connects your content
- Prove, don’t tell – it’s not enough to say they’re a great person – how is this true?
- Add humour – don’t lift yours off the internet
- Conclude with the touching bit – think sentimental, not saccharine
- Keep it succinct – stick to 8 minutes max
Okay so, much like the last six decades, let’s take it stage by stage…
1 – GATHER YOUR CONTENT
The key to giving an authentic, heartfelt speech is to keep it personal. Your audience wants to recognise the person you’re talking about, not listen to you reel off platitudes about some generic 60-year-old.
It’s likely you’ve known this person a long time, so you should have plenty of material in your arsenal. Even so, it’s worth doing a bit of extra digging.
Dust off old photo albums and enjoy an afternoon reminiscing. Get in touch with friends and family to ask them about their fondest memories of the person you’re writing about.
2 – FIND A THEME
Ok, you’ve got your stash of stories, now what are you going to do with them?
Well, you pick the best and bin the rest.
Remember, you don’t need to list everything you’ve ever done. This is not an obituary.
You’re looking for three things:
- The funniest, most entertaining stories
- Stories that make a point (either funny or poignant)
- And a thread that connects them all
Your speech should sound like one flowing narrative rather than simply a collection of anecdotes and thoughts, so that final point is important.
EXAMPLES OF THEMES
- Pinpoint the standout characteristics and personality traits of the birthday boy/girl; the ones that everyone in the room will recognise as being truly ‘them’. It could be that they always, somehow, find themselves in bonkers situations. If so, find examples of that happening through the years and use these stories as the foundation for your speech.
- ‘Older, not wiser’ – a classic theme for any ‘big’ birthday speech. Recount the funny tales through the ages.
- Alternatively, you could talk about the various things you’ve learned from your loved one over your years together – whether it’s how to make a killer risotto or why it’s important to write thank you letters.
3 – PROVE, DON’T TELL
Adjectives are easy. And just a bit boring. 99% of people could be described as ‘fun-loving’ and ‘caring’.
Instead of the obvious, highlight what makes your loved one unique. And then prove their qualities in action to make your description come to life and sound more than just a platitude.
Are they incredibly fun to be around? Explain why even a trip to Lidl with them turns into an adventure.
Or if they are very kind-hearted, tell everyone about the time they picked you up at 2am from the train station (when no taxi driver would!) and didn’t even mention it in the morning.
4 – THE IMPORTANCE OF HUMOUR
This is a party, not an episode of This Is Your Life. Keep it as light and as entertaining as possible.
Not everyone is a natural crowd pleaser and speaking in public makes most of us nervous. But the beauty of a celebratory speech is that everyone is there to have fun so there’s goodwill from the off.
Don’t rely on dodgy jokes off the internet. Chances are at a 60th, there are people in the crowd who’ll recognise them as recycled!
In fact, you don’t have to come up with ‘jokes’ at all per se. Just be as real as possible about the star of your story, while maybe exaggerating some of their more interesting quirks.
Look for inconsistencies in their character. Are they quite serious by nature but they’re happy to be given a glamorous ‘makeover’ when the grandchildren come to visit?
Ask yourself what makes them different and think back to seminal moments or eras of their lives. Consider their fashion choices over the decades – were they a mod or rocker? Did they pull off a mullet in the 80s and are now bemused at today’s generation acting like they invented it?
Once you start thinking about it, you’ll realise just how much there is to play with.
5 – The Touching Tribute…
A warmed-up audience will respond well to some well-timed sentiment towards the end of your speech. Most of us accept that some affectionate teasing is the best way to pay tribute to someone you love, but it’s also nice to show your softer side with some genuine praise.
By now, the crowd will be running high on nostalgia, so trade on those good feelings and speak honestly about what you truly admire and appreciate about your person.
Make sure your speech sums up a lifetime of love and creates one of life’s special moments.
6 – Keep It Snappy
Of course, you can have too much of a good thing.
Any celebration speech should be delivered well within ten minutes, even allowing for laughter and any good-natured heckles!