While most people like to be recognised for a job well done, there are some who'd just as soon receive their thanks quietly and in private than to have a major fuss that thrusts them into the spotlight. More often than not, the latter scenario will call for the honoree to stand up and make an acceptance speech. If you're one of those individuals who'd far rather have a root canal than be the centre of everyone's attention, the good news is that public speaking isn't really as terror-inducing as you think if you just take the time to collect your wits.
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Open your speech by thanking the organisation that is bestowing the special honour on you. In addition, it's gracious to collectively thank the family, friends, colleagues and guests who have turned out for the occasion to share this auspicious moment with you.
Lead into the body of your speech with a favourite quote, an anecdote, a statistic or something about yourself that relates to the accomplishment being lauded. For example, let's say your campaign efforts resulted in funds being generated to keep the local library open. Your opening comments might be about how your personal passion for reading was ignited by a favourite teacher or that more than 30 per cent of regional libraries have closed in the past 20 years and, thus, deprived readers of the chance to enrich their lives.
Touch on how the laudatory event initially came about and the specific steps taken to achieve it, emphasising the tireless dedication and participation of other members of your team. Cite the short-term and long-term consequences that the group effort will have on the community at large. If there are crises yet to be addressed, let the audience know what these are, along with the consequences of failing to meet them.
Emphasise how your community service award is part of a much bigger picture that can bring pride and add value to the community--and the world--at large. Use this segment of your speech to inspire and encourage others to participate by discussing upcoming programs and events and what will be needed to ensure their success. Whether the expectation is for them to open their hearts, their minds or their wallets, this needs to be clearly and honestly expressed.
Close your speech by reiterating the importance of the future ripple effects of your recent accomplishment. Thank everyone again for attending the event and encourage them to enjoy the rest of the evening.
Tips and warnings
- Embrace brevity. A short speech will always be welcomed much more by your audience than one that meanders on and on and on.
- It isn't necessary to mention every single individual who made your success possible. Pick out a maximum of half a dozen.
- Sometimes what looks perfectly fine in print will sound doofy, stilted or long-winded when delivered aloud. Always practice your material on a live audience before your actual event.
- Use humour sparingly and appropriately. Stay focused on the fact that you are there to accept an award, not do a half hour of stand-up comedy.
- Never use the occasion of an acceptance speech to wax on about political issues or social causes that have absolutely nothing to do with the award you are receiving.
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- "How To Write A Speech"; Edward J. Hegarty; 2009
- "How to Write and Give a Speech-A Practical Guide for Executives, PR People, the Military, Fundraisers, Politicians, Educators and Anyone who Has to Make Every Word Count"; Joan Detz; 2002
- "Writing Great Speeches-Professional Techniques You Can Use"; Alan Perlman; 1997