The moment has come, you have been announced as the winner of an award you have been working towards for years. You may be questioning; how do you balance acceptance and humility? Do you crack a joke? How long should you prepare to talk? What if you forget everything the moment the announcer says your name? Never fear: here are our 7 tips to ensure you give an elegant acceptance speech that will be remembered for years to come.
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1. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
“It’s smart, not arrogant, to prepare for an award,” Patricia Napier-Fitzpatrick, founder of the Etiquette School of New York, tells amNew York “It’s a professional honor, and it’s professional to prepare. Don’t be embarrassed about being ready for winning.”
- Write down what you want to say. This is where you pull out your skills from COMM 100 back in college – do you work best with an outline, talking points on flashcards, a mnemonic device to get you from one point to the next?
- Rehearse and Rehearse Again.
- If you absolutely must, limit yourself to a notecard with 5 bullet points for memory purposes, but aim to sound natural.
2. Connect With Your Audience
Intuit QuickBooks recommends that you make eye contact with the audience for five seconds after the applause has stopped, then begin your speech.
- Look at each person as you thank them, and engage the rest of the audience with your eyes as you speak.
- Control mannerisms. Be yourself – if you speak with your hands, do so. What you don’t want is to distract the audience by shoving your hands in your pockets, nodding excessively, or using crutches such as um and ah too often.
3. Keep It Brief
- Touch on no more than five points, including expressing gratitude to the organization, as well as your family and support system, acknowledging the collective unsung heroes, and sharing a personal anecdote relaying how much the award means to you.
- All of the essentials can be expressed in less than 300 words.
- Practice with a timer to ensure you stick to your plan, allowing time for a little spontaneity, as well.
4. Make A Point
- Tell a story. The best acceptance speeches tell a story in 30 seconds or less; it can be done. Is there a funny moment you share with those who nominated you? Is your journey to the point you are at now particularly poignant and related to the award you are receiving? Share a little bit of your life with your audience.
- Take example from two especially poignant and pointed acceptance speeches: Viola Davis, Oscars Acceptance speech for “Fences” in 2017, and Lupita Nyong’o, Oscars Acceptance speech for “12 Years a Slave” in 2014.
5. Be Gracious
- Acknowledge the work done by others in running for the award; thank the organizers for putting you in a category with others who are so inspiring to your own work.
- Thank the organization and their mission. Just make sure to keep your thank-you list within 5-6 specific people.
- Stay modest. Be heartfelt with your thanks, but be wary of going overboard. Accept the honor with a balance of gratitude and humility.
6. Show Your Genuine Personality
- Award acceptance should come from the heart. If you were completely taken aback, don’t be afraid to show it. Let your excitement carry you!
- If you naturally use humor, do so. Humor can add to your speech if it is natural. If humor isn’t your go-to, don’t force an awkward joke.
7. End With Inspiration
- Nod to those who are facing the same challenges you did to get here. Encourage those in the room to stay strong in their mission.
- Winston Churchill once said that ending with a strong emotional appeal inspires the audience. Don’t be afraid to appeal to their feelings.
Hopefully, these seven tips will have you confident to receive any and all awards that come your way for the hard work you have devoted your life to. Don’t forget to be patient with yourself; little mistakes are no biggie in the moment – just keep going with gratitude in mind. You have worked hard for this moment.
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