Unless you’re a beloved actor or singer, there probably won’t be many occasions in your life in which you’ll be accepting awards that require you to give an acceptance speech. If and when the time comes, it’s important to know just what to say. If you’ve ever watched the Oscars, you probably know a little something about speeches that drag. At your event, there will likely be no cane to pull you off stage or music to drown out your words of gratitude and wisdom should your speech begin to drag. There might, however, be some annoyed audience members and perhaps some frustrated event organizers.
The first thing you need to ask yourself before writing your speech is, “What’s my point?” From the beginning, decide what the skeleton of your speech will be. What theme should it center around? Is it gratitude? A call to action? Figure this out early on and go with it. A theme will help make your speech sound more tightly woven and in the end have a greater impact on your audience.
The audience should remember you for your act, your grace and eloquence, not for being that guy or lady who kept rambling. Keep it short. Long, complexly crafted sentences are not always the best way to convey your message. Your audience will only tune in until you lose their interest; the surest way to lose them is by dragging on thoughts for too long. Express what you have to say clearly and concisely. Leave the fluff for the amateurs.
It’s true; stories draw people in. Everyone loves a good, solid anecdote. While they can work effectively for saying what you need to say imaginatively, you need to be selective about how and when you use them. Limit the length of your story; remember to keep it short. An anecdote should encompass the main point of your story. Think of it as a seasoning. Standing alone it may not have the most to offer, but in the right context it could bring out all the “flavors” of your speech, if you will.
Many times, people resort to humor to help ease the seriousness of a speech or to keep the audience entertained. While it may work in many cases, it’s an area you should go about with caution. Be very aware of your audience’s sense of humor. Not everyone has the same idea of ‘funny’ and your jokes could come off as offensive of cheesy. The last thing you want to do is sacrifice valuable speech time for a few cheap laughs.
Finally and perhaps most important to your speech is the most of the reason you’re up there: giving thanks. Thanks can be given at the beginning or end of your speech. If you don’t have another note you’d like to end on, your thanks are your Segway off the stage. If you want to be sure you don’t forget anyone, the beginning, when it is all fresh in your mind, is likely your best bet.