It could be Engineer of the Galaxy, Employee Shining Star or Badass Sales Woman of the Year…if you work long enough, eventually you will be recognized for your amazing contribution. One day you may be thanked publicly for your volunteer work. Thing is, what to say in that well-deserved [awkward] moment?
You’re happy to get the recognition, but feeling a bit weird now that you’re expected to say something
brilliant coherent with all those people looking at you.
On the bright side, your speech is expected to be short. Do not disappoint us.
Sometimes it is not appropriate to make a speech at all but merely to graciously receive the recognition. (Remember to smile.) You want to know in advance if a short acceptance speech is expected. If in doubt, better to prepare a thought or two in advance to avoid that “deer in the headlight” feeling.
Before you actually prepare anything to say to a group, consider what kind of reaction you want. Specifically, how do you want them to feel as a result of your comment(s)?
There are certain statements that will cause people to regret recognizing you and wish they had given the award to Perky Polly or Talkative Ted. Therefore, it is not recommended you say things like these:
- Awwww, jeepers, it was nothing.
- Oh I don’t deserve this.
The 2 exact words you do want to say are:
Thank you. Specifically, thank you for …
- the award and/or recognition
- the fortunate opportunity to grow and contribution at this organization
- the amazing people you work with
- the caring family and friends who support you
- a generous mentor or teacher
- your boss
If time allows, you get bonus points for sharing how the organization benefits other people, including yourself.
- Tell specific ways this organization serves the larger community. It could be the jobs created, the spin-off businesses, the educational opportunities. What are specific benefits this organization offers just for being there?
- Tell a brief personal story about how the organization has helped you and others.
- If possible, say something meaningful about the person giving the award in the story.
- Relate the award to something bigger. For example, a safety award given at a hospital encourages better patient care for the entire community.
The award may directly or indirectly encourage creativity, innovations, higher standards, more education. If you can specify such benefits that people often take for granted, everyone hearing you wins.
Here are some examples of great celebrity acceptance speeches:
Robin Williams 1998 Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for Good Will Hunting. This speech is compact, powerful and emotional. (He had been nominated for an Academy Award 3 times previously but this was his first win.)
In 1968 Alfred Hitchcock’s acceptance speech for receiving the Irving C. Thalburg Memorial award was 5 words. His first job in the film industry was writing subtitles for the silent movies.
Meryl Streep won 2012 Best Actress. She shows how to handle what she sees as an embarrassment of riches, winning multiple awards throughout her stunning career.
Nicole Kidman won Best Actress in 2003 for her performance in “The Hours.” She answers the question of why we have this awards ceremony when there is so much pain and turmoil in the world. Spoiler Alert: you may need a tissue.
Begin and end with appreciation and don’t worry about being funny…unless you are a professional comedian.
Congratulations on your well-deserved award. Take this awkward moment to shine the light on others who helped you along the way.