How to Give an Award Acceptance Speech?
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How to Give an Award Acceptance Speech?

You’ve been nominated for an award and now you have to give an acceptance speech. It might be an Academy Award where the whole world is watching or it might be an award for the best coach in your little league. Regardless, it’s still important and you would like to look good while giving this speech.

So, how to give an award acceptance speech? It is an opportunity to put a spotlight on ideas you care about, to thank the people who helped you win the award and to give your audience at least one take away.

Therefore, don’t blow it. Don’t wait until the last minute with the preparation and don’t make excuses.

And if you don’t win… well, maybe you will use the acceptance speech next year or next time. So, today I am going to give you practical tips on how you can prepare for your award acceptance speech.

But there’s a lot more to public speaking you should know so I wrote an article about best public speaking books to read. Check out these books here.

What is an acceptance speech?

An award acceptance speech is a speech given by a person who is receiving an award, honor or prize. When you win something, then it is a tradition to say a few words and share some gratitude toward those you would like to thank or acknowledge.

In the audience are your friends, family and perhaps people in your industry who you respect, so make the best of it.

Let’s start off by focusing on your goals for this speech because, after all, an award acceptance speech is still the same as any other speech. Now, it might be a short one. It might only be 60 seconds long before that music comes in and you’re asked to get off stage…but it’s still a speech.

How is award acceptance different from other speech types?

Well, it is different in a lot of ways. For example: you’re not going to have a PowerPoint display. You’re not going to have a beginning, middle and end, and you’re not going to share funny stories.

Also, you’re not going to walk around the stage and talk for 50 minutes like you would in a keynote speech.

Acceptance speech gives you an opportunity to make:

  • A great impression
  • An awful impression
  • No impression.

Main goals of the acceptance speech

Your goals are not to just get through this. Also, your goal is not to thank your tax attorney and 29 other service providers.

Therefore, your goal should be to:

  1. Make a great impression
  2. Thank the people who were relevant in helping you in your career or whatever it is you did
  3. Try to focus on just one idea that you want to leave people with, whether it is inspiring people to follow their dreams or maybe motivating people to work hard, etc.

This is not an opportunity to communicate five points or more. Instead, it is an opportunity to focus on one of life’s lessons or on one really important idea.

Give people a favorable impression of you and let them know that you’re respectful and that you’ve thought about this and planned.

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Throughout your short award speech, let them know that you’ve got a particular idea you want to communicate and that you thank the people who helped you get to the point where you’re getting this award.

How to prepare for an acceptance speech?

There’s nothing worse than someone winning a major award (whether it is an Emmy Award or just a local club member of the year award) and sort of getting up and fumbling around, “Oh, God – I never thought I would win. So, I didn’t prepare anything…”

Show the people who took the trouble of nominating you a little respect. Do them justice and prepare. It doesn’t really take that long.

Learn from the best

Let’s face it – most acceptance speeches are not memorable. They’re instantly forgotten and they’re perfunctory.

That shouldn’t be your role model. Your role model should be great speeches. Here’s what I want you to do. I want you to go to YouTube and type in “great acceptance speeches” or “great Academy Award acceptance speeches.”

You’ll find tremendous speeches. Most of them are brief because they are acceptance speeches on TV. They’re usually always funny. They have an emotional moment and they seem genuine.

Now, you might be receiving a speech for the best accountant in your county and therefore you might not feel the need or the ability to be wildly funny, but you can still learn from the masters.

Practice your speech

I know, now you want to say, “What? It is ridiculous to practice an acceptance speech!” But actually, it is not. The best way to practice your speech is by recording yourself.

Therefore, grab a phone or camera and record yourself. Next, take a look at the recording and write down everything you liked about it and everything you didn’t like about it.

After, repeat this process as many times as needed until you’re feeling comfortable and happy. If you do that, I guarantee you’re going to deliver a great speech.

Also, don’t be afraid of jinxing yourself. Prepare to accept the award and prepare to give the speech.

How to write an acceptance speech?

The first thing most people do when they win an award is to thank the people who helped them. Of course, you should thank people but remember that there is a particular way of thanking people.

Thank people in a meaningful way

Thank people in as specific a way as possible and tell them exactly what they did that helped you. Don’t just say, “Thank you for your support.” Support is too generic. It’s abstract and doesn’t really mean anything.

What you should do is:

  • Look at the people you mention
  • Address them by name
  • Thank them and tell them what you’re thanking them for. For example: “John, you were there for me when no one else was and when I couldn’t raise a penny to get this idea going. You wrote the first check.”

If you do that then it’s going to be so much more interesting to everyone. It will be meaningful and it will come across as sincere. That’s much more effective than just rattling off a long list of names.

Tell people exactly what you’re thanking them for. Look them in the eye if they’re around. Give specific examples; this way, your thanks has real meaning.

Make a point, tell a story

The best award acceptance speeches always tell a story. Now you may ask, “Well…how is there time for a story?” But I assure you that you can tell a story in 30 seconds.

  • Talk about something that happened
  • Recount a real conversation (with a friend, a colleague or a family member) about a challenge, how you overcame it and how it’s relevant to the award.

Main rules for the story you’re going to tell:

  • Make it brief
  • Make sure it’s relevant
  • Tell it in a compelling way

If you do that, you have a good story for your acceptance speech.

How to give an acceptance speech?

When you’re giving an acceptance speech, especially if it’s for anything in the creative field, keep in mind that you’re an entertainer. Therefore, something in your speech should be entertaining.

Don’t be dull – be entertaining

Now, ideally your speech should be funny but if it’s not, at least have a dramatic moment or something with a little emotion. It’s always disappointing when people who are known as world-class entertainers seem, during their acceptance speech, about as entertaining as if an accountant were reading the phonebook to you.

Remember who you are and what your strengths are. Use those strengths to entertain. You’re not going to give a humorous speech for an hour, but you do have a minute where you can say at least something amusing, interesting or entertaining.

So, plan on having something entertaining even if you’re just making fun of yourself.

Show some emotion but don’t overdo it

A little emotion goes a long way. If you’ve had a tough life and now you win some important award it’s understandable to have some emotion…but you need the right amount.

It is not very interesting if you’re out there blubbering. So, keep it together. This is one of the beauties of having rehearsed your acceptance speech – you can show the right amount of emotion and the words can still come out rather easily because you thought of it, you planned it and you rehearsed it.

But if you just take the attitude of, “Oh, I don’t want to jinx myself. I’m not going to plan anything to say – I’ll just get up there,” and then the actual emotion of the moment may overwhelm you and you just can’t say anything. Instead you kind of look like an idiot – especially if it’s on TV for the whole world to see.

So, you want emotion but not so much that you’re just blubbering.

What to avoid while giving an acceptance speech?

Here are a few things that you really need to avoid when giving an acceptance speech.

#1 Don’t read your speech

One thing I would suggest you do is to avoid reading your speech from a piece of paper. It’s just awful – it’s devoid of personality, emotion, and sincerity. So don’t read.

It’s OK to have some notes, but you certainly should not have a word for word scripted out.

#2 Don’t thank more than five people

Also, I really don’t think you should thank more than five people. If you have more people than that to thank then send them a personal note.

Don’t give a long laundry list of names and don’t read because those are the two biggest blunders that people make in the major awards shows when they are receiving awards.

#3 Don’t tell people you’re nervous

You may not know this but no one even recognizes that you’re nervous. You can tell your family and friends later that you were nervous but don’t waste valuable time.

#4 Don’t tell people that you don’t have much time

Speaking of time – don’t waste your time by telling people that you don’t have much time. “Oh my gosh, I don’t have much time. I don’t know where to start because…”

Don’t ever comment on the time. Simply use your time to maximum advantage. Use every second. Say something interesting to the audience and don’t waste time talking about the fact that you don’t have much time because now you have even less time.

So, if you avoid these pitfalls, it gives you more time to focus on saying something interesting. Perhaps something lighthearted or thanking people in a sincere way.

Final thoughts: What to say in an acceptance speech?

If I got to vote for you, I would. I’m pulling for you. I hope you win this award so you can show off your public speaking skills and give a great award acceptance speech.

It really all comes down to:

  • Be genuine in your thanks. Don’t just list names.
  • Have one interesting or entertaining thing to say.
  • Share one little story
  • Focus on your audience and don’t talk about how you’re nervous or scared.

Finally, the most important tip of all: practice your short speech in advance on video as many times as it takes so that you see in advance the speech you want to give. And then once you win, you can simply deliver the speech that you’ve already practiced. Do that and you will be in absolutely great shape.

Related questions

How long is an acceptance speech? It depends on the event but usually, it is between 45 and 60 seconds.

How do you outline a speech? Have your speech ready with nice gigantic text so you don’t have to memorize anything. Ideally, it fits on a single sheet of paper. That way you can simply glance down, scoop up a few words and keep going. This keeps you on track. (Full article here)

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Who is Janek Tuttar?

My name is Janek Tuttar, and I am the founder and author of Speak and Conquer website.

I have been teaching public speaking at Estonian Entrepreneurship University of Applied Sciences

Here, I am sharing the wisdom of how to cope in different public speaking situations.

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Janek Tuttar

Hi! My name is Janek Tuttar, and I am the founder and author of SpeakAndConquer.com.

I have been teaching and blogging about public speaking since spring 2007. Here, I am sharing the wisdom of how to cope in different public speaking situations.

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