Congratulations, small-business owner! You’ve just been informed that you’re receiving an award for your leadership efforts or charitable contributions. Don’t let glossophobia tie your tongue at the big event.
Here are nine suggestions for giving an acceptance speech that will help you conquer your fears and find your speaking mojo.
1. Keep your remarks brief. Touch on no more than five ideas. This perfect example of an acceptance speech, delivered by Dr. Charles Taylor to the Madison (Wis.) Urban League in 2009, efficiently packs all of the essential elements into a script of less than 300 words. Those elements include: thanking the person who introduced you; expressing gratitude to the organization, family, and supporters; and acknowledging the collective unsung heroes. Top it all off with a small dose self-deprecating humor.
2. Don’t use notes. Rehearse your speech a few times to remember the essence of what you want to say. Use a mnemonic device to recall key points. Tip: Mention no more than five individuals who supported your award-winning endeavor.
3. Give a nod to the organizers. Mention the group that’s honoring you in your speech, expressing gratitude to them collectively. Don’t individually thank each one, because it belabors the point and may try the patience of your audience.
4. Establish a personal connection. Make eye contact with the audience for five seconds after the welcoming applause stops, and then start speaking.
5. Be genuine. Incorporate gestures. Just make sure your enthusiasm doesn’t create an unintended comedic effect. Envision yourself speaking to only one person, not hundreds. This little mind trick can help you avoid projecting a stiff or fearful demeanor.
6. Don’t apologize. An acceptance speech is not the time to revisit the mistakes of the past. Focus on the present and the positive — and what’s in store for the future.
7. Mention the organization’s goals. An awards ceremony is an opportune time to touch upon an organization’s goals, but avoid a lengthy recitation. Incorporate one or two easy-to-remember statistics that demonstrate noteworthy accomplishments.
8. Keep a lid on the jokes. One icebreaker is sufficient. Don’t poke fun at anyone, unless the person knows ahead of time that it is part of the script.
9. End on an inspirational note. Winston Churchill said ending a speech with a strong emotional appeal inspires the audience. Follow up with a public thank-you via social media. For example, tweet a link to photos or video of the event after the ceremony.