Chances are, you are not up this year for an Academy Award. Sorry. But the bright side is that you won't have to prepare an acceptance speech lasting fewer than thirty seconds. Talk longer than that with an Oscar clutched in your hand, and the sound of music loudly reminds you to get off the stage.

But you may be nominated for some another award—from your employer, a professional association, a charitable or humanitarian organization, a foundation that honors accomplishment and effort.

If so, you may well be expected to deliver an acceptance speech moments after your name is announced.


If you're clueless beforehand that you will receive an award, the naked truth is that you must slip into extemporaneous mode, a demand that may at first leave you breathless.

How will you know whether you need to make an acceptance speech? If the presenter moves away to make room for you at the lectern, your remarks are an expected part of the ceremony, the celebration. Step right up, and in the next seconds, begin to draw upon your copia to help you deliver a short speech. How short? No more than a minute.

If the presenter hands you the plaque or envelope and extends a hand but doesn't relinquish the microphone or vacate the lectern, smile and say "Thank you." Look at the audience. Keep smiling as you return to your seat.


In other cases, you'll be told that you will be receiving an award and are expected to speak. It's no secret honor, in other words, so you'll have time to prepare and rehearse your speech. Ask for the time limit and plan to stay within its boundaries.


As with all presentations and speeches, you must strike the right tone. Happiness may be appropriate, as may something more somber. Your tone may change as your speech progresses, but one note must remain constant: gratitude.

Everything you say must support and drive your purpose of expressing gratitude. For this reason, take care not to devalue the award by saying that you don't deserve it.

Be mindful of your audience, too, some of whom may have been contenders for the award for which you have been selected. Be gracious; find an opportunity to allude to the many others who also do the work you do and who have helped you do yours so well.

And the message? Although it centers on the present, a look to the past may help you personalize your remarks and add depth; a look to the future will help you sound a high note, one that affirms the awarding organization's continued progress and success.


What's the formula, the pattern for an acceptance speech? Here are the elements to include, but they can be arranged in various ways:

  • Thank the presenter
  • Recognize and thank the organization that has bestowed the honor
  • Acknowledge a couple of specific persons or groups whose support has been invaluable to you
  • Use a story, anecdote, or quotation to illustrate what the award and the work for which you are being honored means to you
  • Comment upon the organization's ongoing work and importance
  • Again express your gratitude

As you finish, pause before leaving the stage or podium. Take a moment to engage the eyes of your audience, to hear and appreciate their applause. It's a gift.