You have won an award and will be honored at a gathering of industry and community leaders. Congratulations! How do you craft and deliver a heartfelt award-acceptance speech that people will remember? For most occasions it should be intentional, humble, emotional, gracious, and truly short.
Every good speech you give must have a purpose. What do you want to accomplish, what emotion or sentiment do you want to convey? Who needs to be acknowledged and thanked?
You should be humble and sincere–because that is what is expected of an honoree—anything different will be seen as pompous boasting. Displaying genuine emotion will spark a meaningful connection with the audience gathered to celebrate your achievement.
Graceful and gracious come into play in your choice of words, your cadence and delivery, your smile and gestures, and handshake or embrace of the person handing you the award. Keep it short because it’s simply better to get to the point in a minute or less and delight people with your charm and brevity.
Even a one-minute speech requires planning and preparation. The 150 words you say in those 60 seconds can add to the halo effect of your award or leave the audience wondering why you were honored in the first place.
Whether you are accepting on behalf of your company or you alone, you want to be relevant, show excitement and inspire action. Start by asking these three questions:
- Why does it matter?
- What do you want to achieve with your speech?
- What feeling do you want to convey?
Begin with an outline and flesh it out afterwards. Write down your speech to practice but do not read when you are on stage. People who bring multiple sheets of letter paper to the podium will trigger massive eye rolling. Bullet points on a notecard or two should suffice.
Here are five steps to help you create a good award-acceptance speech that strikes the right balance of heart and substance.
1. Express genuine gratitude and emotion
Express your gratitude for the organization that has given you the award. This is an opportunity to show how happy and honored you are for the recognition and how much it means to you. You can also thank the board of directors, selection committee, judges and others who determined you should be the winner. Refrain from opening with a joke or self-deprecating humor even if it is intended to mask your nervousness.
2. Acknowledge why it is important
Refer to the work of the organization bestowing the award. What is unique about the group, its mission, and its contributions to a cause? Highlight some of their achievements and milestones. Include quotes from previous recipients, founders, and icons; and anecdotes that underscore the reason you are being honored by that organization, e.g., teamwork, fundraising, sales, innovation, creativity, valor, etc.
3. Share the glory
Thank the people who made your work possible. Mention just a few supportive teammates, colleagues, and mentors—and important people in your personal life. It is particularly gracious to mention other brilliant nominees, past recipients of the award, and role models who inspired your achievements. Make it more about them than you because you know you could not have done it alone.
4. End with an optimistic message
Keep the conclusion brief but powerful. Leave them with something they did not have before: words of wisdom or a positive and uplifting call to action. It could be an inspiring pep talk: Let’s keep reaching higher. If I can do it, you can do it, too. Or an invitation to collaborate: Please join me as we grow our mission together. Our work has only just begun. Speak of your continued commitment and pledge of support. Take advantage of the moment to unite people towards a common goal.
5. Respect the audience and the clock
Remember that you are accepting a prize not delivering a keynote. During your practice sessions, record, and time your remarks. Practice often by yourself and in front of others. Strive to display confidence and control. Set a goal of speaking for less than the allotted time. Devote the last line of your speech to offering one final thank you to everyone in the room before you leave the stage.
Awards and recognitions are a big part of our private and professional lives. When you receive an award for whatever reason or are called on to accept on behalf of your company, you might feel overwhelmed that you will not know what to say.
To get you started, I have written ten sets of evergreen lines you can drop into your next acceptance speech. May they serve you well.
Words cannot explain how wonderful it feels to receive this prestigious award today. I pledge to work even harder to inspire others to their fullest potential.
This outstanding award is a testament to all the hard work poured into this project. Thank you for recognizing my efforts.
I could not be happier to receive this prestigious award. Congratulations to all the nominees; we are all winners.
This is my sign to keep going; thank you for this wonderful affirmation. I am beyond grateful for this award.
It feels good to receive an official validation for all my efforts. Thank you for the award and let us stretch higher to make even bigger projects a reality.
It is a momentous day when you win such a meaningful award. To everyone out there fighting for their dreams, do not stop, never give up.
This award goes to every single person who contributed to this project in some way. We did this together.
It is an honor to be recognized for work you love to do. May this moment inspire every young person to reach for the stars and make their dreams come true.
I am blessed to be surrounded by the most amazing people, and tonight they are all here to support me. Thank you for always having my back. This award is for all of us.
This prize is a joyful reminder that your commitment and dedication to this cause will be rewarded at the right time. I am so honored to share this stage with all of you. Thank you.