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Awards Speeches: 7 Questions to answer to craft a great acceptance speech

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It is not always easy to get up in front of a group of people to accept an award; chances are, you are humble and do not want the spotlight on yourself or you feel like you do not deserve the award.

As Neil Gaiman said in his University of Arts Commencement Speech, “The first problem of any kind of even limited success is the unshakable conviction that you are getting away with something and that any moment now they will discover you. It’s Impostor Syndrome, something my wife Amanda christened the Fraud Police.”

Awarding organizations make it more difficult on the awardee when they require that your speech go longer than the brief moments given for the awards shows on TV.

But by accepting an award, and speaking for a few moments, you have a chance to thank the people who helped you, to give meaning to the event and organization, and to leave the audience with some lessons to help them in their future endeavors.

If you are stuck trying to figure out what to say when accepting an award, use the following writing prompts to help generate ideas for your acceptance speech.

Prompt 1: Talk about the influence of others on your achievement

Tell stories about the people who shaped you and your accomplishments. Were there mentors and friends along the way that gave key advice or help to you? How did they affect the outcome?

Prompt 2: How did your team help you achieve this award?

Who were the key figures who backed you and helped you out? Who have been the unsung heroes along the way that you want to now recognize?

Prompt 3: What obstacles did you overcome?

Rather than putting the focus on your achievement, why not talk about the challenges along the way? What did you learn with each successive obstacle you overcame? How can others use those lessons in their lives and work?

Prompt 4: Does winning this award have a larger significance to a group of people?

Often, awards are given out to “firsts” in a category. Does your achievement of this award mean something to others who will follow in your footsteps? How is your winning this award paving the way for others to do the same in the future?

Prompt 5: What is the larger meaning of the organization giving the award and the occasion?

Sometimes you are being given the award and being asked to speak because the event or organization is important. Can you talk about the group’s achievements and what they can achieve in the future?

Prompt 6: How can others get involved and achieve like you have?

Organizations give out awards because of a “lifetime achievement” or your dedication to a particular cause. How can you call others to join you in this same cause? What actions can the audience take now that will further your cause?

Prompt 7: What advice and lessons can you give for those wishing to follow in your footsteps?

Your audience is made of people who are seasoned like you but also people just starting out in their careers and professional lives. What advice can you give them based on your own life and work?

How to use the prompts for your next awards speech:

Award speeches do not need to be five to 10 minutes of humble bragging. Instead, they can be an opportunity to show your gratitude to the people and events along the way that led to the award. Use the prompts above to generate the first set of ideas for what you want to discuss. Your award speech can focus on one prompt or touch on all of them—go with the ones that make the most sense and generate the most fruitful ideas.

For more advice on similar speeches, get my upcoming book, “Toast: Short Speeches, Big Impact.”

Need help on your next speech?

Email me.

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