When we think about awards and the speeches that accompany them, we usually focus on whatever the person getting the award is going to say about it. Less mentioned is the speech the person presenting the award gives beforehand, introducing the background of the award and, finally, its winner. However, this is a very important and prestigious job. The presenter is tasked with setting the mood of the event, giving context to the honor being awarded and introducing the awardee in an engaging way. Writing and delivering a killer presentation speech to do so takes time, thought and preparation. Here's how to nail it.
When writing your speech, try to strike a balance between covering the necessary information for the award and keeping the speech engaging, concise and unique. You want to articulate the details of the award and represent the accomplishments of the person being honored, while keeping your audience interested. Break down the components of the speech in an outline at first to make sure you hit everything you want to say.
This is an opportunity to put some personal flair into your speech. Know your audience. Start with a joke or a funny anecdote, if it's appropriate. If not, you might start with a personal memory or connection to the person being awarded. Set the tone of the speech with your opening line/lines, and grab the audience's attention.
Give some context to the award you're presenting. How much or how little is up to you, your organization and the setting, but it's important to ground the speech in why the event is happening. Did someone specific found this award? When and for what reason? What does it represent? What kind of qualities does it recognize in the person who receives it?
If you have a personal connection to the award or the person receiving it, you may mention it here. Are you a past winner of this same award? Is the person receiving it one of your employees or close friends? You can use this as an opportunity to transition into introducing the person and their work.
Next, introduce the work or qualifications of the person being awarded. Talk about the work that stood out to the organization or committee presenting this honor to them. How does their work relate or contribute to the wider cause? You could mention other awards they have won in the past or a memory or anecdote about the person being honored if you have a personal connection with them. You may also have a bio of theirs to read, if they specified how they wanted to be introduced.
Either way, put a good portion of your time and thought into this part of your speech. Your job is to present this award to this specific person, so put intention and energy into representing that person and their accomplishments well. Though they may have a long and prestigious resume, try to keep it relatively short. Hit the highlights and the most relevant information to the occasion.
You have a good bit of information to cover in order to give a heartfelt, personalized speech, but try your best to keep it fairly brief. You don't want to overshadow the person getting the award by taking too much time away from their acceptance speech or lose your audience halfway through.
Practice your speech, and time yourself when you do. This will ensure you're keeping things concise and including everything you wanted to say. Decide whether you're going to memorize your speech or if you're going to have notecards or a written copy. Practice however you're going to deliver it to make sure you've got it down.
What about if you're on the other side of the award presentation? Writing an award acceptance speech is also an art. Similarly, you want to plan ahead and make sure you hit certain points within your speech. Receiving an award is an incredible honor and can be exciting or overwhelming, so you want to do the preparation beforehand in order to say what you want to say.
You want to be sure to thank the people involved in giving you this award. This list includes the organization or committee presenting it to you and the presenter, as well as anyone who you feel helped to get you where you are today. We've all seen heartfelt, lengthy thank you lists delivered over Academy Awards and Emmys. This is a common factor in awards speeches for a reason. No one achieves their success without help from people who believe in them. Identify who you want to shout out during your speech, and if you need to, make a physical list so you don't leave anyone out.
Share a bit of your work and why you're proud of it. Are there any lessons your road to this award has taught you? What aspect of what you do are you most excited to share with the world, and why do you think it's important?
If you feel compelled to do so, use the platform you have during your acceptance speech to make a statement about a larger social or political issue pertaining to your work. Is there a cause you're particularly passionate about? What do you want to say and promote through this moment?
There might be time constraints on your speech as well. Either way, try not to make it too lengthy. Have a plan, rehearse and be ready to say what you planned to say.
Here's an example of an award presentation speech you can use as a template.
Good evening folks,
It is with great pleasure that I join you here today to present the Outstanding Achievement Award for Social Service on behalf of (your company). This is the25th year this award has been presented, and it remains one of the highest honors in this field, recognizing the person in our community whose work has had a truly outstanding impact in the lives of many.
As a committee member, I can tell you that the nominees this year were some of the most incredible, hardworking and compassionate people I've had the pleasure of knowing. However, one person stood out for their remarkable career in this field. They have made an inestimable contribution to our community over their 20 years of work in our public school systems, working to improve the lives of our students and future leaders. They have gone on to become an example in social work and innovation in combatting homelessness and worked tirelessly to obtain greater resources for people in marginalized communities. I have had the absolute honor of working closely with this person throughout their career, and I cannot be happier to see them honored here tonight.
Without further ado, the Outstanding Achievement Award for Social Service goes to (name of winner). Please join me in welcoming them to the stage.
Whether you're presenting an award or receiving one, preparation is essential in order to deliver a thoughtful speech. Make sure you do your research, know what you want to say and practice ahead of time so that, when the day comes, you're ready to go. Awards ceremonies can be exciting and moving events, and often it's the speeches that make or break them. Take on this responsibility with excitement, and put time and thought into your presentation.
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