April 6, 2023
8 min read
We’ve all done it—imagined giving an acceptance speech for winning gold in Olympic figure skating, Album of the Year, or a Nobel Prize. We’ve watched countless examples of award acceptance speeches that begin with I’d like to thank… Maybe you’ve even practiced this speech, teary-eyed in front of your mirror, thanking all the people who helped you get to where you are today.
While you might think that giving an acceptance speech at one of these prestigious award ceremonies is a pipe dream, it can’t hurt to be prepared. There are all kinds of organizations that put on award ceremonies to honor local businesses, changemakers, excellent students—there are even awards for safe driving. You name it, there’s a prize for it.
This article will discuss several key components of giving an award speech. These include:
By the end of this article, you’ll be well-equipped to give a fantastic award acceptance speech in front of an audience (or just in the mirror).
Before you start putting together your own acceptance speech, find some that exemplify the genre of awards show speeches. These can serve as inspiration for your own acceptance speech. Here are a few from this year’s major awards shows that will go down in history as outstanding, unforgettable speeches, along with top keyword analysis courtesy of Yoodli.
Ke Huy Quan won Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars this year for his role in Everything Everywhere All at Once, a film that swept the awards show with seven wins in the directing, acting, and best picture categories. Quan’s most frequently used keywords, according to Yoodli’s speech analytics, include thank, brother, day, love, mom, and much.
On February 5th, 2023, Kim Petras made history by becoming the first transgender woman to win a Grammy. Yoodli’s AI speech coach identifies her top keywords from this speech as award, believed, transgender, hit, go, and home.
The 2023 Grammy Awards was a historic event across the board: on February 5th, 2023, Beyoncé made history as the most awarded artist in the history of the Grammy Awards. The Yoodli speech app identifies five top keywords from Beyoncé’s acceptance speech: thank, like, beautiful, much, and trying.
In all of these speeches, notice how top keywords reflect something about the speaker, their work, or the award they are receiving. Examining other successful speeches’ top keywords can help you when coming up with your own acceptance speech. Think about what keywords you want to feature when you accept your award.
Last but not least, there is, of course, Will Smith’s infamous award acceptance at the 2022 Oscars. This speech is not particularly noteworthy in itself—rather, it’s notorious because of what happened before Smith’s acceptance speech. We just couldn’t discuss well known award acceptances without mentioning The Slap.
How you structure your acceptance speech can differ depending on the event you’re speaking at. Some award shows have strict time limits for award acceptances. Luckily, you can avoid the embarrassment of orchestral music playing you off stage with some simple preparation. For that type of event, you need to prioritize people you want to acknowledge. Next, determine what keywords you want to feature during your speech. When writing your speech, you need to incorporate these people and keywords in as little text as possible.
Not all award ceremonies have such limited time slots, though. If you aren’t concerned about keeping your speech down to 45 seconds, you’ll have a bit more freedom in structuring your speech. Again, you should use keywords and significant people as the guideposts for structuring your script. One strategy you can use to fill the time and captivate your audience is incorporating anecdotes. One way to do this is thinking of a personal story that illustrates how someone helped you on your path to success. That person should be one of the people who contributed to your winning this award. An anecdote like this can serve both to acknowledge someone important to you and to share a more personal side of you with your audience.
Regardless of how much time you are allotted, the ability to express yourself concisely is essential when delivering a powerful speech. Tools like Yoodli‘s AI speech coach are great resources for developing the skill of speaking as concisely as possible. Yoodli gives you automatic feedback on your use of fillers and redundant words. We often use unnecessary fillers without being conscious of them. This is why getting quantitative feedback—you used seven ums in your introduction—is a gamechanger. Minimizing repetition and filler words can not only help you deliver an excellent speech under a time crunch, but also make you a stronger speaker overall.
For most award ceremonies, you won’t need to completely memorize your speech; it’s perfectly acceptable to read from a notecard. However, memorizing a speech can help you deliver it to your fullest potential and reduce nerves. Check out our blog for advice on how to memorize a speech.
The difficulty in delivering one of these speeches is in finding the balance between confidence and humility. You need to be prepared, but not too prepared. If your speech isn’t well-structured and rehearsed, the audience might assume you don’t deserve the award. On the other hand, if your speech is too polished, you run the risk of coming off as arrogant, as if you knew you would win over the other nominees. There is a level of performance and theatricality required for this—maybe this is why great actors give such great acceptance speeches. You don’t have to be an award-winning thespian to find the balance between appearing confident and humble; all you need to do is prepare well and practice. Again, watching examples of famous award acceptance speeches is a great strategy for deciding how to deliver your speech.
A straightforward way to ensure you come across as humble is acknowledging your fellow nominees. For example, say a few words about how honored you feel to be in the same category as such inspiring people as (insert names here). However, there are many awards that only have one nominee. In this case, research the past recipients of the award. You can then express how honored you are to carry on their legacy.
Once you’ve written your speech and contemplated how you want to deliver it, all that’s left to do is practice. Practicing a speech is all about becoming comfortable presenting it. The more at ease you are with your material, the more effectively you’ll be able to deliver it. The end goal is for you to feel 100% relaxed while giving your speech. While any amount of practicing will help you improve your delivery, there are three strategies you should implement to make your practice time worthwhile.
First, time your speech. You should always have a stopwatch or timer at hand during your practice sessions. This is to make sure that your speech fits into the time constraints of your award ceremony. Additionally, it helps you ensure your delivery is consistent—if your speech comes in at four and a half minutes one time you deliver it, and seven minutes the next time, something is wrong and you may have missed a section of your script. Every time you rehearse your speech, it should become more routine and feel more comfortable.
Second, you should record yourself practicing your speech. Practicing in front of a mirror is convenient, but it’s difficult to catch presentation pitfalls in the moment. This can more easily be accomplished by taking a video of yourself giving your acceptance speech and watching it back.
Third, it’s essential that you get feedback when you’re practicing. There’s only so much you can notice about your own speech patterns without getting an outside opinion. Recording your rehearsal sessions can make this process easier. If you have a video, you can send it to people in your circle and ask for their constructive criticism.
Finally, you can integrate these three strategies—timing your speech, recording yourself, and getting feedback—seamlessly into your practice time on Yoodli. Yoodli’s AI speech coach can not only time and record your speech for you, it also automatically provides a transcription. Getting feedback on a speech has never been easier: the AI-powered coach provides suggestions on your presentation, including your rate of eye contact, how concise your language is, and potential follow-up questions to your talk in a matter of seconds. Our platform also makes it easy to share recordings you make in the app with colleagues and friends to get their feedback.
In this article, we’ve discussed the ins and outs of giving an award acceptance speech. We covered famous examples of award acceptance speeches, writing a speech, and delivering it. We hope you feel prepared to graciously accept any award. Whether it’s a Pulitzer Prize or employee of the month, the next award you receive is an opportunity to dazzle the world with your elegance and humbleness. Now go out and get your EGOT.
Getting better at speaking is getting easier. Record or upload a speech and let our AI Speech Coach analyze your speaking and give you feedback.