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VIEWPOINT: Speaking to acknowledge


“For best results, keep your emotions in check …”

At some point you are going to be asked to speak in praise. This might take the form of a speech at a wedding, birthday, farewell, retirement party, or Christmas party. Owing to its perception of simplicity, most people don’t prepare in advance for this type of speech and end up ruining an otherwise potentially good moment to acknowledge someone. Here is my advice for your next acknowledgement speech.

You first need to realise that an acknowledgement speech is meant to be inspirational and not merely a recap of what has happened during the year (Christmas speech) or what the person has done in the past. Start your speech by first working on your opening and conclusion.

Think of a positive statement, a quote, an unknown fact or a story that will make people think. You could end your speech either with an inspirational thought or you could get your audience to rise and join you in a celebratory toast.

Secondly, acknowledge the event or the occasion that has brought people together. Whilst this might seem obvious – by making this statement, you are preparing the audience for your message to come.

Thirdly, spend some time selecting material appropriate to the occasion. For a Christmas speech that aims to acknowledge team effort, think about two or three memorable highlights for the year. It is sufficient to simply mention the event, then talk about the specific challenge and how it was resolved. For a speech praising an individual, think about the top two or three qualities that make that person unique.

Illustrate your point with some stories that everyone can relate to. End this part of your speech noting some lessons learnt from the year gone by (Christmas speech) or lessons you have learnt from a particular person.

The fourth step is to personalise your message. For a Christmas speech, think about what the past year has meant to you – acknowledge the team for their involvement. For individual praise, think about how that person has impacted your life in some way. This part of the speech is where you express your gratitude to your team or to the individual as you reflect on the significance of the year gone by or the individual on your personal life. For best results, keep your emotions in check and definitely aim to deliver your speech whilst you are sober!

Finally, stay in command as you deliver the speech. Your timing should be around 4–6 minutes – so you definitely want to rehearse and practise. Because of its personal nature, avoid reading the speech – it will lose its impact and relevance. Controlled breathing, eye contact and natural confidence will ensure your success of delivery. ❐

Author: Dineshrie Pillay CA(SA) is a business owner and public speaker trainer