Public Speaking Tip: Acceptance Speeches

Preparation pays off when the spotlight is on you.  Lupita Nyong'o Wins Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 2014.

Preparation pays off when the spotlight is on you. Lupita Nyong'o Wins Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 2014.

Make your moment matter.

This evening in recognition of your many years of hard work, you will receive an award. When your name is called and your few moments of fame begin, how will you fare under the pressure of stardom?

Scenario 1: Your name is called, the audience claps until you reach the stage.

A) Do you take your time, hug your Mom, girlfriend, and two other colleagues before you slowly make your way to the stage?

B) Do you get up with gusto, get to the stage with a dignified and dynamic walk, saving all the hugs you want to give until afterwards.

(Answer B)

 Scenario 2: 43 million people are listening to your acceptance speech (official view count by the Oscars 2014).

A) Do you say OMG! and then proceed to tell us you don't have a clue what to say?

B) Do you take out a crumpled piece of paper, unfold it, and read off a long list of names, which are meaningful for you, but not for us?

C) Do you fly over the stage on a cloud of euphoria?

D) none of the above.

(Answer D)

How to best use that moment of glory

If you are shortlisted to possibly win an award, why not come prepare? When Casey Affleck won an Oscar in 2017 for Best Actor, he mumbled: 

"Man, I wish I had something bigger and more meaningful to say, but I’m really proud to be part of this community in general,"...

A wasted moment to share a message with over 3.9 million viewers!

Humility and graciousness will go a long way here - we already love you or you wouldn't have got an award. 

Here is Emma Stone's speech in 2017 for Best Actress inLa La Land:

 "I still have a lot of growing and learning and work to do, and this (award) is a really beautiful symbol to continue on that journey, and I’m so grateful for that.

Acknowledge the similar efforts and talent of fellow colleagues who were not awarded the prize. Acknowledge the generosity of the prize-giving organization. When you thank people instead of reading off a list of anonymous names, give us some details so that names take on meaning:

 “Michael, thank you so much, you were my rock.”
“Tom and Casper, it was a thrill to work with you.”
“Thank you Steve, you charge everything you fashion with a breath of your own spirit.”

Core Message and Call to Action

The focus is on you so be generous and wise with it. Do you have a core message or a call to action? Take the focus and steer your audience into a direction you want them to go. For example, in the Oscars 2014, two actresses did just that:

Core message from Lupita Nyong'o:

No matter where you are from, your dreams are valid.

Call to action from Cate Blanchett:

To those of us in the film industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films, with females at the center are niche films, they are not, audiences want to see them and in fact they earn money. (Implied make more female films!).

 You are what you think

What you want to avoid is letting us know how hard you worked and how much you deserve the award. If you let the audience know that you are a self-made man and your biggest hero is yourself in 10 years time - it can come across as boastful. (Matthew McConaughey; Oscar for Best Actor)

Even if you are just thinking such thoughts - they will be perceived by the audience through your unforgiving body language - trust me! Your thoughts count for expression just as equally as your spoken words.

Stay grounded and centered

At this exciting moment of recognition, you are flying high. Enjoy the moment AND keep yourself grounded. Let your feet grow deep roots through the stage. Gather the hundreds of hip-hopping ping-pong balls of adrenalin into one ball of compact energy in the center of your body. Where's your center? If you place your hand right below your belly button and your lower back, it's the space between your two palms.

Before you even begin to speak, take a deep breath in and OUT! Connect with the audience with your eyes and smile. Remember why you are up in front of the audience - talk TO them. Similar to the reception of any gift, be thankful and aware.

Be courteous about time!

For example, the last Oscar Awards took three hours and 36 minutes because so many prizewinners didn't adhere to the time limit. This is inconsiderate and tests our collective patience. 

Dyane Neiman is the Moving Speaker: She helps business professionals at all levels, who want to enjoy speaking in public, in English. She always encourages people to make their moment in the spotlight matter. Get in touch at

Tags: Public Speaking Acceptance Speech

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