Archive for December 3rd, 2007

How To Shorten Those Long, Boring Awards “Thank-You” Speeches

Monday, December 3rd, 2007

I emceed an awards dinner last night at which two very deserving local citizens were honored. Each honoree had a lengthy list of accomplishments to their credit, which were read by their individual presenters. Each also had a lengthy list of folks to thank for inspiring them such heights, which were read by the honorees themselves. All of those accomplishments and inspiring folks deserved recognition. The trouble was – as it always is – that where length is concerned, more ultimately equals less when the reading of lists go on and on. In a word – it became boring. This is both unfair to the honorees themselves, and astonishing when you consider what fascinating and dynamic individuals last night’s recipients are. If anything can make these two firecrackers seem dull, then there is something very wrong with the presentation.

I propose a simple, 3-step solution to eliminate this problem.

1. List the honoree’s accomplishments in the souvenir program. At most awards dinners, the honorees know weeks or even months in advance that they are to be celebrated. There is plenty of time to compile a list which can be inserted in the event program and placed at every seat. Lists are ever so much more interesting to read than to hear. Such written accolades are also permanent mementoes of the evening. At “Oscar”-type awards events where there are multiple nominees, all of their qualifications can be included in the written program.

This frees the presenter from having to read a “laundry list” of accolades, and enables them to simply – and briefly – tell why the recipient is so deserving of honor.

2. Put the honoree’s thank-you list in the same written program. I’ve attended many awards dinners in my career. The only acceptance speeches I really remember are the ones in which the recipient shared a favorite quote, or a bit of their personal philosophy of life that has led them to be a super-achiever. Any honorees who thanked their agents, lawyers, and managers did so without my attention. I may have been there in body, but my mind and spirit were long gone.

It would be wrong not to thank family members and mentors for their continued inspiration. Listing their names in the program gives them their much-deserved recognition, while keeping the on-stage focus on the honoree. (What you call a “win-win” situation.)

3. Encourage both presenters and recipients to speak “from the heart,” not from notes. My personal favorite secret for eliciting a brief and conversational response from both presenters and honorees is to call them up to the dais, then ask them a direct question: “What special quality makes ____ deserving of this award?” Or “How does it feel to receive this award?” Questions asked in this way tend to evoke outpourings of affection and emotion, not dry dissertations.

And – I don’t know about you – but for me, nothing beats a spontaneous comment, straight from the heart. I’ll take that over one straight from the script – any day.