Award and Acceptance Speeches

Learning Objectives

Define the characteristics of award speech.

Identify characteristics of an acceptance speech.

Presenting an Award

In an award speech, a speaker or emcee introduces an award and the winner. The introduction is meant to build excitement, and often the winner is not known until just before the award is to be presented.

Introduce yourself and thank the group or organization asking you to speak. Then name the award and explain briefly about the award you are presenting. Be sure to include the scope of the award, be it local, regional, national, or international.

Next explain what the winner accomplished to win this award. Did they write a paper or did they lead for a cause? Did they grow the largest pumpkin, finish first in a marathon, or bring community groups together to fight for justice? Your job is to present the facts and summarize the story behind their story.

Lastly, if there are other people in attendance who were competing with the winner, make sure to acknowledge them in the time you were allotted. Be sure to finish with the actual award presentation to the person or team, raising your voice and starting the applause after inviting them to receive their award.

Accepting an Award

An acceptance speech often follows an award speech and is given by the winner of the award.

An acceptance speech, like any other speech, should be prepared in advance. Thanking the givers of your award is your first order of business. State how much and why you are grateful for this honor, and if possible, name the people in the organization individually.

Then thank and give credit to those who helped you achieve the award including family, friends, mentors, and others who supported you in this endeavor. Include their names, their roles, and how their combined efforts made it possible for you to receive this honor. If you can’t name all the individuals, name the groups as time will allow.

Briefly share what the honor of the award means to you, and be generous with your praise and your gratitude toward your colleagues and the organizations involved. Smile and carefully look for directions on leaving the stage.

To Watch: Berta Cáceres, Goldman Prize acceptance speech

Environmental and indigenous-rights activist Berta Cáceres, co-founder of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), won the Goldman Prize for grassroots environmental activism is 2015 after organizing the Lenca people of Honduras to force the world’s largest dam builder to pull out of the Agua Zarca Dam project on the Río Gualcarque. Tragically, Cáceres was assassinated the following year.

You can view the transcript for “Berta Caceres acceptance speech, 2015 Goldman Prize ceremony” here (opens in new window).

What to watch for:

In the case of winning an award for a social cause (in this case, environmental activism), it is common to focus on the severity of the problem at hand—that is, to shift the focus from yourself to the problem you are fighting against. Note how Cáceres begins by framing the cause within the belief system and worldview of the Lenca people. She then explains the mission of the organization she helped to found. Next she turns to her call to action: “¡Despertemos¡ ¡Despertemos Humanidad¡ Ya no hay tiempo.” (Let us wake up! Let us wake up, humanity! We’re out of time.) The ending of her speech reminds us that gratitude and humility are the most important elements of an acceptance speech. If thanks aren’t in line with the gravity of the topic, a dedication can serve a similar purpose: “Dedico este premio a todas las rebeldías, a mi madre, al Pueblo Lenca, a Río Blanco y a las y los mártires por la defensa de los bienes naturales.” (I dedicate this award to all the rebels, to my mother, to the Lenca People, to the Río Blanco, and to all the martyrs who gave their lives in the struggle to defend our natural resources.)


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