We’ve all watched awards shows, delighting when our favorites win and wondering what they’ll say when accepting their prize. Most winners are gracious, recognizing everyone from their mother to the janitor who helped them in high school. Some are funny, too, brightening the whole production. Occasionally, you find yourself cringing when the words are awkward, total clichés, or even boorish. You wonder how the “winners†ever got to this point in their lives. 

With the holiday and awards season fast approaching, what happens if you’re suddenly on stage being honored because of your work in the company, industry or community?

Whether you’re taken by surprise or have time to prepare, allow the good manners your mother taught you by automatically saying “thank you†as soon as you’re in front of the group. Remember to breathe, smile, and look happy! Cameras may start snapping pictures or video recording the moments unfolding, and you want to appear grateful and pleased.


A woman sitting at a table with papers and a laptop.

Guidelines: What to Say And What To Do

Here are guidelines that I have found work best for what to do and what to say if you are being recognized:

  1. Get the award with you left hand.
    When you get to the front of the room and accept the award, try to reach for it with your left hand so you can shake hands with your right hand. Move yourself to the microphone or otherwise assume control of the equivalent of center stage in the room.

  2. Thank the nomination.
    Immediately say “thank you,†and add an appropriate phrase such as “for this special honor,†or “for this incredible award.†Mention the name of the person who nominated you, if you know, and always the name of the organization to the thank you.

  3. Acknowledgements.
    Recognize those who have helped make winning the award possible, including citing individually or as a group, the members of your team, staff, and/or family, your company, or organization.

  4. Tell everyone what the award means to you.
    If the gift is wrapped in a box or bag, take it out of the wrapping and hold it up so everyone can see what it is. Let the organization know what you intend to do with the award, trophy, or gift, i.e., “Put it up on my office wall.†“Wear it with pride everywhere.†“Convert it into some wonderful new books.†“Make a special place for this trophy on my desk.â€

  5. Thank again.
    Thank those presenting the award again, aloud, and with a warm, genuine smile.

Pro tips when receiving an award

To assure you’re ready for what’s coming, start thinking about who you would credit for your success. Write their names down. Add a few words about how they have helped you. What humor could you sprinkle into the description?

Ask yourself: What would an award for your professional achievements, your athletic or artistic success, or for your role in community service mean to you. This revelation needs to resonate with those in the audience. What would you say?

With both of these elements in mind, you are on your way to a truly endearing and engaging acceptance speech. Congratulations!


A woman sitting at a table with papers and a laptop.

Create persuasive presentations with Speakout’s free 5-day miniCourse