Online Public Speaking

Training & Practice

Special Events - Part 1 of 2

Special Events

There may be no area of public speaking that sends people scrambling for “how to” information quite as suddenly as the special event.

Being called on to give a wedding toast, introduce an award recipient, accept an award, or any one of hundreds of other situations that fall into this category can create an unexpected need, and may sometimes cause anxiety.

But don’t worry, we’ll help you prepare for your presentation, including making it successful and memorable and helping you deal with any anxiety you may have.

Please note before we get started that the following information is designed to be used in conjunction with other related content in the Rapid Learning Area, Learning Path, or Research Area.

Now, let’s start with the first step in any special event speech: Saying “thank you”. Special event speeches should include a lot of thanking people and acknowledgment. You really can’t go wrong with it.

Open your speech with thanks, and close with thanks. And it helps to write down the names of people or organizations you’ll be thanking ahead of time so you’re not scrambling when the time comes.

Next, make your speech special. Special events call for a special effort. There are thousands of speeches given on a daily basis for everyday events that are acceptable if they’re a little repetitive or flat, but when it’s a special day, the SPEECH should be special, too.

To do this, start by acknowledging the special day so everyone in the room knows it’s truly important. That may sound obvious, but when the MOMENT comes, things can get forgotten. Make a point to say something like “It’s an honor to be here to recognize Kate on this special occasion.”

The next step in your successful special event presentation should be to think about the event and try to come up with a UNIQUE perspective on it. For example, you could say “I was reflecting on why we are all here today. Then it hit me. This moment is really about celebrating excellence. And Kate embodies that excellence.”

People love it when a speaker makes a parallel that the audience hadn’t noticed yet. It makes them feel enlightened, makes the day feel more special, and makes the speaker sound smart.

Think about the event. Find the parallels. Remember the World Cup in our How to Write section? It wasn’t just about soccer. It was about the PHENOMENON of soccer. Present  your unique perspective to the audience to help illustrate the special qualities of the person and or the event.

Next, another useful technique is to make some grand statements and then give the audience a chance to respond, usually by clapping. Do this by building up to a big moment, then say something really special, then pause.

For example, you could say “Bob has worked with kids of all ages for twenty five years. Thousands of kids when you add them all up. These kids needed help, and Bob rose to the occasion.” Then, turn to Bob and say “Bob, on behalf of those kids, THANK YOU.” Then pause.

The audience should clap, especially if they are being a good audience! If they don’t after a quick moment, move on. Repeat this technique a few times during the presentation, but don’t overdo it.

Also, be careful to make sure the pauses are WORTH it. Pausing for effect when there isn’t a reason to do so can be awkward and throw you off-track.

Next up, keep it real. This is closely related to what we just said about saying something grand. You want to be careful not to overdo it when lavishing praise. Making it sound like your friend or associate just saved Planet Earth may not be appropriate. Make it special, but make sure it’s deserved.

Next, keep it short. When it comes to speeches honoring people in particular, unless there’s really a lot to say, keep it on the shorter side. Even an excited audience will run out of gas quickly if they have to listen to too much rhetoric about the person.

If you’re making the introduction, ensure the honoree gets the glory.  If you’re being honored, know the audience and time your speech appropriately.

Special events often have other things going on that the audience is enjoying: food, drinks, the band, and so on. They want to get back to what they were doing, so being brief can be a relief for them, and therefore make them enjoy your speech even more.