Online Public Speaking

Training & Practice

Nikky Finney Award Acceptance

This powerful award acceptance speech by poet Nikky Finney is a great example of a passionate, beautifully written speech. Copy and paste this link to check it out:

Acknowledging others: Ms. Finney doesn’t open with acknowledgments, as many speeches of this type do, but she not only acknowledges others at the right moment, she does so quite movingly such as when she remarks of her fellow award nominees “simply to be in your finalist company is to brightly burn”. Waiting until a more emphatic moment to acknowledge others, as opposed to starting a presentation with the standard approach can be a great technique. It can allow for a bit of suspense, as in the audience worrying if the speaker forgot, followed by pleasant relief, but it can also allow the speaker to set a different tone and not sound canned. Ms. Finney’s speech is all the more powerful for the way she uniquely did this.

Establishing goals and establishing a motivation for giving the presentation: It’s clear that this moment means the world to Ms. Finney, so much so that she starts with a subtle, whispered word “wow”. She goes on to demonstrate that her goal was to adequately translate her deep inspirations for what got her to this moment, and to express her appreciations to those who helped make it possible. It's also evident that she desires to honor the written word, which she does quite successfully.

Writing:  Ms. Finney masterfully creates moving visuals for the audience, share ideas and moves the audience emotionally with the simple power of the spoken word. Perhaps she is empowered to do this for a deeply personal reason that she shares with the audience:  “…determined to control what can never be controlled; the will of the human heart to speak its own mind...”

To read, or not to read:  Ms. Finney reads most of her speech, however this is an example of a time when it is acceptable to do so. Her words are so riveting and complex that it feels necessary to read them.

Was the presentation a success?  Resoundingly so. It’s so effective that actor John Lithgow remarks at the conclusion of the speech that it’s the best award acceptance speech “for anything” that he’s ever heard. While this speech isn’t an example of high energy speaking or the use of theatrics or props, and while Ms. Finney reads often, the speech is very well received simply because of pure passion and well written words. Ms. Finney proves that one doesn’t need actual fireworks to make a speech "great"; words alone can produce the same effect if they are well crafted.