How to Give a Great Acceptance Speech

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Awards season is upon us, which means we’ll soon be up to our ears in acceptance speeches. Over the years, we’ve heard the memorable to the mundane, the flustered to the unflappable.

And if you think that an acceptance speech doesn’t matter, guess again. Clever, funny, self-deprecating, or poignant speeches are the type people talk about, and that means they’re talking about you. Flat or flubbed speeches are just that. So how will you handle your golden moment?

Come on, you’ve thought about it. After all, who doesn’t want to be celebrated for a job well done? But standing in front of your bathroom mirror holding an Oscar that looks suspiciously like a hairbrush won’t prepare you for the real thing. So if you’re ever fortunate enough to be nominated for your work, an acceptance speech shouldn’t be, ahem, brushed off. Of course, the superstitious amongst us might think that writing an acceptance speech will jinx the results. The fact is, readying remarks is part of your job. You’re not just representing yourself, but a studio or network, producers, your cast, your reps, and the countless people who helped make this golden moment happen.

But your preparation needs purpose, and an understanding of the physiological complications that go along with the big moment. Award winners will often say after their name is called, it’s all a haze. A wonderful haze, but still like walking through fog. For several years, as a member of the Academy Awards Talent Relations Committee, I greeted the winners as they exited the stage. Believe me, not one person ever walks off that stage with normal blood pressure.

Hilari Weinstein, president of High Impact Communication, helps high-profile speakers become more effective and engaging. She says, “Every person I work with is unique in their message, their comfort level and how they need to prepare.” However, she does say there are basic guidelines specific to acceptance speeches. Here are some of Weinstein’s top tips:

  1. Plan. Your speech should have a beginning, middle, and end. You don’t have to script it out or memorize word-for-word. It’s more important to know the point of each section. This way, your words are genuine but you’re not in danger of going off on a tangent. Let us see the realyou: genuine and informal right out of the gate. If you start with a laugh line, test it with others so you don’t start your speech with a thud. Avoid airing a laundry list of names; that’s is the ultimate speech killer.
  2. When practicing, dress the part. Yoga pants might be more comfortable, but you’ll have enhanced sense memory by doing this. Ladies: especially important, practice in heels. We know shoes change your attitude and altitude. And practice walking up steps!
  3. When your name is called: Breathe. Stand your ground. Before you begin speaking, plant your feet, pause, breathe, look out at the audience, and take in the moment. Oh, and breathe.
  4. Timing is everything: 45 seconds and the music starts. Do yourself a favor and time your remarks allowing for pauses and meaningful inflection. Rushing through your speech to beat the music will lessen your impact significantly.

Start your path to an acceptance speech by browsing our film audition listings! And for more great advice, watch the video below.

The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

Steve Rohr
Steve Rohr is a nationally recognized communication expert, author, publicist, and educator. As a personal publicist, he represented actors and recording artists for over a dozen years and is currently the show publicist for the Oscars®. Additionally, Rohr has taught public relations and communication on several Southern California campuses.
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