Publicity November 2017

How to make a magnificent acceptance speech

Getting it right at the 2018 British Business Awards

You want to promote your business or organisation so that you can be more successful. A genius idea pops up among the brain trust over a few drinks after work—why don’t we enter the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan’s (BCCJ’s) British Business Awards?

Someone has to win, don’t they, so the odds are fair. Anyway, there isn’t a downside is there? True, but there can be if you don’t fully think this through. I don’t mean the requirement for polishing the application or assembling the data in support of the claims being made. I am talking about snatching defeat from the jaws of victory on the winner’s dais.

Making a hash of it
When you win, you are invited up on the stage. The cameras are rolling, the lights are flooding the ballroom and the music is pumping. You are pumping too, baby. It quickly occurs to you that hammering the booze on the table to instil some bonhomie amongst the troops was a good idea at the time, but now you need to pull yourself together. Back slapping, hand shakes, high fives propel you to the stage as you make your way through the labyrinth of round tables.

Before you know it, you and the team have assembled on stage to receive the ovation from the crowd. In a moment, the host announces you are about to be handed the cool-looking trophy from the British Ambassador to Japan, His Excellency Paul Madden CMG. The crowd goes quiet as you draw up to the microphone stand while grasping the prize in your hand. Hundreds of eyes are fixed on you, awaiting your acceptance speech. You fluff it.

A ragged series of ums and ahs are punctuated by disoriented rambling highlighting no cohesive set of thoughts, concepts or ideas. You are now sweating bullets. Multiple beads of perspiration start to run down your face, your pulse is surging—you realize this is a disaster and mentally start looking for the exit.

The tuxedoed dandies have had their Coliseum bread and circuses moment. Having seen the lions dispose of their victims, they return to their table chatter. You are not forgotten though. You have now been publicly outed as an incompetent who can’t string three words together. Your reputation is shredded and the trophy somehow feels less magnificent in your grasp.

Déjà vu
Reading this account, you recall having seen this before, don’t you. Underprepared speakers making a complete hash of it. Don’t try and wing it. Think ahead and be properly tooled up. Under no circumstances mention you are nervous, even if you fear you are about to faint. Fall flat on your face out cold, but don’t apologise for your lack of preparation for this speech or your totally bereft skill set in giving speeches. Don’t make jokes to release the tension of the moment; you are not funny.

Begin where you need to. Thank the ambassador, the BCCJ and the judges for awarding you this magnificent trophy and great honour. Congratulate your vanquished opponents with great generosity, extolling their virtues and achievements.

Next, take this opportunity to promote your firm or organisation. That is why you applied in the first place, isn’t it? Give them your thoroughly rehearsed and well-constructed elevator pitch on why what you do is vital to mankind and the future of the universe. This needs to be tight, taut and with no fluff.

When you thank the people in the team who have made this happen, make a short personal remark about each of them. Taro, who stayed late so many nights, catching the last train home to get the project completed on time. Megumi, for her total dedication to taking care of the clients. Daisuke, for his rousing leadership of the sales team when things looked grim. Mari and her team of angels in the back office who somehow managed to hold the whole thing together through thick and thin.

Finally, thank your family and friends who have supported you. If you become emotional at this point, don’t worry—whip out your hanky, wipe your eyes and just keep going. We will love you for it.

Wrap it all up with a rousing call to action for the crowd. Encourage them to play a bigger game and maximise their potential here in this wonderful, exciting and special country of Japan. Thank the organisers again, wave the trophy and move away from the microphone stand to signal you have finished. Now, quietly call the team together to join you and the ambassador as you all pose with the trophy for the photographers. Then, get off the stage, you are done!

Think through the award component of the evening, prepare thoroughly what you want to say, rehearse it many times, time it to make sure it isn’t too long and stay off the booze until you actually win. Good luck!

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