Whether you are nominated for an Academy Award
, scheduled to accept a life achievement award
from any organization that goes around giving away such things, or if you've got a chance at winning at go-carts
, in such situations and others, it's relatively certain that there are certain things to consider when preparing an acceptance speech
. And y'know what? Some of the following is gonna make you feel nervous. Get used to it. Cuz no human being should be allowed to go through the pains and the gains of accepting an award of some sort without going through the whole nervous thang that others before you have confronted and survived.
- Plan ahead: Sure. The odds may be against you. Chances are you're not the only one up for the award, and you don't want people thinking you're counting your chickens before they hatch. However, if you're sitting there in the room and act surprised when your name is called, then you get up there and spend a lot of time flubbering and looking lost, you're boring everyone, most of which are people sitting in the room waiting to hear whether or not their name gets called. You're wasting their time if you go up there unprepared. So? Be Prepared, otherwise the people giving you the award may reconsider doing so, and others in the room will wonder why the hell you won it instead of them.
- Don't thank the little people: I know they're not little to you. I know that if you don't mention them, some of them might be upset. Big deal. The other people in the room really don't care. The people who voted for you to get the award don't care. The caterers don't care. And please, for God's sake, don't thank the caterers. Everyone takes it for granted that you're thankful for the people in your life. The people who are in your life should take it for granted that you're thankful for them. If they don't already know you are thankful, mentioning them in a minute long speech really isn't gonna make a difference. If the people listed below who are in your lives need you to mention them in your acceptance speech, either they're not really your friends or you're not paying them enough to be your friends. You can't use this opportunity to make up for any bad karma. Let them know privately. If you're having problems with these people, don't air your dirty laundry in front of all your admirers. That's so uncool.
There are tentatively a few possible exceptions to this. If the person(s) in question is/are actually in the room at the time you might wanna do a shout out and give them a chance to get some applause from people in the room. However, understand this is cutting into your moment of fame, you you might wanna not do that. If you're not sure if you want to mention someone, there's no easy rule of thumb there. The thing is, if you're thanking someone we already know helped you get where you are, and you don't mention that person, then people might wonder why. However, if you do mention that person, it's annoying cuz we already know you're thankful for that person. Especially if that person is a coworker, or otherwise probably the guy who really should be getting this award. Oh, and by the way, don't say "the guy who really should get this award is.." unless you actually right then and there give the award to the guy. It's not the thought that counts at moments like this.
- Don't tell us your life story: Winning an award is acknowledgement that we (as in we the people in the room or the people who voted for you to get the dumb award) know you paid your dues and worked real hard to get where you are and that's why we gave you the award. Then you get up there and start explaining to us how hard it was and then try to make a point to mention all the people you met along the way and y'know what? We don't care. Thanks for all your work, but how you got to that stage really doesn't matter to us. Take the award. Get off the stage.
- Keep it brief: If you must say something while on the stage, whatever it is, make sure it doesn't take more than forty-five seconds to say. Say it really fast if you have to. Practice your speech ahead of time and time yourself with a stopwatch. If you're still talking and the band starts playing, that's your cue to get off the damn stage. Take a page from the notepad of Alfred Hitchcock. Brevity is beautiful.
- Be Funny: This is only if you know you can do it. If you're going to crack a joke, be damn sure it's funny before you do so. If you happen to be good at telling jokes, that's a plus. If you've never made anyone laugh before now, this is not the time to experiment with it. If humor is not your forte, skip this one, but if you're good at it, do it and do it well. You only get one shot at this. If you happen to be accepting an award because you're funny, this is mandatory.
- Avoid politics: Don't say anything that might annoy somebody in the audience. This is not your moment to tell the world how awful things are or that we should feed the poor. You're up there because you deserve it, but that doesn't give you the right to shove your personal belief system down everyone's throats. That award isn't surgically attached to your hip you know. It was given to you: it can still be taken away. Michael Moore may never be seen in the public eye again. He even annoyed people who agreed with him. Don't make his mistake.
- Avoid religion: For similar reasons to the previous thing to consider, it's unwise to take this opportunity to thank your particular God, because there's Jehovah, Allah, the Christian God and various different pagan interests. Sure. YOUR god is THE god. Whatever. This ain't the time to try and prove that. Your god knows how you really feel. Mentioning Him during your acceptance speech ain't gonna get you any closer to heaven, y'know whut ah'm sayin'?
- A few words about fainting: Fainting while on stage accepting an award has its plusses and minuses. You can hyperventilate and then a few moments later find yourself in a comfy chair backstage with someone waving smelling salts under you, thus avoiding the entire messy experience. You miss the chance to stand there staring at all your admirers, but on the plus side you miss the chance to stand there staring at all your admirers and freakin' out. Granted, people will make fun of you fainting up there for years to come, but at the same time, there's very few people who would diss you more than good-naturedly. And if they are harsh about it, so what? Most importantly, your speech was brief, which is a definite plus. Ideally though, this only works best for drama queens.
- Do you really need to say what you're gonna say?: Is it necessary? Even if you've done all the above, are you saying something we don't honestly know, or are you just repeating something that everybody already knows and doesn't care about? If you think we should care about it and we don't, that's called a persuasive speech which is remarkably different from an acceptance speech. This is not the time to try to convince anyone anything other than yeah, you're good and you deserve this award. Are you verbally masturbating up there, or are your words valid and memorable and worthwhile? This moment may be yours, but there's other people who are stuck sharing that moment with you, and it's just uncool to bother them with your minutiae.
One more thing to mention to any actors recieving an Oscar
or an Emmy
: you should already know all of this! You should already know that you should memorize
your speech! You should know your audience
and behave accordingly! How did you get where you are without knowing this crap? If you're a woman, you should know that more people will be around the water cooler
the next morning saying more about how wonderful or terrible the clothes you were wearing were as opposed to anything you could possibly say. If you're a guy? Black conservative suit with a tie. No blue jeans. No bright red floppy shoes. If you are recieving an award for anything resembling public speaking, don't take this opportunity to completely disregard all the stuff you've learned up until now and make a complete and utter ass of yourself. Remember: someone in the room is probably doubleparked. Someone in the room is probably anticipating a little action
tonight. The sooner you get off the stage, the sooner the rest of us can get on with our lives.
Now. Let's look at an example, to see how the above works in comparison to an actual acceptance speech. The following is a full transcript of the acceptance speech given by Jennifer Connelly in March of 2002, for her supporting role in the film A Beautiful Mind
. The transcript is presented below in its entirety, with no warranty
Hello. Okay. I brought paper because I didn't want to forget.
Thank you to the members of the Academy for this honor. By some beautiful twist of fate I've landed in this vocation that demands that I feel and helps me to learn. I know film has moved or taught me more than A Beautiful Mind. Thank you to all of our magnificent cast and crew for their invaluable collaboration and most especially to Ron Howard and to Russell Crowe. Thanks to all the artists who have inspired me and the list is too long. Thanks to my dearest ones. Risa Shapiro, Kelly Ross and my friends. I believe in love that there is nothing more important. Alicia Nash is a true champion of love. So thank you to her for her example. My son Kai is for me the greatest messenger. And so thank you to him for all of our days. Thank you very much.
Okay. So class. What did Ms. Connelly do wrong?
- She was not brief.
- She thanked pretty much everyone in her entire life.
- She didn't memorize her speech, as one would think a dues paid member of the Screen Actors Guild could accomplish.
- She didn't even attempt to be funny.
What did she do right?
- She managed not to faint, or even attempt to feign fainting.
- She did plan ahead, which is more than can be said for many other Oscar winners.
- She managed to avoid politics and religion, which is to her credit.
More Things to Consider