How to Prepare an Acceptance Speech

Most award shows seem to generate a buzz, and the upcoming Oscars is no exception. Soon, viewers will tune in for the red carpet hits and misses, surprise falls, awkward moments, and of course, the gracious and sometimes clumsy acceptance speeches. Iconic golden statuette in hand, the Oscar winner has the power to either dazzle or disappoint the audience with their delivery.

Many of the key elements used in preparing a made-for-television acceptance speech can be applied to receiving a professional award at a company event. Here are my etiquette tips for acknowledging accolades with confidence and poise.

Put your thoughts on paper.
You might think you'll know just what to say when your name is called, but in the excitement of the moment, you may likely go blank, and your eloquent words will be lost due to lack of rehearsal. Write down the names of those you want to acknowledge, including key people who played a pivotal role in your success. Mention family and friends who have shown significant support along the way. For example, "I am honored to be this year's recipient of the Community Outreach Award. It's been my pleasure to dedicate a year of service, volunteering on behalf of my company and learning of the incredible opportunities the organization offers to underprivileged youth. Jane Robertson, Lou Smith, Sam Townsend and Sara Long were instrumental in helping me to develop a program that serves so many in need. I share this honor with the partners at my firm, who were an integral part of the success of this project. Finally, I also want to thank my family for supporting me through this eye-opening journey in the midst of a challenging year."

Ditch the crumbled paper and stand up straight.
Pulling out a folded napkin from your pocket indicates you are less than prepared. You worked hard to accomplish this recognition. Take a deep breath to compose your thoughts and don't forget your reading glasses. Your body language should mirror the appreciation you are feeling. Walking up to the podium or stage, shaking your head from embarrassment or making snide comments such as, "These people must be nuts for choosing me!" can (and will) be misinterpreted as an insult by those who nominated you and cheered you on along the way. A warm smile, eye contact and strong stature are signs of gratitude that exude confidence, before and during, your speech.

Stay on topic.
Don't use the moment as a platform to express your political views or rant and ramble about an unrelated issue. There is a venue for every situation and using your time to convey your thankfulness and goodwill is the most appropriate route to take as you address your peers, company or community who are recognizing you for your achievement.

Be careful with humor.
Some time ago, I witnessed an anxious award recipient try to diffuse his nerves by criticizing the size of the trophy and the wine options at the open bar. Unfortunately, he allowed his uneasiness to affect his composure. His sour remarks left a mental imprint that is still hard to forget. Unless you are confident you can pull off a light-hearted joke, void of sarcasm or offense, choose another direction for your dialogue.

Respect the audience's time.
There is generally a limit on how long you should speak. Some event planners would like you to stay at the podium for several minutes and discuss your journey while others request you wrap up your thoughts in a few seconds before stepping down. The Oscars is a perfect example of timing, giving the speaker approximately 60 seconds before the band begins to play. As a television viewer, you witness first-hand how the audience starts to squirm when a speech has gone over the allotted window.

Knowing how to accept a trophy, medal or certificate with grace is an executive skill that must not be undervalued or overlooked.

You may also find Diane's Public Speaking: How to Command Attention helpful. Visit her blog, connect with her here on The Huffington Post, follow her on Pinterest and Instagram and "like" The Protocol School of Texas on Facebook.