The Guelph Awards of Excellence and Top Tips For Your Acceptance Speech


“And the winner is…”

Every awards show nominee hopes these words precede his or her name. Then comes the fateful walk to the podium, the uncoordinated scramble through pockets for hastily jotted notes on a crumpled cocktail napkin and the heat of a spotlight illuminating the beads of sweat forming on one’s brow.

With hundreds of expectant faces waiting on your words, what do you say? Will you thank the right people? Will your speech be memorable? Is the microphone even on? Awards events are opportunities for communities to gather and recognize those who have risen above. Such was the case at the Guelph Awards of Excellence on June 25th, hosted by the Guelph Chamber of Commerce (GCC). Presented to a sold-out crowd of four hundred attendees, these awards were a celebration of community service, business excellence and individual action.

With an audience dressed to the nines, it was words that stole the show. The most memorable moment of the night was at the final award: the Lifetime Achievement Award. In his rewarding remarks, GCC President & CEO Kithio Mwanzia lamented the “impossible task” of choosing between three nominees who have pursued a life of indelible service and excellence to the Guelph Community through academia and commerce; John F. Wood, Dr. Clare Rennie and Dr. Gord Surgeoner. In a surprise announcement, Mwanzia awarded all of the nominees, bringing the audience to their feet in a spontaneous ovation.

In the media aftermath of the Guelph Awards of Excellence, it was the impact of the final award recognizing three community leaders, and their wisdom that made it into print. Sincere and heart-felt, Gord Surgeoner, agri-technology visionary delivered this parting line: “it’s attitude more than aptitude that deter-mines altitude,” to a rousing round of applause and at least one “hear! hear!” from the audience (that may have been me).

“The speech”, like any professional communication, is an opportunity for immense impact. Developing key messages will make you more effective at what you do and more comfortable communicating in challenging situations.

When you are given the microphone, how will you make the most of the opportunity?

Below are Merkato’s top tips for your acceptance speech:


  • Make it memorable: 

    Make your speech matter to the people who hear it, even if they’ve never heard of you. Use simple language that paints a picture in people’s minds and connects with their emotions.


  • Prepare:

    Know what you’ll say before award night. Have two or three key messages and work on them to make them great.


  • Thank your mom/show gratitude:

    Awards are about people as much as achievements. If you’ve won, it’s your time to shine a light on the people who have helped you succeed. Remember: The strength of your sentiment will matter more than the length of your thank-you list.


  • Practice:

    Reading those jotted notes can be a nightmare when you’re on the spot. Practice until you’ve memorized your speech. If you don’t have it memorized, print it in 18pt font with reduced margins and page numbers (if you need more than one page). Some people feel awkward about bringing a printed speech up with them, but it’s much better than reading from a napkin. Don’t staple pages, just place a page to the side or at the back of the pile when you’ve finished reading it.


  • Buy the sound guy a drink:

    Speaking into a microphone that isn’t on can be offsetting. If you know where the sound booth is, and even better, who’s in it, a well-placed glance can set things right.


  • Breathe:

    Breathe on your way up to the stage. One you’re up there take a breath to ground yourself and connect with the audience.


  • Follow-up:

    You may not have time to thank everyone who deserves a thank you during a short speech. Know who you want to thank beforehand and thank them after, personally if possible, whether or not your win.


Check out the most memorable Oscar acceptance speeches here:

Merkato Communications was proud to be a Gold Sponsor of the event and join in celebrating all the nominees at the Guelph Awards of Excellence.

See all of the nominee profile videos below:

(posted by Blair)

Comments are closed.