Gracious Acceptance

It can be very satisfying and gratifying to receive an award from friends or peers. While we are excited and honoured to be acknowledged it can be a challenge to figure out what to say when accepting the award.

Accepting an award graciously requires some thought and preparation. Here are three ingredients that every acceptance speech should include:

  • Gratitude. Always thank the one or two people who played a major role in your achievement. For example, if you were presented with a "Volunteer of the Year" award you could say "One person is responsible for my efforts.... Mary Jones was the person who convinced me how valuable this agency was and then was always there to thank me and support me as I performed routine tasks and took on more challenging one. Her attention and praise kept me "coming back".

If more than two people were helpful, don't address each my name. A long list of names quickly becomes boring. Instead issue a general acknowledgment and later thank each person privately. Consider the feelings of those giving you the award. They gave to award to you not to your friends.

  • Recognition. Recognize the organization giving the award. Mention briefly about its work and its importance to others and to you. For example "This museum is an important part of our community. It helps children learn about the past and enables them to prepare for the future. Members of the museum staff, it is your actions and efforts that make this happen.
  • Sincerity. The best thanks an organization can receive is an honest and unexaggerated expression of gratitude. Don't gush, but don't be reluctant to convey your own feelings, briefly stated, regarding your appreciation of the award and all that it represents. Each person possesses a style uniquely his or her own, your objective is to succinctly communicate the genuine pleasure you take in being recognized.


In most cases an acceptance speech should be brief, no more than one or two minutes. However, in some circumstances of major awards, when the recipient is announced before the presentation ceremony, the recipient may be expected to deliver an extended speech of five or ten minutes. If this is the case you can expand your acceptance to include a few anecdotes and to discuss your ideas for the future of the organization. If you aren't sure of what is expected check with someone associated with the organization presenting the award to clarify.

If you would like to see the wording of some major acceptance speeches do a search on the Internet for "acceptance speeches" and you will find many speeches from prize winners such as Nobel Laureates, etc.

Mind Your Manners

When accepting an award never say "I don't really deserve this". Such remarks question the judgment of the organization presenting the award. Always remember to be modest and dignified. Don't review everything you did to achieve the award. Most people already know about your efforts and why you are worthy of the award.

Receiving the Award

When the award presenter announces your name, approach the stage or rise and step toward him or her if you are already on the stage. If you approach from the audience, come forward promptly, but don't rush or eagerly bound forward. On stage, stand near the presenter but avoid blocking the award. Do not reach for the award until the presenter extends it to you. When accepting your award, stand slightly sideways toward the audience, then reach for and take it with the hand nearest the presenter. This way you avoid reaching in front of yourself or turning your body away from the audience. After receiving the award hold it in full view of the audience. If it is too large or heavy to hold, place it on the lectern, step to one side and begin your speech. When you have finished speaking carry the award in your hand and return to your seat.

Congratulations on receiving your award! You have earned it. The greatest thanks you can give your host is to accept it with grace and dignity.
Summarized from Accepting an Award, from Toastmasters International Special Occasion Speeches advanced manual.


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Last modified: January 29, 2005