Writing a thank you speech comes down to one crucial element: sincerity. Your sincere gratitude should be evident not just in the content of the speech but in your tone, gestures and delivery. Whether you're expressing thanks for an award or someone's time, a gift or expertise, your speech should communicate that you recognize and genuinely appreciate the other party's generosity or sacrifice. Prepare thoroughly and practice frequently for best results when speech time comes.
Prepare the Speech
Spend some time thinking about who you're thanking and your speech venue. The speech may need to be shortened or tweaked depending on whether it is one of many at the same event, or if the entire event is intended as an expression of appreciation. Consider whether your speech is relevant to the entire audience, a small group or an individual, as well as what the recognition or gift really means to you. Note what positive results have or will come about. Make a list of all benefactors and beneficiaries and determine who should be named individually in your speech, keeping in mind that gift-givers occasionally prefer to remain anonymous.
Outline the Speech
Although the purpose of your speech is to express thanks, provide your audience with "signposts" that indicate both your speech's path and its ultimate destination. For example, if you're writing a thank-you speech to a longtime individual donor, start with a brief but vivid description of how desperately your organization needed donations. Move into a short recollection of meeting the donor for the first time and then give the high points of her involvement. Close with an illustration of how important her donations have been; for example, perhaps she enabled your organization to build and staff a school in an area with high illiteracy rates.
Write the Speech
According to Toastmasters, start your speech with an attention-grabbing statistic or anecdote. For example, "Ten years ago, I was a high-school dropout working at a fast-food restaurant." Work out a smooth transition from the introduction to the body: "Everything changed when I literally ran into ABC Company President John Smith." Note the specifics of your speech, such as dollar amounts, exact time spent and money raised; ambiguity can indicate you haven't thoroughly prepared and you're not sure exactly what you're expressing gratitude for. Say, for example, "I am so grateful to my 10th-grade teacher, Mrs. Smith, who urged me to enter the school's short-story contest in 1995." Close with a reaffirmation of your gratitude, such as: "I can never thank you enough for your contributions to my personal and professional growth."
Practice and Deliver the Speech
Review and practice your speech until you feel yourself developing a rhythm and familiarity with the words. Time yourself until you can deliver the speech comfortably within the time limit. Picture the person or group you are thanking and imagine you are speaking directly to them. Once you've got a firm grasp of the material, focus on giving the speech with a smile and plenty of individual eye contact. When it's time to give the speech, let your gestures come naturally; as you speak, allow yourself to feel moved by and grateful for what you have received. Ginger Public Speaking asserts that the best way to give any speech is to simply be yourself. Your audience will sense and appreciate your sincerity.
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Welcome Ideas for a Graduation Speech
- Westside Toastmasters: The 14 Easy Steps to Preparation
- Inc.: Crafting the Perfect Acceptance Speech
- Forbes: 10 Keys to Writing a Speech
- Westside Toastmasters: The Grand Finale: 12 Ways to End Your Speech
- Toastmasters: For the Novice: Simple Steps to Writing a Fantastic Speech
- Ginger Public Speaking: How to Start a Speech With Power and Confidence?
Kate Bradley began writing professionally in 2007. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in international studies and a minor in German from Berry College in Rome, Ga; TEFL/TESOL certification from ITC International in Prague; and a Master of Arts in integrated global communication from Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga.