The Art of Speaking  

Master of the show

By Rae Stonehouse

Being an effective emcee is an art.

Much of what happens at an award-presentation ceremony is done behind the scenes before the spotlight shines on you.

Award presentation ceremonies aren’t life and death situations, but they wont 't effective without preparation and your self-confidence.

Think showmanship. Think about some of the award presentation ceremonies that you have seen in the past as to what worked and what didn’t.

Inexperienced emcees often make two big mistakes: they're unprepared and they make the ceremony about themselves rather than the award recipient.

Your job is to entertain and inform your audience and convince them that the award you are presenting and the person receiving it is of great importance.

Here are some steps to take to ensure your next award presentation is handled professionally.

Logistics: (things that you need to know in advance)

  • Do the nominees know if they have won an award?
  • Does the agenda allow time for the winners to deliver a speech? If so, how long?
  • If there are multiple awards, do you know the total time allotted in the agenda?
  • What is the size of the awards? Will they be placed on a nearby table or perhaps hidden within the lectern/podium? Will you be able to lift them or will you require an assistant?

Research questions:

  • What is the award being presented for?
  • Does it have a name?
  • What were the criteria for winning?
  • Are there any notable past winners who should be mentioned?
  • What did the recipient of the award do to win the award?
  • Is there a sponsor for the award? Are you expected to do a promotional plug or will they be expected to speak?

Preparation: Creating your script

You should incorporate the answers from your research into your notes. Answer the questions of who, what, why, when, where and how.

Your notes should be written for the spoken word, not the written. Short sentences. Simple words.

Be enthusiastic and motivational in your presentation, yet at the same time, sincere. You can read your notes, but you will seem more professional if you have committed much of your content to memory and only refer to your notes for specific details.

Presenting the Award:

It’s show time! Time to make a special person feel like they are the most important person in the world, at least for the next few moments.

If it is a trophy or plaque, this would be a good time to show it to the audience.

Start by introducing the background of the award and provide examples of what the winner has done to achieve the award.

Now it's time to announce the winner. Your voice can be an effective tool by increasing your speaking speed, your pitch and your volume. Your role is to act as a cheerleader and lead the applause as you announce the winner.

If you are the sole presenter, step away from the lectern to allow room to present the award and shake the recipient’s hand. Think photo op.

While shaking the winner’s hand, offer them a few words of private congratulations while looking them in the eyes.

The process is much like following the steps in a dance routine.

  • Announce 
  • shake their hand 
  • look them in the eyes 
  • congratulate them 
  • step back 
  • lead applause and lead the applause as they return to their seat.

Bridging between awards and recipients is essential to your performance.

You could give a brief personal example of how you have seen that the recipient has earned the award assuming that you know them. Or you could give a brief overview of why you believe the award is important as you set up the next award to be delivered.

The key word is brief. Repeat the process.

Pitfalls to Avoid:

  • What happens if you announce the winner and they are not present? One solution might be to ask the audience if there is anyone else from the individual’s family or organization who would like to accept the award.
  • You are presenting awards and notice that the award isn’t the one that is supposed to be next or there is a spelling mistake on the engraving. Present the award and tell the recipient you'll would solve it after.
  • Pictures can add a lively dimension to your ceremonies but what can you do when they take up too much time or are disruptive? If you want to restrict the time allowed for each picture, you can. There is nothing wrong with advising that the winner will be available for pictures the formal ceremonies.
  • What can be done about an award recipient whose acceptance speech never seems to end? If they are the one paying you, you might want to let them run on a little. If they aren’t, you may need to intervene. Often standing right beside the speaker can give them the hint that it is time to relinquish the spotlight. Sometimes you have to be forceful and interject with something along the lines of “in order to keep us on track to allow our other winners to speak, I’m going to have to cut you off… Then, lead the applause.

Your local Toastmasters club is the perfect place to practice your award presentation skills.

Presenting an award for an educational achievement to one of your fellow members is a good way to practise this skill.

Rae Stonehouse is an Okanagan-based author, speaker and Toastmaster. Contact: 250-451-6564 or [email protected]

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About the Author

The mission of a Toastmaster Club is to provide a mutually supportive and positive learning environment that offers every member the opportunity to develop communication and leadership skills, which in turn foster self-confidence and personal growth.

There are eight Toastmasters clubs in the Central Okanagan.

For more information and/or to find a club near you, check http://www.toastmasters.org.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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