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Types of Special Occasion Speeches


Introductory Speeches

          Just as the name implies, introductory speeches introduce a person to the audience. Introductory speeches provide relevant information about a person, event, or occasion. You may not be delivering a full speech on this topic but just a short background to “dampen the sponge” with the audience about the speaker’s topic. Introductory speeches may end by asking the audience to welcome the person (generally with a round of applause).

Example: “This evening we are here to introduce the new CFO for the company, John Devine. John has worked at several other prestigious companies, and we are pleased to have him join our team. Please give John a round of applause as he steps up to give us his first thoughts.”

Presentation/Gift-Giving Speeches

          These speeches are given when you publicly present another person a gift or award. These speeches involve the presentation of a physical object to another person, such as a trophy, large check, plaque or certificate. Presentation/gift giving speeches should first highlight the purpose or background of the award itself, including why the award is significant. These speeches should include how the recipient has met or surpassed the criteria of the award.

          One important element about presentation/gift giving speeches is the proper inclusion of the recipient’s name. If the audience knows who is receiving the award, it is best practice to say the name of the recipient early in the speech and repeat it throughout. This helps the audience establish a definitive connection between the merits of the award and person receiving it. If the audience does not know who is receiving the award, then one method may be to end with the name of the recipient. This helps build suspense and creates an element of surprise.

          If you are giving this type of speech and holding the award, begin to shift the award to your left hand as you conclude. This will allow you easier access for a handshake with the recipient.

Examples: A Best Actor award at the Academy Awards. A Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kennedy Center Honors.


Example: A local person receiving an award and recognition for their volunteering efforts in the community.

Acceptance Speeches

          Acceptance speeches may be linked with the presentation/gift-giving speech. They are given by the person who is receiving the award, recognition, or gift. These speeches are most often associated with award shows but can also be in other areas of life.

          If you are the person receiving the award, it is customary to begin by expressing gratitude to the awarding committee, presenter, or agency/organization giving the award. If you did not know you were receiving the award, you might want to acknowledge your surprise. If you know in advance you will receive the award, you should plan, organize, and practice your message as you would any other speech. Content of these speeches will be as varied as the awards themselves but some ideas for organizing your thoughts may include a personal list of individuals who contributed to your success and made your receipt of the award possible, a recognition of others nominated for the award (if known), and how honored you are to be considered among them. Finally, these speeches might include an explanation of the impact of the award on your future and express your gratitude once again. These speeches should consider the occasion and the need for brevity as you prepare your remarks. As you step up to accept the award or accolade you should free your right hand of any objects or pockets to allow you to shake the hand of the presenter.

Example: Your favorite movie star trying to wrap up quickly before the music starts.


Example: The local community member accepting the award for their volunteering.

Commencement Speeches

          Graduations are often viewed as a conclusion to one’s educational career. However, by definition, they are the beginning! You are “commencing” to the next phase of your life. Commencement speeches are often given by a prominent figure in the local or global community. These speeches touch on a shared theme or common beliefs and often feature words of wisdom or a call to action.

Example: Steve Jobs speaking to the graduates of a local university.


Example: The valedictorian of the graduating class at a high school or university.


Example: Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture to his class at Carnegie-Mellon in 2007.

Tribute Speeches

          Tribute speeches are commemorative in nature, paying honor, admiration, homage, to an occasion, person, event, thing or idea. In many cases, tribute speeches use emotions to acknowledge and draw upon the speaker’s experiences or highlight the qualities and effects the person place or thing has played in their life. Tribute speeches may come in many places and forms: anniversaries, weddings, retirements, etc. Anywhere there is a desire to praise and acknowledge the impact of someone or something on you.

Example: Paying tribute to the role service members played in a military event.


Example: Honoring the centenarian on their one-hundredth birthday.


Example: Delivering the eulogy at a loved one’s funeral.


          Toasts are like tribute speeches; however, they should be short depending on the occasion. As toasts are public speeches, they should be carefully prepared, organized, practiced, and delivered in an extemporaneous/conversational manner. It is wise to have all your faculties when presenting the toast as to rightfully honor the people being toasted.

Example: A company dinner recognizing the achievements of a division of the company for their achievements.


Example: A wedding toast by the father of the bride to the new couple.


          A roast is like a toast but is humorous in nature. Roasts are friendly but poke fun at the recipient. As with any use of humor, the jokes must be funny and appropriate, they should not be focused on specific elements of the person being roasted but rather on commonalities and overall human qualities. Your jokes should not be at the expense of the one being roasted. Most speakers are not comedians and may not know how to deliver a comedic message. Delivering a roast requires intent, practice, timing, and heart for the recipient and audience. Audience analysis is vital when working with humor and jokes.

Example: Jerry Seinfeld delivering a humorous speech at the White House Correspondents’ Association annual dinner.


Example: Delivering a humorous speech at a coworker’s retirement party.

Keynote Addresses

          A keynote address is a longer special occasion speech meant to inspire, inform, or call an audience to action while attending a specific conference or event. These speeches use elements of both informative and persuasive speeches and can even follow the same patterns of organization. Many keynote addresses incorporate the themes, relevant messages, or core concepts of the conference or event.

Example: The vice-president of the association presenting at the National Communication Association conference speaking to the collective members on the conference theme of “Communication at Play.”


Example: A widely known speaker presenting at a seminar of human resources managers on the theme of “The Varying Workforce in America.”

Review Questions

1) When presenting someone with an award or gift, what hand should you use to hold the award? Why is it important?

2) What elements should be focused on when delivering a roast?

3) A eulogy would be considered what type of speech? 

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