While we're not sure how many of our readers are actually celebrities, we know that a number of you are celebrities in your own minds. Seriously, even if you're not going to be at the podium accepting an Oscar anytime soon, there is likely to be some occasion that calls for an expression of humble gratitude for accolades received. Here's how:
- Humility not Hubris. Let the accolade say it for you. You have been recognized to the point of receiving an award: No need to self-aggrandize. Halle Berry demonstrated how not to do this with her acceptance speech for an Oscar for "Monster Ball" in 2001: "And I thank the Academy for choosing me to be the vessel for which His blessing might flow..." Uh-huh. Even if you do feel hand-picked by God, best keep that fact to yourself during an acceptance speech.
- Name the Names. Anyone who has been supporting you along the road to success--say the husband who put you through graduate school--should definitely be foremost on your list of whom to thank. Otherwise, you'll earn your own private place in infamy, right next to Hilary Swank, who forgot to thank her then-husband Chad Lowe during her Oscar acceptance speech for Best Actress in "Boys Don't Cry" in 2000. That's what known as a very big oops. Be sure to thank all the necessary people, just as long as that list is only seven to eight people long.
- Be Prepared. Practice your pronunciation and intonation ahead of time so that you can practically recite your speech in your sleep. You don't want to end up mispronouncing a name-a Lana or Tara or god forbid, Djimon- of someone you're trying to honor. And for as much as you will practice, don't let your rehearsal in front of a mirror at home fool you into thinking that you'll manage the same wry delivery in front of a crowd of say, several hundred. Have a speech that will suffice even if you do choke. If you have friends or family who are willing guinea pigs, practice your acceptance speech in front of them so as to experience that eyes-on feeling before the big moment.
- Be Authentic. The benefit of being authentic is underestimated in most matters: people can sense authenticity, and tend to appreciate it. If some of the language you're planning to use is too flowery or too far out of character, lose it. Err on the side of your authentic self. Granted, if you like to pepper your speech with four-letter words or anatomical references, you'll have to clean it up a bit, but don't suddenly try to use erudite phrases or curmudgeonly humor if they're not a part of your usual schtick.
- Several Minutes Max. You get points for brevity.
- Humor. If you can pull off telling a joke, then by all means, do. It's hard to do well, though. If you have any doubt whatsoever of your ability to pull off a joke, best to avoid it. Nothing can take you off your game faster than a joke that falls flat.
- Political Correctness. In these politically correct times, it's best to err on the side of caution, particularly when it comes to joke-telling. You just never know what perceived minority you may inadvertently offend.
It never hurts to have an acceptance speech up your sleeve....You never know when your boss might take it upon herself to finally reward your superior performance in front of a large crowd. Besides, as Shirley MacLaine explained in her Oscar acceptance speech for Best Actress in the 1983 film, "Terms of Endearment," "Films and life are like clay, waiting for us to mold it. And when you trust your own insides and that becomes achievement, it's a kind of principle that seems to me is at work with everyone. God bless that principle. God bless that potential that we all have for making anything possible if we think we deserve it."
I am quite sure that you deserve to give an acceptance speech very soon. Me, too!