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Our Guide to Giving the Best Employee Recognition Speech

The end of the year is a traditional time to reflect on the events and accomplishments of the past 12 months. Many companies wisely use this time to thank and recognize their employees for their hard work. When presenting these awards and accolades, the presenter is nearly as important as the honoree. That may seem like a lot of pressure, but with a little preparation anyone can give a great employee recognition speech.

Define the Purpose

Before any writing can begin, the presenter must define the purpose of the recognition. This will act as the anchor of the speech. All anecdotes, praise, and gratitude should all be easily traced back to this theme. Whether it's acknowledging years of service, a sales milestone, retirement, or safety achievement, understanding the specific reason for recognition will guide the tone and content of the speech.

Be Specific and Genuine

Using generic language when praising an employee will make the speech flat and disappointing. It’s the employee’s time to shine, so a little thought and care is required to make them feel special. A good speech highlights the employee's unique contributions, mentioning specific projects, achievements, or qualities that set them apart. The focus should be on the tangible impact the employee has had on their team or the organization.

The heart and soul of every good speech is an entertaining, yet poignant story. Incorporating anecdotes and stories that showcase the employee's character, work ethic, or memorable moments makes the moment more meaningful. Personalizing the speech also creates a connection between the speaker, the recognized individual, and the audience. If the presenter is struggling, they might try setting up a one-on-one interview to gain some insight into the employee’s perspective.

Understanding the Symbolism

When presenting an award it’s important to mention how it symbolizes everything that went into the employee’s achievement. Oftentimes, the physical award is handed to the employee after the speech is over, with little to no explanation of how it encapsulates all their hard work. Explaining the symbolism of awards adds depth. If there's a logo, corporate symbol, significant color, or special engraving, the presenter should articulate its meaning. After all, the employee is going to keep this award for years to come, so a few words about the award itself are appropriate.

Keep it Positive

An award ceremony is a time for celebration, not bellyaching. Presenters should emphasize the positive aspects of the employee's contributions, and avoid dwelling on challenges or setbacks. A positive atmosphere encourages a sense of pride and motivates others to strive for excellence.

Thank the Recipient

An award is, at its core, an expression of gratitude. Amidst the anecdotes and ovations, a few sincere words of gratitude are imperative. Saying “thank you” goes beyond action and impact to communicate how the company feels about the employee. Thanking the recipient is also a great way to wrap up the speech in a heartfelt way.

Don’t Forget Body Language

About 75% of the population has a fear of public speaking. That can cause many of us to adopt stiff body language when we’re in front of a crowd. Award presenters should do their best to fight this fear-based urge and incorporate positive body language during their speech. Making eye contact, smiling, and using gestures to emphasize key points may sound second nature, but they can easily slip from one’s mind. Engaging body language adds a personal touch and conveys sincerity, so it’s important that it isn’t forgotten.

Encourage Audience Participation

The award presenter shouldn’t forget the other people in the room. Involving the audience in the recognition process is a fun way to engage the entire room. Encouraging applause, cheers, or other forms of positive acknowledgment not only creates a supportive atmosphere, but also reinforces the high significance of the recognition.

An Example from Dion

Here at Dion, we recently gathered the entire company for our annual Holiday festivities. Dennis, our President, highlighted each of our years-of-service recipients; from new hires all the way to our 40th anniversary recipient! As an example, in his speech to our 20th anniversary awardee, he began by telling us where she worked previously in order to highlight her expansive knowledge and skills in the position she holds. He then went on to praise the wonderful work she has done throughout the years, building relationships with so many of our overseas vendors and acquiring hard-to-find materials so that we can complete our projects. Finally, Dennis spoke of the award she was receiving as a 20 year recipient: a beautiful 14K gold pendant with green stones which she chose. The Dion signature logo is engraved on the back of the pendant so she will always remember Dion’s gratitude for her hard work and dedication for the past 20 years. Dennis ended his speech by commenting on how excited they are to watch her continue her journey with Dion until her next milestone!

At Dion, we’ve been creating high-quality custom awards for over 54 years. Our award jewelry is an elegant and functional way to offer branded recognition that the recipients will treasure forever. Getting started is easy, simply This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. give us a call, or message us to get started with a design and quote.

Need some inspiration? Check out our gallery of past products!