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Understanding the Role of Special Occasion Speeches

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  • 0:50 Eulogy
  • 2:03 The Toast
  • 2:43 The Introductory
  • 3:46 The Tribute
  • 4:29 The Acceptance Speech
  • 5:24 The Inspirational Speech
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Instructor: Kat Kadian-Baumeyer

Kat has a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership and Management and teaches Business courses.

Special occasion speeches are written and delivered to commemorate an occasion like a wedding or funeral, or even for a roast. Even though special occasions speeches seem simple, they have a few rules that need to be followed.

What Is a Special Occasion Speech?

Everyone at some point in their life will be asked to say a few words at their best friend's wedding, their boss' promotion or a dear old aunt's funeral. Well, what is really happening is a special occasion speech, and this is nothing more than a speech given to commemorate a special event or person.

While standing before friends, family or colleagues seems pretty simple, there are a few things to know:

  • Keep the speech brief; under ten minutes is plenty of time
  • Keep it light and relaxing
  • Direct it to the audience

Sounds pretty simple, huh? Well, it really is. This is mostly because you should already be quite familiar with your audience and the person or event you're honoring.

Now, let's take a look at several types of special occasion speeches.

The Eulogy

First, let's go to one of the not-so-much-fun special occasion speeches. The eulogy is a speech that honors a deceased person. This type of speech is generally written and delivered by a family member or close friend of the departed. Think of a eulogy as a reflection of a person's life. You may want to start out by introducing yourself to the gathering. Then move to a few stories, anecdotes and memories. While preparing, don't be afraid to ask family members, friends and co-workers for assistance. While keeping the eulogy to about three to four minutes is standard, include as many honoring statements as possible.

Let's practice: 'Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to remember Uncle Rufus. He lived a good and humble life. In his 109 years, he was best known for his sense of humor. A stern man of ethics, he played a fair game of ping pong. In fact, it was at the Asheville Ping Pong Championships that Uncle Rufus took his last drop shot.'

Now, there are also special occasion speeches that actually celebrate happy events. Let's leave Uncle Rufus to rest in peace while we move on to a few happier occasions.

The Toast

A toast is when we offer up a drink to wish someone good luck. Usually, a toast is given at a wedding or some other celebratory occasion.

There are a few things to think about when making a toast:

  • Be sure all glasses are filled and ready to toast
  • Gather everyone around
  • Keep it brief

Let's watch as Jane gives the toast of a lifetime to her friends, Mary and Steve, on their wedding day: 'Come on, gang! Raise your glasses to Mary and Steve. May you have a wonderful life together. Just remember, Steve, happy wife means happy life! Give 'em a hand.'

Sometimes, a simple line or two with a funny or heartwarming statement is just enough.

The Introductory

At a more professional event, you may have to deliver an introductory speech. This is really simple. It means introducing someone to the audience. You may have to do this to introduce a new employee, a keynote speaker or even a special guest. Even though it is quite simple, there are still a few tips to follow. First, keep it less than two minutes.

In that short time, include:

  • Keeping the person you are introducing a secret until you are ready to bring him/her on the stage
  • Highlight the person's achievements
  • Include a few personal tidbits, if possible
  • Never read from a bio; condense it into your own words

Try this one on for size: 'Ladies and gents, our speaker today is an accomplished ham radio dispatcher, a skilled macramé designer and an all-around good father and husband. Without further ado, here's Mr. Stanley McPeebles. Give him a round of applause.'

Similar to an introductory speech, you may be asked to honor a person in a speech.

The Tribute

A tribute or commemorative speech is really nothing more than a speech designed to honor someone or something. They are done for several occasions, like anniversaries, retirements, memorial services or even reunions.

Think about these tips:

  • Show admiration
  • Highlight the person's best qualities
  • Use their contributions to society as a lesson for others

Put into motion, it might look like this: 'It seems like yesterday when Pickles was chasing cats and biting the tires of moving cars. He was a good dog, faithful friend and a heck of a fetcher.'

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