Public Speaking for the Holidays: Beware

Like weddings and funerals, the holidays gather people together. Often people who don’t really want to be together. The holidays might collect family, friends, neighbors, colleagues and business associates.

These holiday gatherings often lead to unplanned speeches. The formula of unplanned speeches, unpolished public speakers, holiday cheer and mixed emotions can be embarrassing, explosive or just plain painful.

You are public speaking any time that you are speaking to more than one person. Read these tips for your holiday speeches.

If you suspect that you will be expected to speak then prepare your speech. If you are the host, the group leader, organizer or most colorful character – you will be expected to speak. Write a few key words or names on an index card.

The most likely speeches for the holidays include:

  1. Welcome
  2. Thank you
  3. Cheers
  4. Congratulations
  5. Enjoy


Keep your presentation as short as possible. For example if you are giving a toast – it could be “We each have our own reasons to celebrate this holiday season. I thank you for celebrating together.”

Do not tell a joke. Most likely it will not be appropriate. If it might offend one person then it is inappropriate. Just remember that even the best comedians have bombed.

It’s best to schedule the speeches before the drinking starts. If you’ve started drinking keep your speech to one or a few words or decline.

Do not present your imitation of the boss, grandpa or Mary from accounting. Just imagine how you would feel if the next speaker did an imitation of your or your spouse.

No one came for the speeches. Keep it short. (I can’t say this enough.) Your goal is to have your speech quickly forgotten. People will forget your speech as long as you don’t embarrass or offend them.

Holidays are for celebration regardless of how tough the year was, how much you hate your cousin or how badly the turkey was burned. If you can’t bring yourself to say two positive words – then say one positive word. Then shut up and sit down.

Holiday speeches are not for kissing up to the boss, criticizing, bragging or being sarcastic.

Celebrate, be thankful then shut up so the rest can celebrate and be thankful too. They will celebrate the holidays and be thankful that you’re finished your speech.

George Torok

Executive Speaking Coach

Presentation Skills Training

PS: "Inspired by the 'Public Speaking and The Holidays' blog carnival. Check it out: http://www.definiscommunications.com/blog/public-speaking-and-the-holidays/"

Executive Speech Coach, Business presentation tips from George Torok, the Speech Coach for Executives.

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