How to give an outstanding tribute
At some point in your life you may be asked to give a tribute to someone you know. The occasion may be a birthday, anniversary, wedding, retirement, funeral or a special honorary ceremony. It may be for an intimate group, a large live audience or packaged for use in the media. It doesn’t matter; you can turn a good tribute into an outstanding one if you incorporate a few key essentials.
If you think back to tributes you thoroughly enjoyed, you may find they included certain elements that created great moments for the audience. You don’t have to be the most polished speaker to give a memorable tribute to someone you are fond of. If you season your talk with these audience-engaging condiments, you will be sure to hold their attention, lighten the mood and leave the audience with even greater appreciation for the honoree.
Put your focus where it belongs. It is common for people to be overcome with nervousness when asked to speak to an audience. Instead of focusing on yourself, turn your attention to the person you’ve been asked to honor. Focus on how you want to make them feel. Imagine they are a guest in your home and you want them to feel comfortable, appreciated and special. You were probably asked to perform the task for a reason. It is assumed you either know the honoree well, have special affection for them, can deliver a speech or are simply the most appropriate person. Whatever the reason, use this opportunity to celebrate the person of the hour; make them feel good and stir up warm feelings about them in the hearts of others. Hopefully the redirection of this attention will help you to feel less nervous.
Bring out their humanity. There is nothing wrong with highlighting a quirk, idiosyncrasy or character flaw that is common knowledge for those who know the honoree. Obviously, you should consider the audience and look for something that is funny like, “Well everyone knows Lisa is stubborn; she’s a woman who knows what she wants.” Give an example of how this ‘flaw’ may have redeeming qualities or may have worked in other people’s favor. No one is perfect and we most admire people who are relatable. Making the honoree human, while having genuine appreciation for who they are as a person, can bring humor and endearment.
Tell a story. People love stories; nothing is more engaging. Try to think of an experience you had with the honoree, or something you observed or heard to paint a picture. The point of the story is to magnify their personality and to support the reason they are receiving the tribute. Stay away from sharing personal secrets or anything that may actually offend. If you can’t be kind and sincere, decline the invitation to speak. I know of a maid of honor who disparaged the bride in her toast; she made herself look bad. Insincerity can have a boomerang effect.
Make it personal. Share why you are personally honored to honor the honoree. People love to hear how they may have positively affected the lives of others, and if it’s a funeral, it’s what the family wants to hear. So, don’t be general – be specific, make it personal. It’s great to attach kind adjectives to someone’s personality; it’s even better to give an illustration, and if you can relay the way they influenced your life, it’s golden.
- Kim Welcome is the CEO of Influential Voice. A communication trainer and coach, she assists businesses and professionals to achieve their goals by helping them to develop deliberate, skillful, polished communication skills. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 242-225-9013.