The vote of thanks...why can't you just get it right?
Recently I went to a function and I was really impressed by the speeches.
The introduction was extremely well-delivered and presented the guest speaker as just the right person to deliver this particular speech.
The guest speaker held the audience’s attention like the expert speaker she is. Her ideas were refreshing. She was humorous and the audience could relate to her examples and analogies.
Then there was the vote of thanks.
I know vote of thanks are usually bad. But I was obviously lulled into a state of false expectancy by the speeches that went before this one.
As bad vote of thanks speeches go, it was bang on the money. I mean, it was the worse I had heard for a long time!
It seems that the speaker was sitting in the audience, minding his business, when all of a sudden the organisers stuck a gun in his back and forced him to deliver that speech!
So, I''m asking, "What’s with you and the vote of thanks, guys"?
Why do you make it the worse speech on the program 7 times out of 10?
And why do you so often make it almost as long as the main speech?
Well, I am declaring "ENOUGH!"
I'm pulling out all the stops.
In this post, I'll walk you through how to deliver a super vote of thanks, one that will not only delight your audience but will ramp-up your credibility as a speaker.
So let's dive right in...
What you should know about a vote of thanks
First of all, it is usually a short, formal speech. It is delivered on behalf of an organisation or a business at the end of an event, to thank those who have organized and or participated in that event.
As a result you can find them at the end of events like:
- farewell ceremonies
- conferences, seminars and workshops
- fairly formal meetings
- (and I wish) funerals
What this means is, that to avoid bringing down an otherwise great program and to make your guest speaker feel special, you just have to learn how to do them properly, as I mention in point #8 of this post.
But here's what standing in your way.
You can't (shouldn't) write your vote of thanks speech out, three days in advance, practice it and then come to event and deliver it. That work's for the other type of speeches but for a vote of thanks, it's the foundation for a crash landing.
On the other hand, if you can come to the event early, listen carefully and keep your wits about you, you can deliver a memorable speech that the organisers will thank you for. You don't want to miss such an opportunity, do you?
And you dare not forget that the vote of thanks is a speech.
This means, as I tell my participants in my presentation workshops or coaching, like all good speeches it should have have an opening or introduction, a body or discussion part and a conclusion or ending.
I make this point because it seems that people generally believe that unless you're delivering a big, sexy feature address, you don't have to pay too much attention to arranging it.
But you're wrong.
So…let me break it down for you, may I?
How to begin your vote of thanks
If I tell you that it's a speech, then it follows that the opening must be hot enough to capture the attention of the audience.
To achieve this, you can use humour, a quotation, refer to the circumstance of the event or any of the myriad of effective ways to begin a speech.
"According to Saint Ambrose, who lived many years ago: “No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks” so I'm delighted to have been given the pleasant duty of delivering the vote of thanks this evening…"
“The only people with whom you should try to get even are those who have helped you.” Madam Chair, those words were attributed to John E. Southard and I use them now to “get even” by thanking a number of people who have helped us with this event…"
Now that you know what to do...
Here's what you should NOT do:
- Use an apologetic opening statement
- Tell a story or joke that does not relate to the topic
- Begin with a long, slow-moving statement
- Ask a trite or boring question
Nail the body or middle of your vote of thanks
Just like any other speech, the body of a vote of thanks is the main part of the speech.
It is also the place where you will find the best opportunities to foul up. So let me help you avoid them.
Start by saying on whose behalf you are speaking
You are speaking on behalf of your organisation and on your own behalf. If you must leave out any part of this, leave out yourself.
Following on from any of the introductions above, you can move smartly into the body of your speech by saying something like:
"On behalf of the Association of Female High-end Car Owners, and on my own behalf, I would like to thank..."
Hit the audience with a three-prong attack
Yeah...Do try to sound spontaneous, enthusiastic and genuine...
To pull off these three things with class, you need to do two things:
First, you need to understand why you and your organisation should be thankful.
A whole lot of people would have worked really hard over a period of time to make the event happen. Everybody, including you, should be feeling a deep sense of gratitude towards them. In reality, you are only the mouthpiece expressing this gratitude. Therefore, we should hear it in your voice and see it in your body language.
Second and more importantly...
Ignore the wonderful advice I gave about how to practice your speech in this post. While I am providing you with a template for a great vote of thanks, most of the details will be filled in by you at the event.
Just imagine this: you write your vote of thanks, you practice it at home, your dog loves it and you bring it to the function...and several things on the programme have changed. But you happily deliver it, just as you practiced at home...
Wuhloss! even thinking about that has me hiding under a table in my mind, holding all your embarrassment in my handbag.
Don't pretend your vote of thanks is a filibuster
Be brief, your speech should be no longer than 2 - 4 minutes.
Yes, I am serious. Everybody else has already spoken, so it's too late for a filibuster.
Understand the mindset of your audience at this point in the program.
They recognize that the vote of thanks signals the end of the event. And if the caterers are well-known for mouth-watering food, that’s where their minds will be.
Not on another 7 - 10 minute speech.
Be sure to thank the right person(s)
This should be obvious but only recently, a mistake like this took centre-stage at an event I attended.
At the last-minute, the person originally delivering the feature address could not attend. Since no one told the person moving the vote of thanks and since she was working primarily behind the scenes...you can guess what happened.
As you can imagine, nearly everyone (none under the pressure of working hard and then having to deliver a speech!) knew she was an idiot from high school.
Catch yourself asking "What's in a name?"
When you get the persons right, then you must get their names right.
Local folklore in my country has it that a popular and conscientious Police Officer once arrested a thief on Synagogue Lane. Being unable to spell or pronounce "Synagogue" he dragged him by the collar on to "Broad Street" and arrested him there!
You do not have that option. You cannot call people a name you can pronounce before you thank them.
So before the event begins, ask the key people if the spelling of their names on the programme is correct and how it is pronounced.
Use the programme as a guide to the "order of thanking"
A good guide as to the order in which you should thank people, is the programme. It also helps to prevent you from leaving out anybody.
If there are just a few items on the programme:Thank all the speakers/performers individually. A word of caution: this does NOT include the choir.
If there are several items on the programme: Divide the speakers/performers into groups and thank each group. This includes the choir.
The jury is still out on the supporting acts
Should you thank persons who are not on the program but have contributed to the event?
This is often hotly debated and for good reason.
I don't mean to be unkind, but sometimes, persons really reach too far back to thank such persons, though.
I am in a place where I will not be surprised if one day, someone thanks the mother of the caterer for giving birth to him or her, the baby sitters of the cleaners for so lovingly helping to raise them and the car dealer who leased the clown the car that brought him there.
You should acknowledge them as a group "too numerous to mention" and in this way, you will not offend anybody.
How do you handle the Guest Speaker's speech?
This is usually easy to do.
Guest speakers are invited to events because it is anticipated that they have something to say that's at least useful and at best inspiring.
When this is the case, compliment the content and or the quality of speech. Do NOT thank them for the time they took to prepare the speech. You'll see why shortly.
Try to mention one or two points you found particularly interesting. This is also the epitome of proper etiquette since it signals to the speaker you were listening.
"I especially would like to thank Ms. Barrow for her entertaining but forthright speech. I especially appreciate that she called us out for not adequately training and coaching our supervisors but at the same time, showed us an easy way to do this."
What if the Guest Speaker lets you down?
We have all seen it...the guest speaker tanks.
When this happens, what is the poor person delivering the vote of thanks to do?
Just thank the guest speaker for the time she or he took to prepare and deliver the speech. Lying about how great the speech was, is not one of your options.
That's why you save the "thank you for the time.." line for feature speeches that are not all that good.
You can get the ending of your vote of thanks wrong
Perhaps you're now thinking: really Lorna, you mean I can even mess up the ending?!
I'm not answering, you will just have to read on to find out...
Just like how your vote of thanks has a proper opening, you must bring it to a proper close. You may choose any of the many ways you can end any other speech. But just remember these critical points about ending the vote of thanks:
It is NOT the time – to take the speaker to task for something he might have said that you did not agree with. Please!
It is NOT the opportunity – to put forward your own view on the subject that the speaker discussed. This is just plain rude.
It is the time – to bring your speech smartly to a close with a call for a round of applause from the audience for the people whom you have just thanked.
The next time you have to deliver a vote of thanks...
You will nail it like a boss!
And why wouldn't you?
You now have a template which you can follow to deliver a winning vote of thanks.
I've walked you through how to do it from beginning to end...and with examples.
You now know almost as much as I know about delivering a vote of thanks.
I can't imagine why you would still want to be counted among those who are delivering bad vote of thanks...
Oh...and just remember that VOT on the programmes stands for Vote of Thanks!
The first time I saw it, I did not realise what it stood for, and when I asked...even now as I tell you, I still want to go into a hole in the ground.
Also remember, even though a VOT (oops!) vote of thanks is essentially a short speech, if you can nail it , a winning vote of thanks can establish your speaking credibility!
To your VOT success...