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How Do You Say Thank You in a Speech?


This past weekend, I went to my 30-year high school reunion in my hometown of Jefferson, Iowa (if you’re trying to do the math, yes, that means I’m 48 years old).  The class reunions are always held the same weekend as the town’s annual Bell Tower Festival – a festival that honors the huge Bell Tower near the courthouse in the town square.  When the town has other occasions to celebrate besides class reunions, they are often scheduled the events on the same weekend as the festival in order to draw a crowd.


This year, there was a very special event that took place during the Bell Tower Festival:  the unveiling of a statue to the first Iowa woman to win an Olympic gold medal, Jefferson’s own archer Doreen Wilber.  At 1 PM on Saturday, the ceremony began.  Another chance for me to watch speakers!  (A presentation coach’s work is never done…)


I must confess, we weren’t there when the ceremony started at 1 PM.  We got delayed at the Elks club getting a hamburger and potato salad lunch (must support the annual fund raiser, you know).  When we arrived at the unveiling ceremony, it was about 1:10 PM and the statue was still covered in a blue tarp.  The speaker was thanking people when we arrived.  And he continued to thank people… for the next 45 minutes.


So this left me wondering…


How Do You Show Gratitude in a Speech without Annoying Your Audience?


Everyone I know who knew Doreen talked about what a wonderful person she was.  It wasn’t just that she brought acclaim to the small town by being a gold medalist.  It was that she was a genuine, kind loving person.  There was a great turn out for the unveiling and a great deal of pride in the event.


As you can imagine, it took time, money and talent to erect this statue.  I’m sure the speaker (who I think was the head of the committee who erected the statue) wanted to make sure that everyone one who had a hand in making this dream a reality was properly thanked.  He named people individually.  He gave specific details about their part in the project.  If I’d been one of the people he named, I think I would have felt properly thanked.


But you could tell that about 1:30, the natives were more than restless.


Yes, these are polite Iowans so there was no tweeting about how long the speaker was talking.  But conversations on the outlying areas the crowd started to pick up.  Parents tried to inconspicuously leave to take their small kids over to a nearby playground.  I heard more than one couple debating as to whether they should stay or come back when things weren’t so crowded.


I have to think that maybe there were better ways the speaker could have handled the thank yous.


What Would You Have Done?


How would you have handled this situation?  Would you have gone on for almost an hour to make sure everyone was appropriately thanked?  How do you think the “thankees” felt?  Would they have wanted it done differently?  How would you have felt as an audience member who was just there for the unveiling?


I’ll give my thoughts sometime next week, but I’d like to see what you think.


Please add your comments!


Thank you!  (Pun intended!)