10 tips for giving a great speech at a holiday party

Holiday parties can often be the setting for some cringe-worthy scenarios. Don’t let your speech be one of them.

Ah, the office holiday party. It conjures punch lines of poor wardrobe choices and over-served sales reps. But in reality, it’s one of the more dignified traditions to survive the modern work world.

For bosses, it’s a moment to remind everyone why they’re drinking on the company tab. Rather than view this speech as an obligation, bosses should embrace it as an opportunity to set the tone for the coming year with remarks that make the team feel appreciated and appreciative.

Here are 10 tips for giving a great holiday speech:

1. Thank everyone. It’s the whole point of the speech, and frankly, the party. If you do nothing else, be sure to thank your team for their hard work throughout the year.

2. Thank significant others. They’ve made sacrifices on behalf of your company as well. They carry the load at home when the employee travels, works late, or misses a parent-teacher conference.

And no one influences your employees’ decisions more, whether it’s to stay at the company, volunteer for big projects, or gripe about the health plan. Here is a chance to bank some good will with the spouses.

3. Mention milestones. Now is also the time to remind employees of what it means to work for a great company. Mention the firm’s important milestones, whether those are doubling sales or just staying afloat in a terrible economy.

Mention some personal milestones too, like new home purchases, engagements, weddings, births and graduations. It’s worthwhile to help employees make the connection between a great job and a high quality of life.


4. Get specific. If your team is small, mention each person along with something memorable about his or her year. If the team is large, you may still want to call on a few stand outs—and not just the high billers. Some “fan favorites” might be worthy of a mention too, like the IT staffer who doubled download speed or the administrator who engineered the office move.

5. Highlight successes, and leave out setbacks. This isn’t a company meeting. It’s a party.

6. Be brief. Remember, for employees the night is about the party, not the speech.

7. Rehearse. You might think you can wing it, but you’re wrong. Take time to draft remarks and rehearse them—aloud and at least three times.

8. Don’t chicken out. In a weak moment you might think a party doesn’t require a speech, and opt to skip it. Don’t skip it. There is a reason companies hold holiday parties, but employees won’t think about it unless you tell them.

9. Speak early. Wait until everyone arrives and has had a drink, but not much longer. You want folks sober and focused on you, and after more than an hour or so, most won’t be either.

10. Save the cocktails for after. You may think you need a drink to calm your nerves, but you’re better of without it. Instead, sip a soda until it’s go-time, then knock ’em dead. You can bask in the glow of a great speech (and a good stiff drink) the rest of the night.

Christina McKenna is a strategic communications consultant. A version of this article originally appeared on ChristinaMcKenna.com.

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