How to Write a Memorable Emmy Acceptance Speech

Acceptance speeches are a hallmark of award shows: emotional, spontaneous, and, generally, brief. How do you captivate your audience in around 30 seconds? Let us show you.

A row of microphones
Source: Skitterphoto

Often numbingly predictable, an award show rarely does justice to the excellent entertainment it celebrates.

The 2016 Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony was no exception.

Standout moments—Matt Damon confronting long-time “nemesis” Jimmy Kimmel—and comedic attempts gone awry—Kimmel’s Bill Cosby joke killing the mood—shook up the usual parade of celebrities scurrying to the spotlight. And then there were the acceptance speeches—some standard, some stiff, and some that’ll go down in Emmy history.

But what makes a memorable acceptance speech?

With only a handful of minutes to secure your spot on the “Emmy best bits” list, you need to work on your lines.

No wants to hear you thank your crew of agents, assistants, and family members, but etiquette demands it. Then you have around 30 seconds to make your contribution to the night unforgettable.

The essential ingredients of a memorable Emmy speech reflect that of memorable copywriting: make it articulate, heartfelt, and to-the-point. And if you can throw in one of the following, you’re sure to delight your audience.

Take a Stand  

All eyes are on you. The world is watching. You have a choice: bask in the limelight and babble over the microphone OR draw attention to a cause you care about.

The speeches that get thousands of YouTube views don’t read like attendance lists. They illuminate an issue bigger than the entertainment industry.

Inject your speeches or your copy with real substance, and people pay attention.

At award ceremonies, often these stands are political or focus on hot-topic, social issues. And this year’s show had no shortage.

Actor Courtney B. Vance made his political leanings clear with the shout “Obama out. Hillary in.” Transparent director Jill Soloway called for an end to violence against trans women and to “topple the patriarchy,” while Master of None co-creator Alan Yang took the opportunity to push for a stronger Asian presence on TV.

Allude to Your Character  

People tune into award ceremonies to celebrate TV’s vivid stories and the rich characters we grow to love (or love to hate). When actors bring a little of those characters to the stage, they always thrill their fans.

Rami Malek achieved this perfectly with a clever nod to Elliot Alderson, Mr. Robot’s vigilante hacker that won him the award. Kicking off his speech with, “Please tell me you’re seeing this, too,” alludes to Elliot’s paranoia in the show.

This attention-grabbing technique is just as powerful in copywriting. Speak about a subject your audience relates to and you’ll make them smile, and continue reading.

Make Them Cry

Genuine emotion turns choreographed award shows into historic TV moments. It also reveals the human side of seemingly unattainable celebrities, as well as faceless brands.

Emotion in copy and speeches lets your audience trust you and care about what you’re saying. Sprinkle in emotive words, show vulnerability, or touch on personal subjects to show the human behind the public persona.

This year, emotional moments came courtesy of Veep’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who honored her recently departed father, and comedian Patton Oswalt, who dedicated his award to his late wife.

Make Them Laugh

No one can resist a good joke. Humor in copy and speeches has the same effect: hooking in the audience and getting them to laugh.

Louis-Dreyfus may have trembled while dedicating her award to her late father, but she still managed to crack a joke.

Make it Snappy

Let’s be honest: award ceremonies don’t always make for the most riveting TV. In fact, despite TV enthralling us with more great entertainment than ever before, Emmy viewing numbers are at a record low.

The first rule of television is to never bore your viewers, and this applies to award acceptance speeches, too.

Just like in copywriting, meandering and long-winded spieling leaves audiences yawning, switching the channel, or skipping to the next webpage.

So keep it succinct, snappy, and to-the-point. For inspiration, check out Merritt Weaver’s 2013 Emmy acceptance speech—the shortest of all time, and widely regarded as one of the most enjoyable.

Writing a memorable acceptance speech is as tricky as writing an unforgettable piece of copy. It requires a having knack for words, extracting and communicating real substance, and delivering with compelling showmanship.

Whether you need show-stopping copy or an award-winning speech, we’ve got the a-list writing talent in our all-star copywriting team.

Charlie Claxton

Charlie Claxton

A native Brit, Charlie comes to MarketSmiths by way of Paris, Montreal, and Sydney.

She’s written for both B2B and B2C clients while on the content teams for global brands, digital agencies, and as a freelancer. She loves nothing better than crafting captivating copy for clients. Her experience ranges from blog posts to news articles to landing pages, with a focus on nonprofits, travel, and tech.

When not writing, she’s usually following her own foodie tour round NYC, kickboxing, or planning her next weekend trip out the city.

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