for a memorable
New Year speech.
New Year speech.
New Year is one of those pivotal moments. This is an ideal opportunity to stop, leave a bad things behind, reinforce beliefs, (re)unite people, and reenergize for the future. No matter if you are CEO of a large corporation, coach of your son’s football team, or granddad to an abounding offspring, if you are a leader, you are expected to say something. So, you’d better seize this golden opportunity and say something memorable.
Everyone has their own style and every talking opportunity is different. There are no fixed rules, but here are a few tips for your New Year speech. I’d appreciate if you let me know how it went.
7 tips for your
New Year speech
- Prepare to be short
- Tell them what they know
- Focus on why
- Make it personal
- Sprinkle with emotion
- Be memorable
- Do it with style
1. Prepare to be short
You need at least 3 minutes to get a message across, and boredom will strike if you talk longer than 10. Accept that people will only remember 2-3 things of what you say, and even less if you talk longer.
Being short requires preparation and hard work. So, prepare well. Think about the one thing you would like to achieve with your New Year speech. What do you want them to remember? What is your key message? Structure your talk, find some anecdotes, a metaphor, quote or joke. Possibly write out your speech but make sure to use your own honest words; not some kind of formal, wooden language.
“If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now.”― Woodrow Wilson, 28th president of the United States from 1913-1921
2. Say what they already know
Unless you are getting married or if you’re 6 weeks pregnant, the end-of-year season is not the moment to announce something totally new. People are in festive mode, and potentially under the influence of a drink or two. Therfore, avoid announcing new things that require their full attention or a substantial effort.
A New Year speech is a moment to reinforce things. Reinforce the values, the team spirit, the positive vibes,… And don’t be afraid to repeat yourself. We all like to hear familiar things that we agree with. Children all love to hear the fairy-tales they already know. And grown-ups are only tall children, especially after a drink or two.
You can simply start by enumerating what happened last year, how that impacted us, and how that made you feel… You will see and hear the Yeaahhh’s in the room. It will get them in a positive and agreeable mood.
3. Focus on the why
People don’t believe in you because of what you do, but because of why you do it. It is not the product that unites the employees of a company, but their love for innovative technology, their creative pride, or their dedication to the customer. It is not Uncle Phillip’s new Ferrari that will make his nephews adore him, but his love for Italian design and technology, his craving for speed, or his success as a business man. In fact, the Ferrari is merely a metaphor, or a shiny but superficial expression of a far deeper drive.
So, focus on why you do what you do. Why do you get up in the morning? Why are you in business? Why do you feel like one big family? Why are you different compared to others? It is all about purpose, belief, vision, feeling, drive, values or fundamental happiness. That is what your New Year speech should be about.
4. Make it personal
Your story is about you and the others. So talk about others, but don’t omit to talk about yourself.
Most things in life only become meaningful when in relationship to others: business, sport, family, success and even money. Without others they are meaningless. So, talk about your colleagues, your customers, your suppliers, your children, your parents, your opponents,… And thank them. The worthiest people always give credit to the others. Especially talk about your audience and how much you appreciate them. Put individuals in your audience in the leading role of your anecdotes.
But people will only believe you when they feel the words come from your authentic self, right from your heart. So don’t avoid speaking about yourself either. Tell them how you feel about what you’ve achieved, why you are proud… There is nothing as arrogant as fake humility.
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5. Sprinkle with emotion
Emotion moves people. It makes them think. It makes them decide. It makes them change, and most importantly it makes them remember. It is the emotion you evoke that will make your words stick in their minds.
Evoking emotion can be done in many different ways. It is partly in what you say, and partly in how you say it, in letting them feel your own emotion. How you do this is highly dependent on the culture and the occasion. You can openly express your emotions or just vaguely suggest them. Here are a few things to consider.
Don’t avoid the negative. There can’t be ups without downs. There can’t be positive without negative emotions. Expressing negative emotions rids us of their negative effects. So don’t avoid the things that went bad last year. Name them and honestly tell your audience how it made you feel. At the same time show that you can put things in perspective and see the positive things in the most negative experiences.
Be positive overall. Your audience wants to be left with a positive feeling. They want to see that you are positively, happily, confidently looking towards the future. Give them that. Make sure that the positive moments in your talk outweigh the negative ones.
Have fun. Since beginning of mankind, jesters and clowns helped us forget misery. People who laugh more, live longer. We laugh when we are happy, and laughing also makes us happy. Even if you’re not a born joker, use a funny anecdote, or a funny metaphor. Just make sure it is appropriate for the occasion and for your relationship to the audience. If you feel unsure about it, test it with someone beforehand. At least try to laugh and make them laugh. It will make your talk memorable:
6. Be memorable
You don’t want to go through the hassle and stress of delivering a New Year speech, just to let your words be washed away with a champagne surrogate. You want to create something more enduring than a brief moment of laughter.
You can be memorable by using short stories, what we call ‘story handles’: something you experienced, a striking example, a speaking image, a strong metaphor, a good quote, or an object.
You want to create an image in their mind. You can physically show a picture or an object. Walk in with an umbrella: because it keeps us from getting wet in this rainy country and because it is a metaphor of something important you want to say. You can also create an image in their mind: describe your experience with the friendly taxi driver. For these stories to work you need to give ample detail: the pouring rain that night, his untidy hair, the stains on his tie, the smell in the cab, the furry dice hanging from the rear-view mirror…
Your talk will certainly be remembered if you create surprise by saying or doing something unexpected. Bill gates once surprised his audience by opening a jar full of live mosquitos. You might also think of an unusual location or an unusual guest. Just make sure that your story handles are appropriate for the occasion and not too gimmicky.
7. Whatever you do, do it with style.
There are so many things you could do or say. But most important is to be your natural, authentic self with a little extra: Show confidence by going outside your usual circle of confidence. Dare trying something new. People want you to be successful as a speaker, so they will easily forgive a small mistake or an awkward moment.
Being well prepared implies that you have probably written out your speech. Rehearsing that text is the only way to memorize the words and to check the length of your speech. Just avoid reading the text when addressing your audience. Eye contact is most important when talking to people, but it is impossible when your mind is focused on following the words in your carefully printed text, especially when you discover that the 12-point font is way too small in the poor light conditions.
And when the moment comes to stand up and address your audience, you will probably feel the urge to get it over with quickly. Don’t! You must dare to take space and time. Don’t deliver your talk in a hurry with only half of the audience listening. Make sure you have all the attention. Explicitly ask for it. Take your time and enjoy the moment.
I Hope these tips will help you this end-of-year. Don’t let this opportunity go by to shine in front of your family, your colleagues, your friends or your team. And don’t forget to end with a worthy toast:
“Here’s a toast to the future, a toast to the past, and a toast to our friends, far and near.”
“Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every New Year find you a better man.” – Benjamin Franklin
“Here’s to a bright New Year and a fond farewell to the old;
“here’s to the things that are yet to come, and to the memories that we hold.”
“Eat, drink, and be merry, leave the diet for tomorrow.”
“In victory, you deserve Champagne, in defeat, you need it.” – Napoleon Bonaparte
“Take everything in moderation, including moderation.” – Oscar Wilde
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