How to Write an Inspiring Employee Recognition Speech

March 30, 2020

In Celebration / Ceremonies

Acing your employee recognition speech

Building a positive culture in your company depends a lot on how you present it to your employees. Find out how to deliver an inspiring recognition speech.

Follow along with some of these steps to get started on writing an employee recognition speech that will be sure to wow not only the audience but the recipient. 

Like with anything that is important in life, writing a speech can be hard work. Writing an employee recognition speech can be even harder. To be able to capture what makes someone or something so incredible and important, can be a real challenge.  

But it doesn’t have to be. With these 5 easy steps, you’ll be writing an appreciation speech that’s remembered for years to come! Or at least, until the next time you have to speak to an audience.  

You’ve got the pen and paper out, you’re ready to start drafting your speech.

You sit at your desk or maybe at a coffee shop, you look down, and there’s nothing on the paper. No big deal: sitting down to get your ideas down can seem like a daunting task. But first things first, let’s start at step number one.   

1. Your Environment Matters. 

Yeah, you heard that right: don’t try writing this in between meetings on a coffee napkin. You’ll want to really hone in on the emotion here. Why is this employee achieving the milestone you’re celebrating? Why are they being recognized? 

See below for simple, yet easy to forget, ways on how to really focus on your writing:  

  •  First, you’ll want to unplug. Turn off or silence your phone, hold calls, and have a solid hour without interruptions. This will lead to your thoughts going to one place: that paper.  
  • It’s okay to have an awful draft; do away with the notion that this is the final and only version you’ve got. You’ll want to revisit this a few times so just jot down whatever comes to mind first, the rest can be added or omitted later.  
  • Does music inspire you? Turn on a playlist that allows you to think? Is that acoustic? Is it instrumental? Everyone is different. 

Doesn’t matter if you’re writing a novel, the next big screenplay, or an employee recognition speech. You’ll want inspiration, either way, so check out some of these ways.   

2. Define Your Message.

Now that you’re set up and cozy in your most productive state, you’ll want to outline a clear message. Most would think to themselves, “easy, I’d like to recognize Maria for her hard work.” Dive deeper! 

Think about some of these questions to look for a starting point: 

  • What has Maria achieved in her time at this company? 
  • What is Maria most proud of? 
  • What is Maria’s favorite part of her day? 
  • What do Maria’s coworkers think of her? 
  • How has Maria grown as a person in her time here? 
  • Has Maria won any awards in the past? 

Hopefully one, or a few, of these can help get you started. Either way, you’ll want to be specific! You’ll want to make sure everyone in the room knows exactly why this person is being recognized. That might sound something like: “Maria has only been here 3 years but in her time here, she has set up new protocols to give our client a smoother process, all while exceeding her goals every quarter.”  

Next, explain why that’s important. Why does the above have an impact on the company and those around her? That might go a little something like this: “In doing this, she has completely changed the client experience and has shown her colleagues around her that change is possible. Her positive and “can-do” attitude shines through to everyone she comes in contact with.”  

Lastly, you’ll want to thank them. The most simple and the easiest thing to forget! Feel free to continue doing throughout the speech, but most importantly end with it.  

3. Know Your Audience. 

THIS IS KEY! Will you be reading this recognition speech to the employee’s team? Will their family or significant other be there? Will everyone in the company be there as well? These can all have a different effect on the speech/tone you’re going to give. 

As a manager, you’ll want to focus on the impact they’ve had on the company. As a colleague and a friend, maybe you’ll want to focus on something funny that’s happened at work. Make sure that what you say matches the goal you’re trying to achieve.  

Not only do you have to think about the audience in the room but think about the recipient of the award. People appreciate being recognized in different ways. Some enjoy the spotlight and want you to spend time talking about them. While others, appreciate something a bit more lowkey.  Keep this in mind before you tell the audience about an embarrassing moment the recipient might have encountered throughout the workday!  

Additionally, you’ll want to keep in mind how much time you’re spending on this speech. Not only for the sake of your audience but the recipient. You’ll want to make sure you give John, a little bit more time than Maria since John has been at the company for a milestone 10 years and Maria has just hit 3 years.  

4. Use Some Power Words! 

I know, I know. This seems strange. But who doesn’t like incorporating fun vocabulary into their speech? It certainly makes a speech easier to listen to. Now, this doesn’t mean you have to open up your thesaurus for every other word in your speech. It simply means you should “jazz it up.” 

These terms should evoke emotion and curiosity from the listeners. See some examples below:  

  • Josh is always looking forward to starting a new quarter.  Good.
  • Josh is always thrilled to start a new quarter.  Better. 
  • Michael wanted to meet his goals by the end of the year. Good. 
  • Michael was eager to achieve his goals by the end of the year. Better. 

Go ahead and try a few! This list puts together a number of incredible power words. Using power words is a sure-fire way to have your audience feel the emotion you sought when defining your goal to address this employee.  

5. Wrap It Up With An Inspiring Message.  

This is usually what the audience and the employee being recognized will take from the speech. So of course, you’ll want to say thank you, but you’ll want to leave everyone with inspiring words. Here, is where you’ll want to slow down. Make sure your closing remarks have power – this starts with your tone and taking pauses for emphasis. You’ll summarize your intro, remind everyone why they are here and what the employee means to the company, and remind the audience to thank that employee for all of the hard work they’ve put in. 

Here are a number of different ways you can conclude. Just remember: have it match the goal you set for yourself in the beginning and read your audience. 

Now, you’ve written the speech… 

Ideas for the perfect employee recognition speech

You didn’t think you were done, did you? You’re almost there! 

To wrap everything up and solidify the touching message you just shared, there’s something that was left out: you. There are a number of things we have to keep in mind here that you’ll want to practice before getting up in front of an audience, big or small. 

Keep the below in mind: 

  • Do not read the speech off of your paper or slides. 
  • Do not look at the floor, ceiling, or one spot in the room. 
    • You’ll want to gradually move your eyes from either person to person, or one side of the room to the other. 
  • Do not fidget
    • Try to not have things in your hands such as pens, multiple papers, rings, etc.
  • Do not pace back and forth 
    • Movement is fine if it’s natural, but when you rock or pace back and forth, that’s what the audience starts to notice. 

The speech was written and presented, and you looked great!

Audience loved the employee recognition speech


Now you can rest easy and come next year, you’ll be ready to ace the next recipient’s speech with your new skills.

Don’t forget to create some custom awards to give to the honorary recipient. We can help you put together something to be proud of that truly represents your brand. Give us a shout and we’ll be sure to make the night even better with custom awards.

to explore

5 Elements To Promote Happiness In A Business
FastCompany published a recent article on the Secrets of America’s Happiest Companies. The article compiles the results from the 50 happiest […]
the 4 Elements of Effective Recognition
One of the keys to driving employee engagement is recognition. Everyone needs to be recognized for the work they do. There are a million ways to […]
ROI of employee engagement at work
What Is Employee Engagement?
For many years, we increasingly hear about employee engagement. It seems to be a fashionable term now. All companies want engaged employees. […]