Let me first preface this with I am no expert on holiday party speeches. In the nine-plus years that I have delivered the talk at Red Door Interactive, I've run the gamut in being both awkward and eloquent. At the end of the day, I just hope that everyone feels like I appreciate them being there regardless of how well I waxed poetic.
A holiday party speech doesn't need to be a source of inspiration, but rather an opportunity to simply say thank you and show gratitude regardless of the economic environment. For anyone that might feel a little anxiety once the glasses start clanking, here are some techniques that help me prepare:
Have heart - Everyone can deliver their speech in an authentic way as long as it truly delivered with sincerity. Imagine the scene in the movie "Wedding Crashers" with Owen Wilson pointing to his heart during the "maid of honor" speech. If you do otherwise, you run the risk of coming across as emotionless or phony.
Do homework - Preparation does a lot for accomplishing the goal of speaking from the heart. It's probably a bad idea to down too much holiday cheer and just "wing it." Be sure to budget a little time before the holiday party to put sincerity to paper. Then your thoughts appear more genuine and you don't forget to thank anyone.
Practice - Even though the speech is pretty casual, it can't hurt to run it by a person you trust to give honest feedback (probably your significant other). Make sure what you say is relevant for fear it could turn into Alan's "wolf pack" speech from the movie "Hangover." A test run should keep all irrelevancies in check.
Show respect for the situation - It's important to be humble in your leadership position. We've all encountered the grossness of the "I'm sick of talking about me, now YOU talk about me" CEO. I always try and communicate in my holiday speech that this isn't about me; it is about "us." The party itself is to recognize all of the hard work done by the entire team.
Express thanks and gratitude - The least we can do is publicly thank and celebrate an outstanding team. I feel it's important to mention specifics and expect nothing in return. Call out the work that everyone should be proud of this year and discuss the exciting opportunities the New Year offers. It's okay to recognize individual team members by name. If it's appropriate, put together a video or slide show that illustrates some of the great work.
Regardless of the content or delivery, the most important aspect that CEOs must remember about holiday talk is that it doesn't stop at the speech. Walk the room to make sure people are having a good time. It's almost like a wedding reception, making the rounds, kissing babies and shaking hands, giving everyone a little bit of face time reaffirms what you likely tried to communicate in your speech; that everyone matters.
Lastly, remember that this party is for you, too (so, participate in the fun). The Red Door Interactive holiday celebration will soon be here and I'm hoping that I remember these tips so it's one of my eloquent years.
Reid Carr is president of Red Door Interactive, an Internet Presence Management firm with offices in San Diego and Denver that helps organizations profit from their Web initiatives. Clients include Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp, PETCO, Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill and Cricket Communications. Connect with him at http://twitter.com/icowboy.