Stocking Inspiration — How to write Holiday Speeches that make everyone’s nice list.

December 10, 2021
6 min read
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash
“What I don’t like about work Christmas parties is looking for a job the next day.”
— Phyllis Diller

Thinking of a speech or a toast for the annual office party is enough to make you hope a trio of Christmas ghosts might spirit you away.

Whether in-person, or via virtual, speeches, like gifts, need planning. You’re looking back to the year just gone, and forward to the year ahead. There are victories to mark, and hard times to acknowledge. There are people to be thanked. And the whole holiday package needs to be wrapped and presented in just the right festive spirit.

It’s the keynote speech of the night.

Fear not. We come with tidings of great joy. With the addition of just a couple of simple speech-writing techniques, holiday speeches can sparkle. Choose three or four of them for your end-of-year message, and you’ll have Jolly Holly oratory to be proud of.

Let our rhetoric-soused, speech-writing elves do the heavy lifting for you.

For supporting your theme

First Word Repeat: A Christmas tricycle

Three wheeler bikes offer firm support.

With a wheel at each corner, there are no worrisome wobbles. Holiday speeches get that same stability when simple connecting phrases are repeated  in consecutive lines:

“This year we’ve delivered service that is the best in the market. — We’ve been able to give our customers a product that is the best in the market, and that’s because we have a team of people who are the best in the market!”

Let’s celebrate a successful year past. Let’s celebrate a successful year ahead. Let’s celebrate  an incredibly well earned holiday”

For linking ideas

Last Word, First Word: The train-set

For one step further on from the tricycle, try a train-set!

Train-sets link together. The rear of one car connects to the front of the car behind, creating a cohesive whole that moves forward as one. The same effect is achieved by stringing phrases together. Make the last word of one line become the first word of the next. It’s a stylish technique that connects themes, and sounds superb.

“I wish you happy holidays. Holidays full of excitement. Excitement that brings you back refreshed next year.”

“Make it a priority this holiday to find some downtime. Downtime brings time for reflection, and reflection gives rise to new ideas; ideas that lead to new opportunities.”

For really hammering home the holidays

AutoCorrect: Candy cane pencil with eraser & sharpener

What better way to write your Holiday speech than with a candy cane pencil. For this technique though, you’ll also need an eraser and sharpener because you’re going to turn the usual bland Holiday greetings into something sharper!

First think of a nicely classical Holiday greeting, such as “I wish you all happy holidays.” Now take your eraser and audibly rub-out the bland, replacing it with something more ear-catching:

“I wish you all happy holidays. No, I don’t… I wish you all sensational holidays!”

“This has been a good year. No, strike that. This has been a fantastic year!”

For listing accomplishments

Noisy Comma: Eight tiny reindeer

For lists of accomplishments, make each stand proud by replacing normally silent commas, with the word “and”.

In the classic Christmas poem, Santa calls his reindeer. Each name stands-out brighter than a red suit in a snow-drift. This is because each is emphasised by the stressed word ‘and’ that appears before it. Imagine if the line went: “Now Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder, and Blitzen.” then instead of standing out, they’d all become one long stretch-reindeer blur.

“This year we’ve launched products and won clients and expanded the business and been more successful than ever before.”

“We’ve grown the team and increased our service levels and developed the business.”

To pack items into a list without those items blurring, remember the old saying:

“Many ‘ands make lists work!”

For encouraging miraculous achievements

Strength: A Charlie Brown Tree

When your team have beaten the odds and pulled off the impossible, that needs celebrating.

Charlie Brown conjured holiday magic from the unpromising foundation of a poor little Christmas tree. The last one on the lot, and missing all its needles, it was a ‘Charlie Brown Tree’. Everybody laughed at it. But Charlie Brown made that tree glitter.

Where have your team conquered seemingly unconquerable odds. Emphasise those moments. Celebrate those moments. Conjure the magic of past achievements, and your team will conjure magical achievements to come.

“We’ve grown the business. If we can grow the business in a recession year like this, then think what we can achieve next year.”

“We’d all agree that project ABC was the most demanding assignment we’ve ever been asked to do. It was a tight deadline. It was a challenging client. And they kept changing the specs. And still we achieved it! If we can meet that sort of pressure, we can meet anything!”

For defining ideas

Analogy: A drum kit & Snakes and Ladders

There are toys children love to receive but that parents hate them to be given. Drum kits for example. Why do parents hate Holiday drum kits?

It’s because drums are to family friction as games are to family fun.

Analogies create the illusion of cause and effect: A is to B, as C is to D. It makes your case sound logical and your logic sound vivid. Where things are vivid, they are always remembered!

Make them seasonal: Santa is to Christmas as the Bunny is to Easter

Make them businesslike: Creativity is to success as oxygen is to breathing

Make them funny: Holiday time with the family can be to relaxation as a canal-root filling is to massage

For tackling painful memories

Understate: A lump of coal

When times have been hard or tough decisions made, your team will expect you to reference those times.

Remember that this is a Holiday speech though. You don’t want to collapse the party spirit. Negatives need acknowledging without re-animating, so use a “not……but…” structure:

“This past year has not been without its challenges, but……”

“There have been times when this past year has not been the easiest, but…..”

“We’ve had to make decisions that have not been happy ones, but….”

Follow that “but…” with an uplifting statement. You will have nodded to the tough times, but immediately redirected your audience to better times to come.

To create a sound that sounds superb

Foresound: A Suzy Snowflake snowglobe

Seasonal sound-bites often use words that start with the same letters.

Let’s take “Suzy Snowflake”, and “Dominick the Donkey”, and then of course there’s the phrase itself: “Happy Holidays”.

Coned consonants double the delight of delivery. So instead of a “peaceful holiday”, why not try wishing people a “perfectly peaceful holiday” instead?

You see — you just can’t get away from those replicating festive foresounds. Ho! Ho! Ho!

To avoid it all becoming a just little too sugary….

Even Odds: Sour candies

Here’s another way to double-up on the double-sound technique, and make Holiday audiences pucker with pleasure.

This treat starts sour, and then turns sweet! Take two words that start with the same letter, but that have more or less opposite meanings. Now collide them together. Make sure the first one’s nasty, and the second one’s nice!

“Fearsomely festive.”

“Disgustingly delightful.”

“Fiendishly fun-filled.”

“Horribly happy.”

It’s a tasty little contradiction that brings sweetness with a twist.

To add festive colour

Seasoning: A box of crayons

While plain speaking might be admired, a speech that is plain is a speech that will fail.

Holiday speeches need to move, to inspire, and be remembered. It needs to have colours. The colors of a bright box of brand new crayons.

Google for a “Christmas Word Cloud”. There are lots out there to choose from. Sprinkle sparkling adjectives throughout your speech, in an approximate ratio of 1:50. For every 50 words of plain speaking, have one bright splash of festive colour.

May your Holiday speech be bright. May your Holiday speech be memorable. And may your Holiday speech be fun.

If you have fun in the writing, then you’ll have fun in the delivery, and if you’re enjoying it then you can guarantee that your audience will as well.

Happy Holidays!

Peter Watts is a Senior Instructional Designer and Facilitator. He works on both fassforward's Live, Live/online and tailored programs. Peter is fassforward's lead instructional designer for Live/online experiences which deliver mission-critical leadership and communications training, globally, at scale.

Gavin McMahon is a founder and Chief Content Officer for fassforward consulting group. He leads Learning Design and Product development across fassforward’s range of services. This crosses diverse topics, including Leadership, Culture, Decision-making, Information design, Storytelling, and Customer Experience. He is also a contributor to Forbes Business Council.

Eugene Yoon is a graphic designer and illustrator at fassforward. She is a crafter of Visual Logic. Eugene is multifaceted and works on various types of projects, including but not limited to product design, UX and web design, data visualization, print design, advertising, and presentation design.

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