I don’t want to scare you, but the office speech is fraught with danger. You will be well aware from your time on the way up that a manager’s position is difficult. Staff are only too willing to take everything you say as a sign of your detatchment from their reality, and the office speech is a gift-wrapped opportunity for malcontents to make undermining comments, safe in the knowledeg that they can’t be reprimanded – after all, it’s the Christmas party, and they were just joking. Add alcohol, and showing off to colleagues to the mix, and it can become quite toxic.
So how do you make a speech so that it at least minimises the potential for damage, and at best makes a positive impact on staff morale, engendering loyalty to the company and enthusiasm for the year ahead?
The key is to prepare. Unless you are extremely experienced, both in the company and in public speaking, the very worst mistake you can make is to attempt an impromptu speech. The chances are that your mind will go blank and you will begin to talk in cliches, make unwise jokes which could offend, and forget to make a point. Be honest and straightforward in your message. Think about the challenges of the year gone by, pick out the key achievements of the company and of individuals who have made a genuine contribution. Don’t use this as a platform for telling everyone how great you have been, but really focus on others who have gone beyond what might have been expected of them. Make sure they feel appreciated. Reinforce the need for staff to spend quality time with their friends and families over the Christmas break. This may also be the time to give news about innovations that are planned for the coming year.
Once you have decided on the messages you want to deliver, think about the style you will adopt. Don’t try to sound as though you are “one of the workers” affecting a chumminess that the workers may resent, and certainly won’t respect. At all costs avoid management-speak and cliche – so no mentions of blue-sky thinking, or of horizon scanning, thank you very much. This is a time for human contact and genuine communication, so the last thing your workers want to listen to is an off-the-shelf motivational speech. People appreciate sincerity, and the best way to convey sincerity is to use natural, simple language.
Finally, perhaps the most important piece of advice. Keep it short, so people can get on with enjoying themselves. That really will be appreciated!