Being asked to do a tribute at an event is an honor and a privilege. Tributes are a type of commemorative speech delivered at a ceremonial gathering such as an awards banquet, wedding reception, reunion or a milestone birthday party. Tributes can also be given in recognition of a group’s efforts, remembrance of a historic day or dedication of a memorial, for instance. Focusing on your audience and the purpose of your remarks can help you conquer any public speaking jitters.

What Is a Tribute to Someone?

A tribute is generally a short speech of five minutes or less. The purpose of a tribute is to express gratitude, appreciation, respect and admiration for a person who deserves public recognition. You might be called upon to deliver a tribute honoring classmates, teachers, coaches, teammates or family members. For instance, you may be asked to say a few words of appreciation at a retirement luncheon for your favorite teacher, or you may volunteer to do a tribute at a family function such as a reunion, wedding reception or your parents’ anniversary party. Your words should reflect how the audience feels about the special person or event being celebrated.

How to Write a Tribute Speech

When doing a tribute, choose words that feel sincere, genuine and complimentary. State reasons why the honoree is an awesome person, but don’t go overboard with flowery adjectives. Be as specific as possible in recalling praiseworthy accomplishments or acts of kindness. Vividly describe the honoree and offer compelling examples of noteworthy talents, virtues, courage or sacrifice. Mention how this person has made a difference in the world. Talk about what you have learned from observing or listening to this person.

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The tone of your remarks should be appropriate for the audience and the setting. Tailor remarks to the occasion. Just be yourself if you are doing a tribute to great grandma at her 80th birthday party, but be more formal when delivering a tribute speech at a school function. Avoid curse words or jokes some might find offensive or off-putting. Incorporating humor is dicey. A funny story can liven things up, but humor can be hurtful if misconstrued. Consider asking others for their opinion as to the appropriateness of using humor for the occasion.

Sample Tributes for Special Occasions

When agreeing to do a tribute, clarify how long you are being asked to speak and write your remarks accordingly. Start with an introduction and mention your name if you don’t know everyone present. These tribute examples can help you get started.

Example:

  • Thank you for coming to the annual student awards banquet. I think I know everybody here. Welcome! Tonight we will recognize students and teachers who have devoted countless hours to making this the best school year ever!

When acknowledging the guest of honor or award recipients, highlight special characteristics, personality traits and virtues that set them apart.

Example:

  • Mr. Brown may be retiring soon, but he has more energy than most of us. This year alone he directed two musicals, supervised the school yearbook and chaperoned our class trip to the Big Apple. Always smiling and willing to help, he is truly an inspiration.

Tell a little story that reminds the audience of good times you have all shared, or reveal an interesting tidbit of information about the honoree’s behind the scenes contributions.

Example:

  • You may not know this, but Mr. Brown saved the day when the bus broke down on the way to a state choir competition. Mr. Brown popped open the hood and quickly got the bus started. People driving by acted like they had never seen a mechanic in a tux.

Wrap up the tribute by expressing appreciation. Tributes sometimes end with a famous quote, clever saying or words to live by.

Example:

  • Mr. Brown taught us that the secret of life is to wake up, show up, speak up, listen up and pay up.

Is a Eulogy a Commemorative Speech?

A eulogy is a commemorative speech usually done as a tribute to someone who died. Memorial services are also called a celebration of life because the service eulogizes the memory of the deceased. In other words, a eulogy is a speech praising that person’s contributions during his brief or lengthy stay on Earth. Approach a eulogy as you would a tribute by showing love and respect.

About the Author

Dr. Mary Dowd is a dean of students whose job includes student conduct, leading the behavioral consultation team, crisis response, retention and the working with the veterans resource center. She enjoys helping parents and students solve problems through advising, teaching and writing online articles that appear on many sites. Dr. Dowd also contributes to scholarly books and journal articles.