Your thanksgiving speech

Red oak leaf graphic

- what do you say?

To help you prepare your thanksgiving speech with minimum fuss here's a simple two step process, with an optional side-serving of history, a link to collection of handy thank you quotations and, a few delivery tips for nervous first time speakers.

Get started by jumping to:

Vintage thanksgiving card with the quote: If the only prayer you said in your whole life was thank you that would suffice.

Step 1: choose a theme

Your speech will be stronger and more effective based one principal idea rather than a pick and mix assortment. A useful image is to think of theme as the uniting thread linking everything you want to say together.

Traditional thanksgiving themes are:

- gratitude or thanks for all that is good, wholesome and sustaining in our lives - food, love, family, friends, the country we live in, the air we breathe, the parks we play in, our work, freedom of speech, an education ...

- recognition of community - our inter-dependencies - that we are part of a web of existence larger than our individual selves, families or extended families.

This could include everything: moving from our immediate environment, out to the world, and beyond, as beautifully exemplified in this poetic Iroquois Thanksgiving Address.

- celebrating the season. Thanksgiving and the ancient Harvest Festival (celebrating the harvesting of crops in Autumn or Fall) share many common elements.

- honor due to those who give or serve in order that we may continue to live

- acknowledgement of difficult times: losses, trials or challenges that must be faced to move forward

- resolution and hope

In making your decision also consider:

1. Who your speech is for

What do the people listening to you expect to hear?
Is is lighthearted stories and recollections or something more solemn and formal?

Identifying the audience's needs and expectations will help you choose the theme and then subsequently, how you treat it.

2. The purpose of your speech

  • Are you aiming to inspire people?
  • Do you wish to unite them?
  • Maybe you want them to laugh and relax.

Perhaps it is a combination of all three intentions.

Knowing the main purpose behind your speech will also help guide your choice of theme, tone and content.

3. The style of the occasion

Is it formal or informal?

Will the speech be delivered in an intimate setting like a family dining room or will it be in hall and delivered from behind a lectern?

Vintage postcard of thanksgiving turkey

Thanksgiving history

Macy's parade, football, Plymouth pilgrims, turkey, pumpkin pie ...

Like many traditions, the origins of thanksgiving have been blurred by time. Not only are there contradictory accounts, and differing interpretations of events dependent on viewpoint but there's also the inevitable, and ongoing, introduction of other cultural and religious celebrations. Today's thanksgiving celebration is an evolving fusion. offers 16 videos covering known, and less well known, aspects of the celebration.

Step 2: plan the outline

First, grab an outline form

Download a printable fill-in-the-blanks speech outline form.
The form will help keep you on track, reducing the overall time it takes to prepare your thanksgiving speech.

Now begin with the body of the speech

This is the "heart" of your speech. You will add the opening and conclusion later.

Based on your chosen theme note down 3 main points.

Start with the most important first. For each point you make give one or two examples to illustrate it. When you give your speech you'll link the points with transitions.

(If you need more explanation of transitions you'll find it here on this page: how to write a speech.)

  • Point One: Main idea - Example, example
  • Transition or link to...
  • Point Two: Idea - Example, example
  • Transition or link to...
  • Point Three: Idea - Example, example
  • Transition or link to the conclusion of your thanksgiving speech.

Next outline the conclusion of your speech

To end well, reinforce your theme, summarize your main points and finish with strong statement or maybe a quotation that will resonate on in the minds of your audience.

And lastly add the beginning of your speech

This segment:

  • Acknowledges and welcomes guests to the occasion. If you have guests of honor, name them.

  • Introduces the theme of your speech

  • Gives a broad overview of the main points

  • And links or transitions into the body of the speech - your most important, and first point

"If you count all your assets, you always show a profit."
Robert Quillen

Click thank you quotations for a selection similar to this one to use in your speech.

Tips for delivering your thanksgiving speech

  1. Write your outline on numbered and labeled (Introduction, Body, Conclusion) cards.

    (See this page for how to make and use cue cards effectively.)

  2. Time the delivery of your speech to fit harmoniously into the occasion's program and its allotted time.

  3. Save the glass of wine for after your speech rather than before it.

  4. Practice the speech before delivery to your audience and have a few trusted friends or family members listen to it. Get their feedback on content, tone and length (2-3 minutes is good!) Make any changes necessary.

  5. If you're nervous about giving your speech do look at this page on overcoming public speaking anxiety. You'll find many tried and trusted tips to tame the jitters.