One of the most boring parts of watching the Oscars is hearing the countless writers, set designers, and sound mixers thank everyone they have ever met for getting them to where they are today. However, every once in a while, one winner will get up there and give a short speech that blows your mind. As public relations professionals, helping our clients understand the art of giving a good speech is an important task. Here are 5 lessons you can take from this year’s Oscars and apply to public speaking.
Photo from oscars.go.com
Hold on to your brand under pressure.
Oscars acceptance speeches are an exciting opportunity for winners to get on stage and communicate their gratitude and beliefs in a limited amount of time. However, an unprepared speaker can easily destroy a speech. For example, we all cringed a little when Sarah Silverman went off on a tangent about James Bond not being good in bed during her introduction for Sam Smith’s performance. However, isn’t that the essence of her persona as a comedian who frequently speaks her mind? So, of course she would do that at the Oscars in front of millions of people on live TV. Although she might have made the moment awkward, Silverman stayed true to her brand.
Not all clients are going to speak in front of an audience as big as the Oscars, but even a crowd of 25 people can cause the nerves to kick in and the mind to go blank. Whether you stick to the rehearsed speech or go a little off script, it is important to remember you are up there to represent your true authentic self.
People, please. Time is of the essence.
Music is actually a really polite way to end a speech that is going on and on and on… you get the point. These long speeches usually aren’t as powerful as a short, concise speech. It is important for a speaker to remain within the allotted timeframe out of respect to the program and the limited time for a live television broadcast. But, inevitably, there are the moments that are painful to watch when a speech is taking too long. “The Revenant” director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu gave a five-minute speech. But who heard his message over the music that grew louder and louder to “direct” that verifiable genius off stage? Millions of people. That’s who.
It is important to keep your eye on the time to keep the audience engaged which will help your message stay in their minds.
You can speak….or you can also inform.
Vice President Joe Biden used his speech to take a stand against campus rape and change the culture so every abused man or woman knows they did nothing wrong. He encouraged members of the audience to visit ItsOnUs.com, the White House administration’s initiative against sexual assault. Vice President Biden was able to communicate a powerful message on a large platform, and in doing so he drew a lot of people to look at the site. He concluded his announcement with an introduction to Lady Gaga, who performed “Till It Happens to You,” an Oscar-nominated song from the CNN documentary “The Hunting Ground.”
When you plan to make a joke, it helps if you already know the audience will get it. If not, the awkwardness is louder than the speech.
Back in January, Stacey Dash declared that the BET Awards and Black History Month should be eliminated. So if you were confused when you saw her announce that she wants to “help her people out,” you weren’t the only one. Dash was introduced as being the new director of The Academy’s minority outreach program and wished everyone a Happy Black History Month. Her intentions may have been good, but the audience was puzzled. The reactions shown on social media by audience members Shonda Rhimes, Demi Lovato and Chrissy Teigen are a good reminder. When you are giving a speech, if you plan to make a joke, make sure the audience will get it.
When you give a speech, and you also want to make a plea, it needs to connect.
The Oscars have been known for the occasional faux pas where winners haven’t always said thank you. Instead, they use the platform to send a message. Marlon Brando didn’t even show up for his Oscar years ago. He had a Native American Indian take the stage and talk about the oppression of her people instead. It hardly made sense.
This year, however, Leonardo DiCaprio took home his first Oscar during the 88th Academy Awards, and the world rejoiced. He used his speech as an opportunity to discuss the very important global issue of climate change. We know that’s been an issue close to heart. But the message made sense as he detailed the hurdles of his movie to find snow in a region where they could film. Climate change personally affected the filming of “The Revenant.” And his message to support the rights of indigenous and underprivileged people who are heavily affected by climate change connected.
It is important to remember the audience when giving a speech and making the message clear. The world is a stage, but the performance cannot just be opportunistic. You have the chance to have the audience say, “That was weird.” But you would rather have them say, “That was great.”