5 Tips for speakers gleaned from the Academy Awards

Last night was the big night for Hollywood’s dignitaries. The 84th Annual Academy Awards took place honoring the best of their profession. As I watched it last night, a few thoughts on the art and craft of speaking and presenting ran through my mind. As a professional speaker and coach to speakers I’m constantly on the lookout on how to improve myself and others on the platform. Here are five tips toward that end gleaned from Sunday’s Academy Awards.

  1. Posture and stance is critical. Angelina Jolie was a presenter and when she stood on stage behind the microphone she took a stance that could best be described as “junior high look at me” posturing. She’s got nice legs and all, but when she stood to present she jutted her right leg out at a seemingly unnatural angle. She leaned back slightly from her waist and positioned her left hand on her hip as if she was doing a rendition of “I’m a little teapot short and stout”. It’s made quite a buzz on the internet and has been parodied since. Make sure your stance on the platform is unforced and doesn’t overtake your message.
  2. Wardrobe is important. Jennifer Lopez presented in a dress that was provocatively split in an “X” shape from shoulder to shoulder. I wasn’t sure, but I could swear I saw a portion of her nipple peeking from behind a frontal strap. I had to go back about 30 times to make sure I was really seeing what I thought! Call it a wardrobe malfunction or an intentional ploy on her part, but her wardrobe caused distraction and overtook her presence and message on stage. When speaking, choose clothes that are not a distraction and dress a step above your audience.  And for men, always make sure your zipper is up…
  3. Use Jokes Sparingly. Billy Crystal has hosted the Awards nine times and is an Academy favorite. I like his opening montage of inserting himself is scenes from the best picture nominations as well as his song and dance number in honor of the movies. His demeanor and natural ease from the big stage is commendable. Maybe I’m the only one, but I felt for the guy when he started out the first ten minutes interspersing jokes that seemed to fall flat after delivery. That’s the things with jokes. They may seem funny to you but not all to your audience. A failed joke creates a heaviness in the air that is hard to dissipate, even by professionals. You’re better to stick to stories and humorous anecdotes.
  4. Be  who you are. I imagine it’s tough to be an actor and play yourself in public. So many personas can be attached to your identity. Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep were two actors that presented themselves as themselves. We are good at picking out people who are less than authentic. Both Tom and Meryl came across as comfortable in their own skin and exuded a personality that was genuine and self-effacing. When I was in seminary, I can remember the senior preaching competition became a show of who could mimic the preaching professors best. I knew these guys and gals and wish I could have experienced who they were rather than a facsimile of someone else.
  5. Enjoy the limelight. If you speak on a regular basis or only as occasion dictates, enjoy the time in front of people. You have an opportunity to impact people and your message is important. It’s okay to revel in that a bit, enjoy the attention, and graciously accept the accolades. I never want to appear “cocky” on the stage, but I have to have a healthy enough ego and emotional security to embrace the opportunity for speaking as a way to express my gifts in service of a message that can change lives.

What other tips are important for those who speak? Comment here>>