After last night’s Oscar ceremony, Nancy Duarte has a few suggestions for any public speaker hoping to outdo Academy Award-winning artists (which is a surprisingly low bar, although there were a few standouts): personal is powerful; plan ahead; strike the right note and watch the clock. Continue reading
With the victory of “Falling Slowly” in the Best Damn Tune category at last night’s Oscars (you can download the song for free – with nobody from the RIAA raising eyebrows at you – from the official site for the movie Once), I think it’s only fair that I somehow give Hollywood something back.
I know the three Enchanted songs, and can probably sing them most of the way through for you (I have a four-year-old daughter, so you can guess why), and happen to think that “Happy Working Song” is delightful. But “Falling Slowly” moved me to tears the first time I heard it, and it just keeps getting better.
So, Hollywood, here’s my little present back to you: for today only, I’m going to think of you as a place where people toil to bring dreams to life, to help us see ourselves for who we truly are and for who we might one day be. I’m going to set aside studios and media conglomerates, lobbyists and lawyers, casting couches, race- and age- and gender-based glass ceilings.
Good on ya.
The mixed reviews for Jon Stewart’s Oscar-hosting performance last weekend may reflect a dilemma I’ve noticed with many speakers. They get only tepid response from their audiences during their prepared remarks, but wow ’em during the Q and A afterward.
Often that reflects a lack of confidence in the material they’re delivering â€“ and Stewart certainly didn’t look that delighted with the jokes he had to work with. Much of his opening monologue made him sound more like the emcee at a regional sales convention than the host of the funniest, hottest current affairs show in a generation.
Of course, it doesn’t help if your audience hasn’t been warmed up, or if you’re the thing that stands between them and the thing they really want to hear (in this case, the names of the winners). Stewart had an uphill battle from the start, and his brand of humour â€“ more biting and ironic than Billy Crystal’s more ingratiating approach â€“ is out of step with the atmosphere of mutual self-congratulation that permeates the Oscars.
But once the opening monologue was over, and the actual events got under way, Stewart’s improvisational wit (and the skill of the backstage writers) had a chance to shine, and made the most of it. (My favourite line dealt with the absurdly large Oscar statue on the stage; Stewart asked if the audience tore it down, would democracy break out in Hollywood?) You got the impression watching the show that the monologue was a formality: that Stewart wanted to get it out of the way as much as the audience did.
Think about that the next time you’re approaching a speech that just doesn’t grab you. What would it take for you to feel more in the moment? What are your opportunities to engage with the audience over shared experiences? And what can you cut from the beginning of the speech so you can get to the part you really want to talk about?