Feb 23, 2009

Do you speak like Oscar LOSERS?

Every year I watch the Academy Awards to hear the acceptance speeches. And what amazes (and saddens me) every year, is how often the winners act like losers. Many of the winners are people who act for a living, or have been actors in past lives. Furthermore, many of them won earlier this year in other award ceremonies. You can NOT tell me that it hasn't given them the adequate preparation time to give a decent speech.

Now, I have never won a big award like this, so I can imagine that the adrenaline level is extremely high and it probably affects the delivery in unforeseen manners. Still, there are some things that just make some winners seem like LOSERS:
  • Lists and more lists: Some people come on the stage and all they do is read a list of names, without giving much more importance to one or another, adding no personal commentary. This, to me, is similar to someone delivering a presentation and reading the PowerPoint slides during the entire speech. I understand the importance of thanking as many people as possible. However, there needs to be something more than a list of credits. Just a tad of a personal touch.
  • Outpouring of nothing: this is supposed to be a joyous occasion. Some award recipients look like they have been condemned to eternal suffering. No smile, no excitement, nothing. I see many people do that when they stand in front of an audience. An otherwise entertaining and outgoing woman becomes an utter bore. A strong, confident man becomes a meek weakling. All because they may be trying too hard to control their emotions. Yes, you need to keep some emotions in check, but you need not thwart them completely.
  • Surprise, surprise: this year, I didn't hear anyone say: "I wasn't expecting this," nor did I hear "I don't know what to say." So kudos for that. Unless something is absolutely, completely unexpected (one chance out of five is not completely unexpected), there is no reason for these types of comments. You don't apologize for being unprepared.
  • Errring and Uhmming your way though: one "uhm," "ahh," or "err" doesn't kill a speech. But 20 in 45  seconds? Puh-leez! Ok, so maybe I'm exaggerating a bit, yet some bad speeches are made considerably worse by the constant hesitation of the winner. It is a habit that is quite annoying, and even Barack Obama suffers from it (just watch any interview where his speech is unprepared). Getting rid of those annoyances will greatly enhance any speech.
  • Respecting time: there are rules and some people feel their moment in the limelight is more important. I say, if they give you 45 seconds, aim for 35 seconds. It helps you focus your message and, for the audience at home, it makes the show more watchable. Is 45 seconds insufficient for such an important moment? Fine, give them 60, but whatever the amount of time available, award recipients need to respect it. If the people want more time to speak, then they will need to give out fewer awards on air. Always respect the time given for your speech.
  • Saying thank you: this is one thing that everyone does. They show appreciation for the recognition they receive. My belief is that most speeches should end on the words "Thank you" or something to that effect. Of course, sometimes you don't want to end on "Thank you" because it does not fit the final bang you are looking to deliver. However, I disagree with the school of thought that says "You never thank the audience. They should thank you for sharing your wisdom." Hardly. The audience took time out of their lives to listen. Saying thank you is just good form. In no way does it diminish you, or your speech.
You may never be in a situation where thousands of eyes are fixed upon you while millions are watching on television. Yet, you may need to give a speech in front of colleagues, or toast the bride at a wedding, or maybe you will receive an "outstanding service to the company" award. If that ever happens, will you pull it off, or will you end up like a LOSERS?

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