Oscar speeches: the best and the worst

Last night’s Oscar awards gave us a chance to examine contrasting styles of acceptance speeches.

If you make any sort of presentation or speech as part of your job, there are lessons for you from last night’s show.

Colin Firth

Two of the best speeches were from Colin Firth (best actor, The King’s Speech) and Tom Hooper (director, The King’s Speech). Firth had a simple opening (“I think my career just peaked”) and maintained a gently self-deprecating style through his speech. He warned the audience “I’m afraid I have to warn you that I’m experiencing stirrings somewhere in the upper abdominals which are threatening to form themselves into dance moves,” and ended with “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some impulses I have to attend to backstage.”

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Hook your audience with your first words

hook your audience with your opening words

When I spoke at the Rotary Club of Halifax, Harbourside, a man asked if the ‘old rule’ about public speaking was still valid. He was referring to the “tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them,” structure. I’ve written about this before, but it’s worth repeating. …

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Don’t be a cultural colonialist

make an effort to understand diversity

Years ago when I taught English as a Second Language, I touched a Thai student’s head. He was deeply offended. Another of my students, a wealthy Iranian teenager, would constantly snap his fingers at me when he wanted my attention. This time I was offended. How we move, act and gesture is very important as we …

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Are your questions getting the best answers?

the simpler the questions, the better the answers

I keep six honest serving-men, (They taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When, And How and Where and Who. – Rudyard Kipling I’ve been asking questions professionally all my life. For newspapers, radio stations and for BBC Television News. When I stopped running round the world as a television …

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Time to banish bullet points

Bullet points don't work

Looking for a great way of making your slide presentations stand out from the crowd? Try dumping all those bullet points. A whole lot of research into how the brain works suggests that bulleted lists of information on slides is the least-effective way of communicating with your audience. Dr Richard Mayer, an educational psychologist in …

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How to be successful in the global market-place

make an effort to understand diversity

Understanding diversity is important. If you don’t, when you’re dealing with another culture, you can cause all kinds of communication headaches. So what should you do when you’re about to do business with someone in another country? Here are some basic tips to help avoid conversational misunderstandings: Research the culture of the other party. Know …

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What is your body language saying about you?

use stories to engage an audience

The most powerful way we communicate is not with our words but our body. Body language, or non-verbal communication, is your repertoire of gestures, facial expressions, body position and eye movements. Our brains evaluate all these things and come to a conclusion about the speaker in a nano-second. When you speak, you want your body …

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Speakers’ convention packed a punch

You’d never think a Speakers’ Convention could be dangerous. Well – as you can see from my picture, it was. I came home from the CAPS convention in Montreal looking like a boxer with a big fat blue lip.

We were dancing up a storm at the final dinner. Kristen Arnold, the president of the National Speakers’ Association in the USA, was next to me.

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Are your words cleared for takeoff?

Something rare happened on an Air Canada flight the other day. I was returning from a conference in Toronto to raise money for a Women’s Leadership Centre in Africa (see earlier blog). A lot of people were milling around the departure area when a disembodied voice announced a gate change. Not unusual, I hear you …

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