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.”

Hooper used story to good effect. He engaged the audience with the tale of how the movie would never have happened, if his mother hadn’t gone to see a play and returned to tell him it should be his next project.

Melissa Leo

Worst speech of the night was Melissa Leo (supporting actress, The Fighter). At 2 minutes and 40 seconds it was the second-longest of the night. She looked unprepared as she mumbled and stumbled through variations of wow, thanks, oh my God, and golly sakes. She didn’t help by dropping the F word (for which she later apologized) and grabbing 94 year-old Kirk Douglas’s cane and hobbling off stage.

It was a long night – but the lessons are short: have something to say, hook your audience from the start, use story, keep it simple, and keep it short.


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