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It may have been short and sweet.
But Olivia Colman’s acceptance speech after winning the Best Actress in a Musical / Comedy award at the Golden Globes grabbed plenty of attention.
And there’s plenty that other public speakers and presenters can learn from what she said and how she delivered it.
The actress won the prize for her performance as Queen Anne in the film The Favourite.
Her speech, which lasted little over a minute, saw her gain plenty of additional media coverage.
Here are a few examples:
Olivia Colman’s Golden Globe acceptance speech was everything Daily Mirror
Olivia Colman wins new fans with acceptance speech at Golden Globes Daily Telegraph
Olivia Colman’s Golden Globes speech show why she’s our favourite Huff Post
It also captured the attention of social media users:
Best speech of the night goes to Olivia Colman. #GoldenGlobes— Ruth (@BabyRuthCT) January 7, 2019
give olivia colman's globes acceptance speech the oscar— Julie Kosin (@juliekosin) January 7, 2019
And the award for Most Adorable Golden Globes Speech Ever goes to....— Sesskasays (@sesskasays) January 7, 2019
So what can we learn from her speech?
Olivia’s quirky nature came through clearly in her speech.
From opening with the very British phrase ‘cor blimey’ to praising the sandwiches, you got the impression the actress was very much herself on that stage.
We tell delegates on our presentation skills courses that a key part of being an effective presenter who really connects with the audience is to be yourself.
A presenter who just reads their slides or a prepared script and leaves their personality behind will turn audiences off and they are unlikely to take much from the presentation.
But if you can go beyond that and express feeling, show emotions and vulnerabilities and share a bit of your life, you are likely to produce something which will resonate. It could be as simple as admitting mistakes, sharing what makes you nervous and worried, or revealing what motivates and inspires you.
Drawing on personal experience and bringing in personal anecdotes and stories is also powerful.
Not only will this approach help presenters bring their messages to life, but it also has the added benefit of increasing their confidence and making them feel more confident. You are much more likely to feel confident if you are putting messages into your own words.
Olivia’s speech was packed with humour and certainly made the audience laugh.
She referred to her co-stars as ‘ma bitches’ and then shared this anecdote:
“I would tell you how much this film means to me but I can’t think of it because I’m too excited. I just had a blast (some swearing deleted), it was amazing. I went on a private jet and I ate constantly throughout the film and it was brilliant and I promise I will keep on enjoying this, because it’s amazing.”
And she ended on a fun shout-out to her family, saying, “Ed and the kids, look. Yay!"
Of course, humour is not without its risks in a corporate presentation or speech and presenters need to tread carefully.
Who can forget, for example, Gerald Ratner’s infamous speech to the Institute of Directors, which cost him his business and his reputation?
But a little well-judged humour, perhaps about a common experience, can play an important role in getting an audience on side and can help create a bond.
If you are speaking as part of a full day of presentations, a little laugh can provide some relief to the audience and bring some energy back into the room.
And all this will help to make your presentation – and the messages you are looking to get across – memorable.
When Olivia talks about her excitement of being on a private jet – and in my case the free food - it engages the audience because they can relate to it.
We can build up a picture of how exciting that must be and how she must have felt.
Like humour, relatable content in presentations and speeches plays an important part in building a connection with the audience and making what you say memorable.
One of the best ways to make a presentation relatable is through sharing human experiences.
People love stories about other people. It taps into their natural curiosity about the lives of others and can trigger an emotional response.
How many times have you seen a speech at an event like this where the award winner has little to say and has clearly not prepared properly?
When Geraint Thomas won Sports Personality of the Year just before Christmas, he clearly had not prepared what he was going to say.
Consequently he delivered a pretty disjointed effort which lacked the charisma you might expect from someone who has just won an award with ‘personality’ in the title.
Olivia, on the other hand, seemed to have a good idea of what she was going to say.
And preparation is the single most important part of delivering a presentation.
On our presentation skills courses we stress that this is about understanding the audience you are talking to and knowing the messages you want to get across and the examples you will use to support them.
But there are other simpler things which can suggest a lack of preparation. For example poor time keeping, whether the presentation is too short or overruns, and technical difficulties which could have been avoided with a few quick checks beforehand, all suggest that your preparation has not been as thorough as it should have been.
Media First are media and communications training specialists with over 30 years of experience. We have a team of trainers, each with decades of experience working as journalists, presenters, communications coaches and media trainers.
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