|"Time Totem" by Peter Pierobon|
But it doesn't have to be that way! Just because this has become "the usual," as Sixsmith says, doesn't mean it is the only way to handle special occasion speeches. Celebrations, holiday parties, awards ceremonies, business social events of all types call for a "few words" given by senior staff and honorees. But so many times those people kill their own credibility, or reduce their own stature by trying to be something they are not - entertainers! When you get a platform, as on a festive occasion, the rule of thumb is short, sweet, and to the point. You can use the opportunity to make a point, of course (because every speech needs to be about something) but plan ahead and say it in a few well-chosen words for maximum impact. Don't hold your audience hostage just because you are having a "starring" moment.
People who actually are stars know the importance of preparation--partly because they know their speeches will be filmed, replayed and scrutinized, and partly because they know they will be "played offstage" if they drone on too long. Last night's Oscars ceremony gave us a surprising number of speeches that made an impact and stayed within the allotted time limit! My favorite performer this year, Patricia Arquette, rallied the troops with her cry for women's equality, and Graham Moore encouraged those who feel like outsiders by pointing out that difference can lead to great achievement. John Legend used his acceptance speech to powerfully call out pervasive racism that lingers decades after Selma. In fact, most of Hollywood's finest seemed to have gotten the message last night and actually prepared their remarks beforehand. That is something I always urge clients to do, so I was quite pleased.
I rarely hold up Hollywood as an example of How To Do It Right in Real Life, but Oscar 2015 gave us many strong examples of classy people delivering powerful messages. And it's always fun to see The Beautiful People being . . . well, beautiful!