It’s award season—and whether it’s to keep track of your Oscar office pool or to find out if your favourite singer won a Grammy, we all watch to see who goes home with the hardware. But the real talk of the town is the memorable moments that are born out of the acceptance speeches. These range from the ridiculous (Kanye West crashing Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards), to the brilliant (Tom Hanks winning best actor at the 1994 Oscars) to the powerful (Regina King winning best supporting actress this past weekend at the Oscars).
So what can we learn from the stars about delivering a memorable moment at the podium?
Preparation is key to being memorable and to getting your message across. There are three key elements to preparation: strategy, structure and the stage.
Before you write a single word on a page or start adding visuals to a slide, make sure you have the answers to these two main considerations:
- The idea: What idea are you going to present? What message do you hope to convey to your audience? What does the audience think/know about the idea right now?
- Your audience: Who is in the room? What do you want them to think? What’s the best way for your audience to absorb the content? Why should they care?
A well-structured presentation will win over the room. But, how do you do that? First, tell your audience what you are going to tell them (introduction), then tell them (the content), and finally tell them what you told them (conclusion).
- Introduction: Award winners have the luxury of their names being announced along with a category that starts with “best”—but you will have to be your own advocate by establishing your credibility. Start with your name and role, and get creative in your opening (perhaps an interesting or humorous anecdote or fact). After you’ve set yourself up, now is your chance to provide an agenda or overview of your presentation (tell them what you are going to tell them).
- Content: When developing the core of your talk, think about how to convey authority on the topic. You can do this with facts, figures and visual aids. Also think about authenticity—the stories you tell and the anecdotes you share will help the audience relate to you and trust the information you are giving.
- Conclusion: You want to make sure the audience goes home remembering the key pieces of information you sought to convey, so you need to build to a powerful conclusion. Do not simply summarize your speech. Instead, focus on the important takeaways and morals of the story you have just told.
Your presentation is a performance—so take steps to control the things that you can. Not all of us have glam squads like the stars, but you can think about how you show up on stage. Dress for the event by keeping it professional; practice inflection, speed and cadence of your delivery; if you have props for your speech, know where you can place them after you have shown them off so they’re not a distraction for you or your audience.
Information is power and knowing what the room looks like, how the stage is set, who is in your audience and knowing your content well will contribute to a successful presentation—even if Kanye tries to crash it!
——— Nithya Ramachandran is a former Vice-President, Strategy and Integration at NATIONAL Public Relations