Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat) talked himself out of an Oscar nomination. Eddie Murphy’s boring Golden Globes speech, although disappointing, did not knock him out of Oscar contention. Her “you do not know how much this does for my confidence” acceptance speech endeared Jennifer Hudson to everyone from Clint Eastwood to the audience watching at home.
Each one of these examples discomforted us, bored us, or charmed us . . . not through their movie performance. They did it through the use of communication skills, through the misuse of communication skills, and in spite of their communication skills.
A few years ago Hilary Swank was on the bubble: would she receive an Oscar nomination? Her acceptance speech at the Golden Globes is said to have pushed her stock over the edge and she received the nomination. Her first Oscar followed. Oscar voters have not cast their votes when the Golden Globes are aired. Think of them as an Oscar audition. Do well when the spotlight is on your acceptance speech, you help your Oscar chances. Do poorly, say bye-bye to Oscar.
The headline of this article begged the question, what do the Oscars have to do with you?
Let’s assume all Oscar nominees are credible. As in your professional life, the quality of work has to be present. Doing good work does not insure an Oscar or a client. It only keeps you in the running. Doing good work is not good enough.
Urban legend has it that how a nominee tells their personal story to the audience affects their Oscar chances. How you tell your story affects your prospect, client, project, company, or industry story. It’s not only about the work. It’s about how you connect the value of your work to the life of your audience members.
There are 5 ways you can be worthy of your next client or award nomination:
- Be appropriate to the occasion and the audience
- Boring is at least a misdemeanor crime
- Be authentic- the audience knows
- Be concise
- Connect with the audience so that they care
1. Be appropriate to the occasion and the audience
On stage or in life, you can say or do whatever you want: as long as you are willing to live with the consequences. When Sacha Baron Cohen received his Golden Globe, his speech was offensive. It was inappropriate to the occasion; perhaps you could even say it was offensive to the audience members. At the very least it was boring for its single-minded-eighth-grade-boy-mentality. Perhaps whether or not he was Oscar nominated is not important to him.
It’s a free country and he had the right to be inappropriate. . . as long as he is willing to live with the non-Oscar nominated consequences.
How important is it to you to stay in the running?
2. Boring is at least a misdemeanor crime
When Warren Beatty received a lifetime achievement award, his comments were boring. This was the legendary Hollywood lothario? If being boring isn’t a crime, it should be after hearing him meander until he ran out of rhetorical gas. As a speaker you have an obligation to honor your audience’s time. When the speaker is boring; they have not honored the speaker-audience relationship. If the audience does not hear your message because they are bored, they can’t act on your message.
3. Be authentic- the audience knows
The audience knows. The audience knows when you mean what you say, when you are scared, when you have prepared. They know. Faith Hill was busted at the Grammy’s when her face said she was shocked she loss in her category. No amount of explaining could explain away that image played and replayed on You Tubes everywhere.
When you are authentic, your face and message match.
4. Be concise
If you prepare, you can craft a concise message. If you don’t prepare, chances are your presentation will take detour after detour on its way to an unknown destination. Being concise is not about the number of words. It is about the clarity of the message. If you as the speaker are not clear, the audience can’t be clear as to how you want them to think or act as a result of the speech.
5. Connect with the audience so that they care
Jennifer Hudson connected with the audience because she was authentic in her awe. Client Eastwood used Jennifer’s line as the first line in his acceptance speech. When she said, “you do not know how much this does for my confidence”, it had one meaning. When Clint Eastwood said it, it had a whole different meaning. First, it showed that he was listening to the acceptance speeches that took place before him. Secondly, the line endeared him to the audience, he connected with them. Whatever your profession or title, if you don’t connect with the audience they just won’t care.
The Oscars are almost here. We don’t know what and whom the nominees will be wearing, and we don’t know yet what they will say. We do know as in your professional life, some will be more convincing than others. Some will make us laugh, and some will make us cry. Some will be long remembered, like Sally Field or Roberto Bernini. Others will soon be forgotten.
What do the Oscars have to do with you?
If there was a category for professionals who craft presentations that people listen to and get the results they want: would you be nominated.
Would you win?