I don’t know if you have been living under a rock but at the 2018 Golden Globe awards, Oprah Winfrey delivered an iconic speech that received a standing ovation. She hit on topics like the #metoo campaign, single parenthood, working class & racism with words that eloquently yelled “No MORE!” I was in tears. Not just because of her words but because she was also the first African American woman to receive the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement award. Wow! She spoke to the little girls who would see this speech and the tired working class who would hope in this speech.
You can check out Oprah’s Speech here.
As a Professional Speaker, there are 7 things that I saw in her speech that stood out to me. Why? These 7 things stood out because I have seen them used in iconic speeches that I have previously heard and I have used some of the same techniques and tips in my own speeches. I won’t repeat the entire speech in this post but I will point out the 7 things that she had in her iconic speech.
- Your truth
- Eye contact
- Know your audience
- Voice Pitch
Storytelling, when used in a speech, can create a connection and memorable element for your audience. You bring them into your world as a child, wife worker etc. and take them on a journey. That journey will have emotional twists and turns or just key elements that support your overall speech. Oprah told us about her sitting on a linoleum floor watching Sydney Portiere being the first African American man win a Golden Globe Award. She spoke of her mother coming home from work and being tired. We were drawn and could remember our own times on sitting and watching television as a child.
People often make a huge deal about learning the art of storytelling as it dates back many many years. Storytelling was how family recipes were shared, family history was remembered and legacies were passed on. It was especially seen during times of slavery where handwritten notes could be found and often became the cause of death by hanging. The words of our ancestors had to be shared and word of mouth was the most powerful method.
Yes, empowerment! I know that people now question the use of motivation and empowerment and dismiss it as just being a pep rally but it is so much more. People become weary when they are fighting for something and even quit without someone to empower them. Currently, there are many wars being fought by women, men and children that include abuse, equality, and racism. Oprah’s words rang out through the room and you witnessed men and women stand in support. “Change is on the horizon!” & “No MORE!” were statements that brought applause, smiles, and cheers.
Fighting gets hard and overwhelming at times. Although, there will be moments when you must have the power to empower yourself, as a Speaker we are gifted with the opportunity to empower others. That empowerment can be in reference to life, family, finances or business. Don’t mistake what you are capable of doing with the attention of the room is on you.
Your personal experience will be different than that of the next person but we each have common threads that connect us. It is by sharing our personal experience that we educate the world about our differences. My truth is that I am an African American Author Speaker and Coach who is a victor over abuse. It has connected me with a very niche clientele but it has also warranted whispers and negative feedback. It is still my truth! When Oprah began speaking about Recy Taylor and her story it resonated with me, my purpose and my truth.
There are still so many who are afraid to share their truth because of what that may mean. Don’t continue to allow your truth to be toxic to your future. Talk to someone or write it out but don’t be afraid to share your truth.
I love that Oprah surveyed the room as she spoke making eye contact with many that she had connected with on her journey to this moment. No paper in hand and no teleprompter to break the intense message she wanted to convey. I call it the Oh SNAP method when I use it but others may call it something else. In my mind “Oh SNAP!”, which is an old-school term, is the reaction that you get from viewers.
This is a personal choice but I have always felt that if you have eye contact with your audience it creates a stronger connection with them and your message. There are many who get nervous when it comes to making eye contact. They are more comfortable using powerpoint presentations, which I find extremely boring, or videos. You have to find what works for you but the more eye contact you have with your audience the better response you receive.
Know your audience
I can’t share this enough times. Knowing your audience is a key element of a great speech. I think when Speakers are just starting out they are eager to get on stage so they take any gig that comes their way. Most find that they at these events they get very little audience engagement, little to no sales and it can become draining. Knowing your audience can include all types of demographics but it also gives you the tools you need to succeed at that event.
Oprah knew most, if not all of the people in the room at the Golden Globe from interviews, personal connections, dinners, and meetings. She knew their stories and their lives which resonated with the message she was sharing. That empowers you as a speaker when you are confident that the audience will understand what you are talking about. There may have been some who didn’t like her words or the dress she wore but the message still made it’s impact. Her message had such an impact that stories of a possible presidential run began swirling around the internet streets. Know your audience.
Yea, I know you looked at this one and just had a flashback of someone yelling at you to sit up or stand up straight. lol, your posture tells a lot when giving a speech. When your shoulders are up to your ears people can tell you are nervous or that you may not be confident in what you are talking about. Standing with your shoulders back shows your confidence in your topic. Yes, this is a learned technique. (heck I still have days when I start off a speech a little nervous) I can always look back at my videos and see what point the nervousness left my body.
This takes practice for some and is natural for others but know that good posture is a key element in presenting a great speech. Practice in the mirror or with friends and they will usually be honest, brutally honest at times, about your body signals. There are other things with your body language that stand out like certain hand gestures, walking across the stage or even blinking a lot. As you move forward in a speaking career you will be more and more aware of your personal style.
No, I am not about to give you voice lessons but I am going to say that your breathing and voice pitch can work in your favor as a speaker. Changes in your pitch will ignite different emotions in your audience from empowerment to empathy. During Oprah’s speech, her pitch changed several times which resulted in cheers, silence, applause, and a standing ovation. She took moments to pause and breath during points in her speech which helps you not to speed through your message. It also helps to make sure you don’t pass out from the excitement.
I have started learning deep breathing exercises that help with this as well. Some techniques that you can use before you speak and others to use while you are doing your speech.
So what did you take away from Oprah’s iconic speech at the Golden Globe Awards? Did it empower you or make you want to tell your story? Send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need help getting your story out. You can also get a free copy of my second book Define Your Voice and using coupon code: speakup