As someone who has had the honor and pleasure of working
with celebrities, I am always glued to the awards shows. The recent Golden
Globes provided a fascinating opportunity to watch and observe public speaking
and presentation in a very high stakes, high-pressure environment.
At the top of my list of fabulous acceptance speeches was
Meryl Streep (video starts at about 2:00). Her performance was magical. Her remarks were unscripted, but not
unprepared. She was humble, funny, and very, very authentic. She exudes
confidence and presence. I was especially struck by her tribute to her mother,
describing her as anti-gloom and doom and her frank admission that she,
herself, was not like that. This was an example of the type of self-disclosure
I strongly advocate as a way to connect with an audience. It was not an
intimate detail, but added just enough information to allow her admirers feel
closer to her. Brilliant.
Importantly, we must remember that Streep is an experienced
performer and acceptor of awards. She embodied the maxim, Practice + Experience
Drew Barrymore’s acceptance speech (video starts at about 1:30), on the other hand, did
not serve her well. And, surprisingly, just a week later, she flubbed her acceptance of a Screen Actors Guild Award.
A gifted actor and, now, director, Barrymore has been in
the business since she was a young child and overcome significant obstacles
along the way. Although she may not have expected to win, she should have
prepared nonetheless. Better performances could have further solidified the public view
of her as a major Hollywood player. Instead, the addled nature of her remarks and
uncertain body language had me recalling her years of struggle, which is
something, I can only imagine, she would like to put behind her.
Fortunately, the performances will not seriously undermine
her image, as she has more than proven herself as someone worthy of significant
admiration. For someone with less star power or for the average person, a
performance like that could be lethal.
I recently worked with a COO who had to substitute
for the ailing CEO and keynote the institution’s annual meeting. It was not
clear until the last minute whether the CEO would be delivering the presentation. That didn’t stop this COO from preparing well in advance. He blew them
Here are the takeaways:
if you are not sure you will be performing, you must always be ready for your
your performance contradicts your accomplishments, it will be unnecessarily
distracting or worse.
little self-disclosure goes a long way in connecting with your audience. A
personal story often does the trick.
Here’s the other takeaway: Celebrities are not that
different from the rest of us, after all.
P.S.: I’ll be tweeting about the celebrity acceptance speeches during
the Oscars on Sunday, March 7, on ABC. The focus will be on
technique. Should be very
entertaining, lots of fun, and a great learning opportunity for us all. Follow me and join in the conversation!
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Ruth Sherman Associates LLC / High-Stakes Communication / Greenwich, CT