The British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards were held in London last night and once again the majority of the acceptance speeches were either boring, cringe-worthy, forgettable or all three. Even some of the witty humour from host Stephen Fry bordered on uncomfortable for some as he imitated Professor Stephen Hawking’s synthesised voice and incorrectly called Patricia Arquette by her sister’s name, Rosanna, in his opening remarks.
So what lessons can we learn from the BAFTAs to improve our own public speaking?
- Use humour with care Humour, especially self-deprecating humour can definitely lighten the mood and get your audience on side. Just be careful to ensure that it is appropriate or you will lose your audience just as quickly.
- Don’t go over time In most public speaking situations you will be allowed a certain amount of time to speak and I can’t stress enough how crucial it is not to go over your given time. Speaking for longer than you have been allocated is disrespectful to your audience, the organiser and the other speakers who are following you and may have to cut their speeches short as a result.
- Don’t waste time with Ums and Errs When you only have a very limited time to speak such as when accepting an award or pitching at a networking event, filling it with ums and errs not only makes you sound uncertain and unprepared but it wastes valuable time that could be better used to communicate your message. Prior preparation and practice will help with this.
- Show that you are human Rather than sound like everyone else, allow your unique personality to shine through. Audiences like to connect with people on a human level so share something about yourself that they can relate to. I definitely warmed to the winners who said something quirky that gave me an indication of what they were like as a person.
- Use the Rule of Three In his acceptance speech for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Eddie Redmayne effectively used the power of three stating that he wanted to thank three families – his own family, his professional family and the family of Professor Stephen Hawkings about whom the film ‘The Theory of Everything’ is based. This simple structure and allowed him to keep it clear and concise and helped it to stand out from the other acceptance speeches on the night.
- Prepare, prepare, prepare! It is surprising how many people giving acceptance speeches at the BAFTAs didn’t seem to have anything prepared. If you know you are likely to be speaking, have something prepared to ensure that you are not lost for words and you cover everything you want to say.
- Practice, practice, practice! I personally think it is inexcusable for an actor to sound like they are reading a script when they are announcing the nominees for awards; as an actor it is their job to make other people’s words sound natural. But for people who do not have this skill, practicing what you want to say before you have to say it will help your speech to sound natural (and it will be your own material so even easier to make it sound natural!)
By incorporating these lessons into your public speaking, you will avoid being boring, cringe-worthy and forgettable and instead be interesting, appropriate and memorable (for the right reasons!)
Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction.
Mel's book 'The Authority Guide to Pitching Your Business - how to make an impact and be remembered... in under a minute!' is available on Amazon. To find out more go to www.melsherwood.com or follow Mel on Twitter @MelSherwood_