If you think presenting comes naturally, all you need to do is watch the Academy Awards where some of our best actors struggle to deliver a live speech or accept an award. As a salesperson there are many key takeaways from the Oscars and I’ll be taking note of them all. In the mean time, have a quick look back at some of the previous year’s winners and losers in the category of “Presentation Skills:”
- Best Audience Interaction: Ellen DeGeneres, Host 2014
As host, DeGeneres took audience interaction to a whole new level by stepping into the audience to orchestrate the world’s largest selfie with the world’s biggest stars. Taking it a step further, later in the evening she had pizza delivered. Despite the fact that most of the crowd looked like they hadn’t indulged in pizza since the nineties, she put everyone at ease during what was surely a long, tense night.
Presentation Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to find new ways to interact with your audience, especially during a lengthy presentation. Deliver pizza? Maybe not, but think about how you can make them feel included and put them at ease. Bonus: They’ll be more relaxed and more receptive to your message.
- Best Opening: Daniel Day Lewis, Acceptance Speech, Best Actor 2013
In contrast to the many award winners who seem either completely unprepared or use their limited stage time to thank a laundry list of people the audience has never heard of, DDL was interesting and engaging and natural…in part, because he was prepared. He opened with a humorous reference to presenter Meryl Streep’s turn as Margaret Thatcher, which allowed for a natural transition into the challenge of playing a public figure, as well as an opportunity to dispel the rumor that he initially did not want the role.
Presentation Takeaway: Be prepared. Know your first line cold for greater confidence and use it to maximum effect: to engage, make a connection, dispel a misconception, etc
- Best Audience Connection: Ben Affleck, Best Picture (Argo) 2013 Ben’s speech was passionate, spontaneous, funny and full of emotion. He made the connection between his first Oscar night 15 years ago and the present, as well as an interesting connection between his wife and Iran. It was a fun, heartfelt rant that let us feel like we might be able to sit down with Ben over a beer and pick up where he left off. And then maybe Matt Damon would stop by and…oh sorry, I’m getting off track. Where was I? Oh right. The point is that he connected with us.
Presentation Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to open up to your audience and let them get to know you. We are always asking our prospects to share information with us, but it shouldn’t be a one-sided exchange.
And the losers:
- Worst Team Presentation: The Avengers 2013
It was fun concept: Reunite the all-star cast of The Avengers to present an award! Yet this concept failed miserably due to a complete lack of coordination between the 5 actors along with their inside jokes which only further alienated the viewing audience.
Presentation Takeaway: It’s critical that teams rehearse together to get messaging, timings and transitions down. It’s uncomfortable and unprofessional for your audience to have to watch you struggle through it. And while we may appreciate that your team gets along, don’t risk excluding your audience by using inside jokes or asides.
- Worst Self-Serving Speech: TIE: Seth McFarland, Host 2013 and Matthew McConnaghey, Best Actor 2014
Seth Mcfarland’s entire opening was based on the premise that he, Seth, was in danger of being the worst host ever. Not only was this self-absorbed and egocentric, but oddly prescient. As for Matthew McConnaghey, odd comes with the territory, but it was simply self-aggrandizing to tell us that his idol was “his future self” and then fail to acknowledge the real hero he portrayed in Dallas Buyer’s Club, Ron Woodruff. Alright, alright.
Presentation Takeaway: It’s important to look at things from your audience’s perspective and not just your own. Think about what is of most interest to them. Shockingly, it’s rarely all about us!
Tune in for my report on this year’s Presentation Winners and Losers from this Sunday’s Oscars!