The obvious problem is she spends a lot of time talking about herself, and not a lot about Aretha Franklin. She has tried to clarify recently, saying that MTV asked her to “share an anecdote” about Aretha, not “give a tribute” but that hasn’t quelled the backlash. Here’s my take; if you think that your speech has the possibility of being misconstrued, ask the organizers for a clarification! When you take on a speaking event, it’s important to think very carefully about your material and your audience, and this is doubly true for solemn events like tributes, funerals and the like. Madonna would have done well to ask directly if her speech was meant to be a tribute beforehand, and then tailor her speech accordingly.
Majora Carter gives an impassioned, brilliant speech in the video above, taken from TED in 2006. There’s a number of things she does very, very right from a public speaking perspective. What’s most impressive is the way she uses personal stories to illustrate larger social problems; her family’s migration story became a basis for stats and facts about redlining and economic injustice in the South Bronx, the story of her childhood neighbourhood’s tragic downfall and her brother’s death is used to contrast her experience with her largely white audience, and to point out economic inequality.
But, alas, Mrs Carter falls prey to the same problem that bedevils many TED talkers; she speaks much, much too fast. Facts and figures rush by the audience in a blur. I would guess that is because she is trying to cram a 45-minute speech into her 20-minute time allotment. She would benefit greatly from pairing her speech down and breathing at the end of each thought. A recent study found that pausing 5x in a one-minute speech makes your material more memorable. So take your time! If you are a quick talker, try using a metronome to control the rate at which you speak.
Did you know there is science behind speaking slowly? Researchers from the University of Michigan analyzed the phone calls of telemarketers and found that people who paused frequently during their pitch were more persuasive than callers who spoke uninterrupted. The researchers say people typically pause about five times a minute. This speech pattern sounds more believable to listeners than when you spit out words without any breaks.
Nighat Dad’s speech above is a good example of the power of pausing. She gives a passionate, intelligent speech, with a very powerful premise. But occasionally she rushes, and when she does, her words come out in a nervous jumble, and she has trouble with syntax and grammar. Her speech is markedly better when she pauses at the end of each thought.
I LOVE this acceptance speech. And a big part of what makes Sam Rockwell’s acceptance of the 2018 Best Supporting Actor Award so excellent is the attention getter he gives at the top. What makes it so great? Here’s my thoughts:
It includes a touching personal story about his parents! – Stories are your STRONGEST weapon against audience boredom, y’all.
It’s not only a story, but, also, a short joke, with a great punchline – notice the way that Mr Rockwell sets up his story to be solemn, and then takes us in a surprising direction. Jokes are GREAT icebreakers. A great joke needs to be BRIEF and have the ELEMENT OF SUPRISE. Mr Rockwell’s joke has both.
His icebreaker is appropriate for the occasion – it’s about going to the movies with his parents, and he uses the story as a way of demonstrating both his love of movies and his appreciation of his parents.