When we are called upon to make a speech, we can go through the motions, and pull together something that is adequate, or we can think carefully about the tremendous opportunity we have for creating change, and craft something that calls people to ACTION. Thankfully, Oprah chose the latter last night with her rousing Golden Globe speech. Here are five reasons the speech ROCKED:
- She opens with a powerful, personal story – Her story about being a little girl watching Sidney Poitier win the Cecil B Demille award was deeply affecting. The reason it worked was that she shared personal details about her life, and brought us into the sensory experience of what it was like to be there; sitting on the cold linoleum floor watching the television, seeing her mom come home from a hard day of work cleaning other people’s houses, etc. It’s important to share your story, but it’s equally important to draw the audience into the experience of your story.
- She had a single, powerful theme – And she states it clearly at around the 4 minute mark. “Speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we have”. It’s important to believe in your theme deeply, and to know your audience well enough, and the occasion well enough, to have confidence that your theme will resonate with them.
- Most of the speech is made of stories that dovetail with her theme – Her story about how Recy Taylor endured a horrible sexual assault, and how it is time for such behavior to end, dovetails beautifully with her theme.
- She finishes her speech with a powerful call to action – With a minute remaining in this relatively short speech, Oprah assures all the little girls watching her that a new day is arriving, returning thematically to the beginning of the speech, the image of her watching Sidney Poitier on tv as a little girl. The conclusion mirrors the introduction; we have come full circle.
- She uses language powerfully – Notice the way that Oprah engages language. She hits her verbs, uses her full vocal range, and projects her voice.
Don’t waste speaking opportunities, folks. Each one, even the most mundane, can encourage change in people and organizations around you. Oprah’s speech is just one example of the power of the spoken word. Speak your truth!