Speaking tips from the Academy Awards

microphone-spotlightDid you watch the Academy Awards this year? I thought it was a bit of snooze. Chris Rock had some funny moments – I loved the Girl Scouts cookie sales part – and some important messages about recognizing black films and those who make them. But, overall it wasn’t the most exciting Academy Awards show I’ve seen.

There are always lessons we can learn from the Oscars, especially public speaking dos and don’ts. Let me share some speaking tips that apply to us mere mortals and the Hollywood glitterati.

Whether you’re speaking to a crowd of 36 million or 36 never leave the stage or lectern empty. When introducing a speaker, stay on the stage or at the lectern and wait until the speaker arrives. Greet her, shake her hand (or hand her her Oscar) and then sit down. When the stage is empty it leaves the audience feeling a little anxious – did someone miss their cue or is this a break?

Microphones are problematic for many people. At the Academy Awards, the microphone is raised and lowered according to who is speaking. There is someone whose sole job is to make sure the microphone is at the right height to capture the voice of the person speaking. So stand tall my movie-making friends. No need to bend over and look at us with hooded eyes.

If the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences snubbed you once again and you don’t have the privilege of having someone adjust the microphone for you, heed these tips. If the microphone is part of the lectern – that is it’s fixed and can’t be raised – there is nothing you can do. It is most likely loud enough to project your voice. There is no need to lean over it. It looks quite amateurish and unprofessional if you do. Stand close to it without leaning over it and speak in a strong voice.

If the microphone stand is adjustable, take a moment before speaking to adjust it. What may feel like an eternity of time to you while you get it the right height is mere seconds to the audience. You’ll come across more confident and poised if you take the time to fix it. You do that by unscrewing the knob and raising or lowering the stand, then tightening the knob once the mic is at the right height.

If that seems challenging, you can always take the mic off the stand and hold it. However, when you hold a microphone make sure it’s close to your mouth. Many people hold it too far away and leave the audience straining to hear. It should be about an inch away from your mouth.

Lastly, if you do get the chance to speak, whether it’s your Oscar acceptance speech or a toast for your best friend’s marriage, be prepared. Know what you want to say and practice, practice, practice. When you know your material you’ll be more relaxed, which is good for you and for the audience.

What other speaking tips would you add?

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