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February 28, 2011


Mary Jo Asmus

Scott, I thought Colin Firth exemplified humility and graciousness. Leaders could study his brief speech and learn a lot.

On the other hand, Melissa Leo was quite inauthentic. I'll bet that "F-bomb" was acted, as was the rest of her speech. I would have liked to have seen a more natural delivery; her speech could serve as "what not to do" for leaders.

Tony Loftis

When you are organizing an event and the whole world is watching, have something to say that's interesting and informative.

By most accounts, the year's show was a stodgy relic of past years, certainly not what the producers and in mind when they choose Hathaway and Franco.

Change is more than new spokespeople, it's new ideas. Don't set expectations you can't or don't want to meet.

Scott Eblin

Hi MaryJo and Tony -

Thanks for the spot-on comments. Loved your point about Leo's in-authenticity, MJ. Some very perceptive viewing on your part. And, Tony, your point reminds me of that classic advice - under-promise and over-deliver!

Cheers -


David Sturdevant

Scott - Super point about projecting energy that at least meets that of the room. It's such a fundamantal problem speakers have when they get too focused on their content. Your note about Colin Firth's acceptance is also insightful - that opening sentence is so important. Even an acceptance speech can have a beginning, middle and end. I didn't watch the awards, but thanks for sharing these lessons.

Allison Wood

Great post, Scott. I agree with you (and having worked in the biz for many years, I know what makes these people tick). Actors, like leaders, must have an exquisite sense of how they impact their audience, what they want to say and how it will likely come across. Real can't be faked, as they say - the genuine moments will always shine through.

One of my faves was at the end, when Jeff Bridges was introducing the Best Actress nominees - I was magnetized by his intimate address to each of the women ("Natalie, you were astounding...") It was such a wonderful example of connecting with the audience in an intimate yet universal way, and his thoughtful and heartfelt delivery added a feeling of real appreciation to what would otherwise have been just a rote description of each nominee's work. When leaders can connect with their audience in this way (and it's so easy - just by speaking TO them and not AT them), what a powerful impact they can make!

deb keeffe

Very good points and lessons to learn!


The thirty or so actors and their friends that I watched the awards with believed that Christian Bales had forgotten his wife's name.
Billy Crystal was also quite gracious in recoginizing Bob Hope.
As a professional hospitality educator, I agree with the comment about the speaker needing to carry the room with their enthusiasm. I have to keep it fresh for me so that I do not project boredom or robotic recitation.

Katie Gurnett

My favorite leadership moment was from Sandra Bullock. She was personable, likable and humorous without being mean -- all of this after being humiliated last year by her now ex-husband! Talk about grace under fire -- which is a skill all leaders need to have.


I have to say, for passion, sincerity, brevity and graciousness, I submit that Lee Unkrich (best animated feature - Toy Story 3) had the best speech.


I'm new to public speaking, having recently been promoted. I found this article (and the comments) to be very helpful and insightful. One thing I loved about the Oscars on Sunday was hearing all the people who thanked their Moms! Those were very personal, heartfelt, relatable moments.


The amount of "ums" in Natalie Portman's acceptance speech made it hard to believe she ever spoke in front of people. I'm especially attuned to that bad habit having led several public speaking training sessions, but hers were overwhelmingly unappealing. Listen to it again if you have the chance and try counting them.

Bill Walker

I was all set to RT your post, until I got to the first tip. There were more verbal hiccups in Colin Firth's speech than I could count. It may have been authentic, but it was poorly delivered. I'd have expected better from him, especially for this particular role! No matter how interesting, self-deprecating, or authentic, you have to nail the delivery. He didn't.

Kyle O

While you praise Ann Hathaway's energy I was struck by her lack of grace, particularly how after every introduction she made she followed it with immature woo woos as if she was at a soroity party.
I also thought Firth's speech was riddled with ums and ahs.

Scott Eblin

Wow, You guys are coming up with a ton of great points from the Oscar. Completely agree with the take on Jeff Bridges, the Toy Story director and Portman. Respectfully disagree with Bill's take on Colin Fitrth. Yeah, he wasn't perfect but he was appealingly humble and human. I ought it worked.

If I was writing the post again, I'd also throw some big kudos to the writer of The King's Speech. Thought he was brilliant and an inspiring story in himself as someone who hung in with a good idea for years to see it through to fruition and overcoming his own stuttering condition early in his life. Went all the way to speaking to a billion people. How cool is that?


Being a CC with Toastmasters it’s always interesting to see the “pros” have to speak extemporaneously.

The best keep it short simple and relevant, adding a dash of humor is always welcome


Michael Sweigart

Interesting observations, Scott. I think your writing and the responses have some well considered points.

I would simply add that leaders at all levels (intentional - like a CEO - or not - like an actor) should equip themselves with basic communication skills. Just because you talk every day doesn't mean you can present even a short answer well. I echo David S.'s comment about structure.

An excellent resource for developing speaking, presentation, communication, and leadership skills is Toastmasters International. I recommend their program to everyone.

Richard S.

Totally agree about the opening line. The two best opening lines in my mind from the past were Sally Field (Norma Rae) with "you like me, you really like me" with sincere shock and Dustin Hoffman (Kramer vs Kramer) "I'd like to thank divorce" --- Firth's ranks right up there as an under-stated moment.


I also agree regarding the winners' speeches from the minor categories. Much more authentic, humble, interesting and personal. One of my favorites was Trent Reznor for Best Music in The Social Network.


Scott, I'm glad you added the comment about the screenwriter of the King's Speech. I thought he did a brilliant job of creatively thanking people while also telling us his story.


I wanted to watch the awards just to look at how the people conducted themselves and the underlying messages being sent. Unfortunately I did not watch it but I am very thankful for all of the insight and advice given, It definitely gave me what i was looking for without even watching. I watch a bunch of acceptance speeches on youtube and I look forward to the videos of this yrs awards being posted. Honesty and graciousness are key winners in speaking. I was very impressed with penelope cruz's acceptance speeches. she always show loves to her roots.

Jill Dykes

Great post. I train clients for media interviews, and the same tips apply. Think about what you are going to say, practice saying it, and be concise. Colin Firth was a shining example. Melissa Leo, not so much.

Scott Eblin

Thanks for all the comments everyone. Isn't it cool that we can draw so many lessons - good and bad - from the Oscars that apply to what us non-celebrity leaders do every day? Special thanks to the folks who have mentioned Toastmasters. A great organization and resource for anyone who wants to raise their game as a speaker in any situation.

Cheers -



I'd just like to make a teeny tiny point: actors are *not* professional presenters. Yes, there can be overlap in their skill sets, but they're not the same thing at all... and many movie actors have never acted "live" (on stage).

Most actors are introverts and are just as scared of public speaking as the rest of us. They're great at speaking lines and moving appropriately (and all that goes with that), but they are not by any stretch extemporaneous speakers.

Which is why actors are usually crappy hosts. I'm just sayin'.

Jeff Bridges and Sandra Bullock both did good jobs speaking lines that other people wrote for them (Bullock more so than Bridges, IMHO). Franco and Hathaway, with far more lines and a far tougher job, did less well.


My favorite speech was Randy Newman's. He came across as somebody who absolutely knows who he is and what he can do. A well centered, self deprecating sense of humor, with a slice a cynicism totally appropriate to a self congratulatory industrial love fest like the Oscars.

Malekka Maki

I loved your article. I too, have watched the Oscars for years(only to have viewed a couple of winning movies) reviewing their responses. Let's not forget the outfits. Public speaking can be distracted by the uncomfortableness of the attire. I remember seeing Anne H. tug,rub,and feel on one of her gowns as if it were a genie that was going to pop out and grant wishes. Therefore dress in comfortable, appropriate clothes that hopefully you have worn be before. I don't know what she was talking about but, I do remember that occassion. Don't forget to wear the shoes for two to four hours also!


Great post and comments!

I have to add - DON'T READ YOUR SPEECH! The couple of presenters who drew out notecards and buried their faces in them, lost the audience immediately.

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