The morning after the Oscars, the biggest conversation was Melissa Leo’s use of what commentators appear to have settled on calling “the F bomb.” It was, without question, beyond unfortunate- and that’s all that needs to be said about it.
I was, however, deeply gratified by Colin Firth’s use of a very different “F Bomb.” What am I talking about? Well, rather than referring to his fellow nominees as “amazing” or “awesome” or “inspiring”—the three most over-used words of the evening—her referred to being on the same list as “formidable.”
Colin Firth, you made my heart sing by not falling back on those absurdly over-used, useless modifiers. Thoughtful vocabulary wins in every category.
What other graceful gestures and massive missteps caught my attention?
Be Thankful—but in Moderation
Well, I was thankful to Randy Newman, winner of the Oscar for best song, for noting that thanking people endlessly slowed down the show and “wasn’t good TV.”
This is something I speak about all the time—beginning with a whole mess of thank you’s lessens your impact. Instead, begin with a story, a statistic, a question. If you feel you must thank people, then do it at the end of your talk.
When you do thank people, be inclusive. David Seidler won my heart by accepting his Oscar on behalf “of all the stutterers throughout the world.” Lee Unkrich, in his Toy Story 3, acceptance speech, thanked “audiences all over the world who came out in historic numbers.” In both cases, the decision to include those beyond their cast and crew made us feel part of the evening, as opposed to observers of it. I highly recommend crafting any remarks you might make, to ensure your audience feels spoken “with,” and not “at.”
Three Rules for the Red Carpet:
A frequent conversation with clients is the importance of an expectant “listening face”—as opposed to what I call “taxi-meter eyes”—they just keep track of the time until you stop talking—or the deer-in-the-headlights phenomenon. Who has a wonderful “listening face”? Jennifer Hudson. She genuinely looks like she is attentive to the reporter’s question, and is considering her answer.
Think Before You Speak:
Speaking of thinking before you speak, a number of nominees were asked on the red carpet if they had given any thought to their remarks, to which they answered, “No.” My guess is they thought this made them look modest (at best) or cool (my most dreaded choice.) Instead, they just came across as naïve or unprepared. Regardless, neither is a choice that serves you. No one is better off the cuff/on the fly/when they wing it.
Know Before You Go:
And finally, even after you make it to the red carpet, you need to remember the first rule of a blind date or one-night stand: In this instance, if a designer has been kind enough to lend you their dress, shoes, jewelry or handbag for the night, please be sure you know how to pronounce their name correctly. Even if it’s only for a night, people get cranky when you can’t.
Originally published on Frances Cole Jones