How to Give a Rousing Speech like Oprah Winfrey, the Queen of Talk Shows

Recently, Oprah Winfrey gave a rousing speech at the Golden Globes, which led to a standing ovation by the audience. And who would not applaud her? The lady has had over thirty years’ experience in hosting her own talk show, which has led to her having a strong reputation, and an even better experience in creating stirring speeches, as this one proved.

The content she delivered on that night as she accepted her Lifetime Achievement Award is the story of another time, but the style she used is a master class at public speaking. You will do well to take note of these tips, especially if you dread standing in front of strangers and delivering your points. Here are some lessons you can carry from her.

Start with a story

There is nobody who does not enjoy a story, whether it is yours or regards someone else. Oprah used this is full effect – she started off with her story of being a child in the 1960s, and watching Sidney Poitier winning an Oscar award for best actor. She continued with saying that it was the first time in her life she saw a black man being celebrated to that extent, and that it encouraged her to pursue her dream.

You may not notice it, but stories are more powerful than words alone. They tend to be retained in the minds of people much more than the average speech, and long after the slide deck disappears from your memory. They are a short personal way that describes the concepts you want your audience to understand, as well as establishing common values with them.

Whenever you are making a speech, do not just jump into the meat of the matter directly, otherwise your speech will just be like the others, easily forgotten. Weave your story, even if it is to illustrate how you or someone else solved a problem. You will end up inspiring your audience to think creatively about their own approach to solving problems.

Be vulnerable and personal

Oprah’s story was vulnerable, to say the least. She used that to connect with every person listening to her speech – the common challenges and the feelings that come with them; including failure, love, anger and shame. She even linked it to the struggle of the human experience, and reminded the audience that it is part of the story of overcoming your trials.

When you are a leader, you may be tempted to always portray a sense of unshakeable confidence and show people your best face all the time. While that is not necessarily true, your audience and team members can see right through the façade. When you want to connect with others, make sure that you let your guard down sometimes, and let others see you as a human being who also struggles with the same things as them.

Always give credit to others where due

There were quite a number of individuals who were name-checked in the speech that night, including Steven Spielberg, Quincy Jones, Gayle, and Steadman. These were just a few of the people she mentioned made everything possible for her to achieve so much.

You never walk alone – and you are never an island. There is no one on the earth who succeeds in their goals when they are alone on their journey, so make sure you give some appreciation to other people in your speech, especially those that have been integral to your journey. The greatest leaders always give credit where it is due, and that is also how they gain followers.

It is good to acknowledge those that have helped you in the past, and it is even better to give a shout out to those that may never end up standing on that stage themselves.

Talk about important issues

The speech made a point of celebrating people of color as well as women who have dared to speak the truth against excessive power. It may have looked like a historical perspective that was grounded in harsh reality, but the speech also focused on the benefits that could come in the future due to the same freedom.

That was significant in itself. As a leader or a speech giver, you need to remember that the age we live in is one for information overloading. We are constantly connected to social media, and you always want to know what is happening around you and in the world. That keeps your team members busy, in addition to them having their own tasks to do.

That is exactly why you need to keep your focus on important topics when you speak. For instance, finding new strategies to market a brand like Tuft and Needle at Lowe’s if you are part of the business. Do not force or assume people will listen to you, unless you have an important thing to say.

Keep your address short

Have you ever been to an event, and the speech was so long that you mentally switched off after two or three minutes? Chances are high that you have – it is a common mistake many people seem to make when writing or presenting their speeches. What is even worse is the speech gets boring, and you begin wondering when it will end.

On that night, Winfrey spoke for just over three minutes. This could be long in some quarters, but it could be shorter than many speeches you have heard before.

When you make a shorter speech, it is easier for the audience to not only follow what you are saying, but also find the key message you are passing across. That can be enhanced when you start off with a story and engage their attention from the start.

Set a vision

Make sure that the speech ends with a positive view of the future, regardless of what you are talking about. Whatever public speaking opportunities you have, use them as opportunities to share your dreams for the future, and you will inspire many to follow their dreams as well.

Final thoughts

There are many elements that go into making a fine speech, but these are among the most important ones. Few can hope to receive the standing ovation that Oprah had that evening, but you can do it in your own small ways within your organization. The ability to communicate to others with love and simplicity will always pave the way for success.

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