This year’s 88th Academy Awards featured some very memorable speeches, including Chris Rock’s opening monologue that tackled the lack of diversity at the Oscars, but as we watch this Hollywood spectacle unfold each year, we are reminded of one actor who got it right on the global stage. In 1997, Cuba Gooding Jr. stunned a worldwide audience as he accepted the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. The co-star of the film Jerry Maguire bounded onto the stage, electrifying the crowd with his energy and enthusiasm.
“I love you, I love you”, he repeated more than a dozen times, thanking nearly everyone involved in the production. He also jumped up and down and waved his arms in the air, sharing his out-right joy with a world audience.
Now most of us probably won’t ever be called upon to address such an audience, but there are lessons we can learn from Gooding Jr.’s effort and apply to speaking in our own work.
1. Know your stuff: Be prepared
“The most important thing is completely understanding the theme that you are presenting,” says Musashi Takayama, who is a trainer of trainers at Rakuten University and is passionate about getting the right message across. “Go through in your mind from the beginning how you got to that conclusion and how you got to those steps, so that you are able to present that perfectly to other people.”
While Gooding Jr. was obviously overcome by emotion on his big Oscar night, as a nominee he likely put some effort into planning his speech. So, when he began speaking, he was careful to thank the most important people in his life first: his wife, children and parents. This created an immediate bond with the audience.
2. Use catchphrases
Another element that made his speech memorable was Gooding Jr.’s repeated use of the term “I love you”, which became a catchphrase for his address. To this day, some people refer to his effort as the “I love you” speech.
“Catchphrases are a good weapon,” says Takayama, who points out Rakuten University’s “Learning Has No Borders” as the perfect memorable phrase. “Use common words. I often use words like ‘revolution’ or ‘together’ too. A few favorite keywords can be used to present other ideas.”
3. Keep it short
Another important element that made Gooding Jr.’s speech great was that it was brief. Limited for time by the constraints of the televised broadcast, the actor was unable to ramble and bore the audience. So he kept it short and to the point. Too often presenters crowd their speeches with cluttered slides and convoluted data. Takayama says he prefers the brevity of American-style presentations as a model for memorable addresses.
“When I prepare a presentation, I prepare just a few ideas,” he says. “Maybe three key ideas per presentation is ideal to create a simple, clear picture for the audience.”
Behavioral psychologists say audiences tune out after 7-to-10 minutes of a good presentation. Bad ones lose audiences in as little as seven seconds. So shorter presentations, or those with built-in breaks, keep audiences interested.
Most of us will never experience Cuba Gooding Jr.’s euphoria of winning an Academy Award, alongside having to deliver a speech to a global audience. However, with the proper preparation, brevity and the use of catchphrases and keywords, our presentations could be winning over our audiences every time.