#suckit – The Art of Speechmaking

I’ve just woken up in Los Angeles and am still in awe of Cate Blanchett’s amazing acceptance speech at last night’s Oscars.

No – I wasn’t in the audience (maybe next year!), but watching with a group of friends in our Art Deco hangout in Santa Monica.  It felt a bit like watching the AFL Grand Final from an apartment in East Melbourne – the action was only metres away, but there you were watching it on television like the rest of the world.

Cate’s speech was the demonstration of a well educated, articulate, thoughtful, and endearing individual.  She came across as a true professional who was both confident and competent – a rare combination.  As far as I’m concerned, her speech ticked all the boxes; she used this once in a lifetime opportunity to talk to the world about the wealth of Australian talent, the important role of women in business and her number one passion, the Sydney Theatre Company.

And, I’m sorry (I have always tried to avoid writing negative comments about specific individuals), but Cate provided a VERY stark contrast to the best male actor who…quite frankly…in his acceptance speech reinforced a lot of stereotypes about the acting world and Hollywood.  Enough said!

Now….I know there will probably be a little social media furor over her comment, “Julia, #suckit.” The background to which she is staying close-lipped.

It would seem Cate’s comment has proved correct an earlier, very clever quote from Julia Roberts regarding social media: “It’s like cotton candy.  It looks so appealing, but then you just end up with sticky fingers”.

Wow!  What a great analogy – sticky fingers.  Really made me rethink my little personal journey on twitter, which you can read about in “Who gives a tweet?”.

Anyway…back to great speechmaking.  While scrolling through my Twitter timeline to learn more about Cate’s big win, I stumbled across AFL Boss Andrew Demetriou’s 11 minute resignation speech.

OK, so it’s not everyday someone draws a link between Andrew Demetriou and Cate Blanchett, but in a matter of 24 hours, both these Australians made great leadership speeches that will help define their respective legacies.

Both speeches had the following in common –

  • Paid respect to their respective “codes”
  • Showed humility and empathy
  • Recognised where they had come from and those who had supported their journey
  • Sent a clear message about their passions/key communication points
  • Thanked their family

Because of their statesman-like, intelligent and heartfelt comments, they left their audience thinking even more highly of their respective professions.

It’s not everyday that we mere mortals are called on to make landmark speeches, but the checklist above certainly gives us some good reminders as we walk through our professional lives…. so when that day arrives, and you’re in front of the camera, audience, friends…will you be able to deliver a compelling summary of your contribution?

Here’s some thought starters:

  • As we interact with our team, do we show gratitude?
  • Are we investing our energy in those people who will be part of the winning team?
  • Will we have contributed in a material way to the development of our “code” or profession?
  • Have we supported our family as much as they have supported us?
  • Do we have a view, an opinion, or a passion that we are actively promoting to others as we interact daily?
  • Are we living and working by our values?
  • Are we showing empathy and humility?
  • And what about our team and others we have dealt with along the way?  Will they be our greatest advocates?

But the importance of oration goes even further than our own ability to present professionally……it would seem, it just be the key to finding great young talent.

I’m always looking for great talent to help build my three businesses – The Faculty, The Source and Procurious.  So, when I came across advice in Forbes on “how to find the Millenials who will lead your company,” I really took notice.

The author, Robert Sher, advised us to be on the lookout for Millennials (born between 1980 and 2000) who have had experience in speechmaking and debating.

He highlights that the world needs business executives that have a deep understanding of how to persuade, how to present clearly, and how to connect with an audience.

Sher notes that many professionals “fall short when it comes to speaking and communications skills.  Many are good at making Power Point slides, and some are good at presenting facts clearly—even recommendations clearly.  But few practice, or are aware of the techniques behind moving the emotions of audiences; whether they be in a meeting, or in an all-hands gathering of hundreds of people.  We all know that people spring to action based on emotions, then simply justify it with logic.”

Here is the truth about students who compete in speech and debate.  They’ve spent hundreds of hours perfecting their speaking skills.  Many have done intensive research to write their speeches.  All have endured the pressure that competition brings, they have performed well intellectually under such pressure, and they’ve made connections and friendships with other high performing peers.  All of these behaviours are excellent predictors of success on any leadership team.

Lessons learned when young last a lifetime, but that’s not to say I’m still not learning every day on my London adventure.  We’re getting to the pointy end on the Procurious website build and I must say it’s incredibly exciting to see my vision become a reality.

The Faculty has a big few months upcoming with the CPO Forum & FLiP conference in mid May which I’m sure will be a resounding success as always, and The Source is being transformed under the passionate tutelage of Marisa Menezes.  I was apprehensive about leaving my ‘babies’ behind in Australia but I need not have worried as the leadership teams at The Faculty & The Source have been kicking goals ever since I left.

Until next month,

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  • Sharyn Scriven

    Hi Tania

    I loved this piece, it is extremely relevant to our current leadership theme here at Energex as well as Intenational Womens Day this week . I will be ensuring many of my managers, peers and team have a read. Cheers Sharyn

    • Tania Seary

      Sharyn – Thank you so much for this feedback and encouragement. I will try and write more pieces like this….if they are useful. Many thanks and hoping to see you at the CPO Forum!!!!

  • Julie Egonidis

    Thanks for posting these speeches and the supporting commentary. I completely agree that playing to the emotions of your audience, being humble and genuine and learning these skills at an early age is key. Go the Millenials!

  • Adrian Dickens

    Tania! How right you are on all fronts and yes both speeches show such respect and humility….it’s so good to see and was well worth watching them again!
    On another note and as “Mr Diamonds!” didn’t you love Cate’s earrings….by Chopard and encrusted with AUSTRALIAN opals!

  • Shelley old

    Well….. I didn’t wake up in Los Angeles… I awoke to the daunting prospect of 4 school lunches, early school drop offs for cross country training, counting twenty-cent pieces for the weekly $5 school banking, getting that first load of washing hung out before work, getting the dishwasher unpacked, folding yesterday’s washing, finishing the spelling words that should have been done well before now…and it goes on… all the while trying to remember what day it is… so I didn’t miss the Oscars! Kate, (yes, first name basis as I feel like I know her)…is sublime, beautiful, intelligent and gracious..what a class act…I just wonder if she knows how to get chocolate billabong stains out of a white shirt…??? Different worlds, but yes Adrian, I did notice the earrings!!

    • Tania Seary

      Thanks for taking the time to share this Shell – by reminding me of the daily grind, you helped me enjoy my “leave pass” even more!!!

  • Antoinette Brandi

    The art of humility and giving are fundamental traits that need to be “lived” not just spoken about. Too often I hear people “sprinkling” these words in public speeches but not demonstrating in every day actions. Of course Cate Blanchett is respected for living these values. Hence her speech was a natural and heartfelt message.

    Your point about debating experience reminded me of my older sister Jeannette. In 1970 she won second place in the then important competition Youth Speaking for Australia. Decades later she continues to use the skills learnt in her teaching role and representing communities in council and tribunal hearings. I have always been in awe of how well she articulates and successfully debates the issue at hand.

    Maybe the Faculty could incorporate a competition like this as part of the FLIP program.

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