January 8, 2018
If you haven’t watched Oprah’s remarks at the Golden Globe Awards, you should. She packed more power into nine minutes than most speakers do in a lifetime. Its message, pitch, structure and delivery were as close to perfect as any contemporary speech.
She was inspirational.
The #MeToo movement may be about victimization, but this speech was about taking the power and using it to make change.
She had a clear takeaway:
“A new day is on the horizon.” It was positive, it was powerful, and every element of her remarks helped build the case.
She knew her audience.
The people at the ceremony were actors, but the emotions on their faces couldn’t have been more real…the smiles, the tears, the obvious pride. Trends on social media show people on the other side of the screen were swept up by it too.
She was inclusive.
She credited men who are allies. She also acknowledged that this struggle, hard as it has been for women in Hollywood, is harder still for others: “They are domestic workers, and farm workers. They are working in factories, and they work in restaurants. And they are in academia, and engineering, and medicine, and science. They are part of the world of tech, and politics, and business. They are athletes in the Olympics, and soldiers in the military.” Without weighing us down with specifics, she reminded us of the stories we have read, or heard, or lived. In shorthand, she reinforced just how pervasive and insidious a problem sexual harassment is.
She acknowledged the power of storytelling, and then used it.
Oprah could have recited numbers and statistics to get across her message (Lord knows they are alarming), but instead she told stories about people. Her stories were taut. Emotionally powerful. If the world didn’t know about Recy Taylor before, it certainly does now.
Detail drew us in.
When she talked about sitting in “the cheap seats” on her mother’s linoleum floor seeing Sidney Poitier’s white tie against his black skin, Oprah took us on a journey to a different time and place.
There were recurring motifs.
Oprah spoke of her mother more than once. And by starting the speech with her experience watching an awards show as a little girl, and ending by talking about the little girls watching the Golden Globes Sunday night, she brought symmetry and unity to her remarks.
Not by chance, her remarks were peppered with words like “overcome,” and phrases like “goes marching on.”
The language evoked those other great crusades, the Civil Rights Movement and the Civil War.
Oprah proved once again that repetition is one heck of a rhetorical device.
Her chant of “Their time is up!” brought the already enthusiastic crowd to its feet.
Oprah demonstrated, as she so often does, that switching up tone, tempo and volume not only makes you more interesting to listen to, it can transform good content into great content.
Oprah is always an exceptional communicator. That’s the foundation of her success. And whether you like her or not…agree with her or not…this speech can teach you a lot about how to be a more effective speaker.