Oscar nominees
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An Open Letter to Academy Award Nominees

by Sam Horn

60 Minutes commentator Andy Rooney once said, “Remember, you’re more interested in what you have to say than anyone else is.”

The exception to this is when 40 million eyeballs are glued to the TV screen, hoping you’ll say something interesting in your one to two minutes of air time.

If you don’t want to do it for the people worldwide craving for something meaningful to be said, do it for your career.

A January 27 USA Today article by Scott Bowles picked Matthew McConaughey as the “prohibitive favorite” in the Best Actor category, not just because of his dramatic physical transformation and stand-out performance as an AIDS activist in Dallas Buyers Club, but because his “eloquent acceptance speech for the Golden Globe may foreshadow a bigger win.”

McConaughey understood that a televised showcase came with a game-changing opportunity to shift the public’s perception of him as a shirtless, rom-com specialist. His speech is a shining example of how it’s possible to distinguish yourself, for all the right reasons, in two minutes.

Think of it this way. This is the biggest job interview you’ll ever have. You are auditioning in front of every movie director, film producer and casting agent in the business. How do you want to be positioned and perceived? How do you want to be remembered?

Remember Tom Hanks’ impassioned acceptance speech in 1993 when he won the Oscar for his role as gay lawyer Andrew Beckett in the film Philadelphia? Hanks’ elegant remarks not only positioned him for serious roles he may not have been considered for before – it elevated his stature, added relevancy to that year’s ceremonies and sparked a national conversation about an issue that affects us all.

The second you were selected as one of your industry’s top five performers, you received a responsibility to create remarks that will intrigue your audience, respect the occasion, be a credit to your community, and show us there’s a classy man or woman behind the actor.

This is your 60-120 seconds of fame. Start thinking now of what you could say that might matter. How could you pleasantly surprise us? How do you want to be perceived, positioned, remembered?

Are you thinking, “I agree with this in theory; it’s just that my brain blocks every time I try to come up with anything other than a laundry list of thank yous?”

As someone who’s worked with thousands of people to prepare high-stakes communications (from funding pitches to commencement speeches and wedding toasts), here are four ways to make this “moment in the sun” more meaningful and memorable for all involved.

COLLABORATE: Asking for assistance from a trusted colleague, speechwriter or presentation coach is not a sign of insecurity; it’s a sign of maturity. It’s an indication you’re embracing your obligation to represent your peers and profession in a way that reflects well on them.

CONTEXT: Reference your origin story, where you got your start, so we know where you’re coming from and how far you’ve come. “Little could I have predicted in Mrs. Brown’s high school drama class in a small town in the Midwest …”

COMPLIMENT: Put us in a specific scene where someone said something that inspired you to pursue this path, this project. Re-enact the dialogue so we might as well have been standing right next to you when you received that destiny-altering advice.

QUOTE: Hook-and-hinge a key concept of a favorite quote to give us fresh perspective on what this role, award or occasion means to you. For example: “Marcel Proust said, ‘Instead of seeking new landscapes, develop new eyes.’ This experience helped me develop new eyes on how …”

Understand, in a way, this moment is not about you. It transcends you. You have a captive audience; captivate them.

If your name isn’t called? At least you won’t have regrets. You will know you were ready to “represent.”

If your name is called? You will be ready to step up and verbally soar in a way that serves everyone watching… in that moment and in the years to come.

Sam Horn

About Sam Horn

Sam Horn, Intrigue Expert and author of POP: Stand Out in Any Crowd and Tongue Fu!, helps people craft high-stakes communications (i.e. TED Talks, pitches, keynotes, campaign speeches) that get remembered and get results. Please follow Sam on Twitter: @SamHornIntrigue

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