Over and over awardees walk on stage looking dazed and told the audience that they had not prepared a speech. Then they prove it by stumbling and rambling and looking even more confused when the “wrap it up” music starts.
We’d like to think that nominees could give the prospect of giving thanks a fraction of the thought they give their red carpet look.
Why are awards acceptance speeches so terrible?
- First, there is the mistaken belief that to have something prepared suggests a lack of modesty. If there are five nominees, it is not arrogance to assume there is a twenty percent chance your name will be called. It is math. Make some notes.
- Second, many movie and television awardees are not especially skilled at live performance, even the actors. In contrast, the Tony award winners give the most poised and gracious speeches because they are comfortable on stage. All the more reason nominees should have something prepared. Walking to the microphone, even in the circuitous route at this year’s Globes, is not the time to figure out what to say.
- Third, there are three different audiences for an award acceptance speech, and most awardees focus on the wrong ones. First are the award winner’s own friends, family, and team. It is only natural for the winner to want to thank these unsung heroes, even though it is boring for everyone else. Second are the people in the industry, which is why we sometimes hear weird inside references or jokes that do not work outside the room. The third audience is the one I would argue is the most important — the home audience. And, I would argue, the only important message for that audience is this: “See my movie.”
Do not waste your time on the humblebrag or drag out the thanks to the managers, agents, parents and children. The list of names inevitably omits someone crucial. Leonardo DiCaprio had to use of some of his time as a presenter thanking people he left out in accepting his own award.
This is the time to talk about the work, why it matters, what it means to you and why you want people to see what you created.
So that no one will ever say, “I didn’t write a speech!” again, I am writing one for you. Here it is:
Thank you. I am very grateful to The Academy/The Hollywood Foreign Press/The Broadcast Film Critics/my colleagues at SAG for this honor and to my fellow nominees for setting a standard of excellence for me to aspire to. I want to thank my family, my support team, and the cast and crew who all played a vital role in getting me here. It meant so much to me to tell this story. The message of this film is very important to me and I am grateful to have had a chance to help in sharing it.
Sharon Stone says that when she won a Golden Globe for her performance in “Casino,” she was so overcome that by the time she reached the stage, she could not speak. But presenter Tom Hanks whispered two sentences that immediately calmed her down. First, he told her, “You earned this.” And second, he said, the audience deserved her best self at that moment.
If Hanks can not be there to remind every award recipient to pull it together, they should have those words permanently displayed on the teleprompter. Show some respect for yourself, for the venue, for the work and for the audience and remember that the point of it all is to honor the story you were trying to tell.