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Unlock the art of impactful speeches with these tips by life coaches

Updated on: 19 February,2024 10:04 PM IST  |  Mumbai
Devanshi Doshi |

Miley Cyrus’ acceptance speeches at the recent Grammy Awards garnered both negative and positive feedback from fans and critics alike. Life coaches reveal the key to deliver an impactful speech when it’s your moment in the spotlight

Unlock the art of impactful speeches with these tips by life coaches

Miley Cyrus accepts a Grammy Award for Record of the Year

Started to cry then remembered I — just won my first Grammy!” exclaimed Miley Cyrus in between her solo performance at the recently concluded 66th Annual Grammy Awards. The American singer-songwriter and actress had just won the Best Pop Solo Performance (Female) for her song, Flowers, and would later also go on to win the Record of The Year for the same track. For days to follow, social media was flooded with snippets from her winning speeches, her humorous quips during the solo performance; for instance, when right before singing the hook lines of the song, she asked the audience, “Why are you acting like you don’t know this song?” and of course, her dazzling outfits that hugged the 31-year-old’s body like second skin, complemented with the puffed up, voluminous and retro hairdo (an ode to country music icon, Dolly Parton).

But the more these videos were shared, the more they became open to dissection; inviting both, comments critiquing and praising her. Some called her out for being disrespectful to the award and having missed mentioning her father, country music artiste, Billy Ray Cyrus (whom she severed ties with after her parents’ divorce), while others supported her candid and heartfelt words. Fans felt it made Cyrus feel more relatable. As her speeches enter the long list of conversation-stirring acceptance speeches delivered at the Grammys, professional coaches decode how to crack the ideal speech.

(Right) Losing finalist Novak Djokovic’s gracious mention of (left) Carlos Alcaraz in his Wimbledon speech in 2023 shows humility. Pics Courtesy/Getty images(Right) Losing finalist Novak Djokovic’s gracious mention of (left) Carlos Alcaraz in his Wimbledon speech in 2023 shows humility. Pics Courtesy/Getty images

“You can either hate it or love it, but cannot ignore it,” says Dr Shivani Sharma, TEDx speaker, image consultant, communication and soft skills trainer. “As an audience, we have evolved as gossip-mongers, and it is inevitable that you will be judged on what you say. Remember, gossip-mongers are either those who cannot achieve what you have, are jealous or don’t have anything interesting to do. While delivering a speech, bear in mind what you want to say and how you feel. Do not focus too much on how others will perceive it.”

Write your own story

Breaking it down further, she says that it is of utmost importance to remain humble, while also adding a bit of a personal touch. “The part where she said that she was happy yesterday and she doesn’t want anything to change after she received this award was inspirational; life doesn’t end here. It is always important to add an anecdote wherever possible. In Cyrus’ case, she compared her story with a boy who was chasing a butterfly. A perfect speech is one which is either motivational and inspiring, or emotional. Otherwise, it is just a talk.”

Singer Adele mentioned Beyoncé in one of her speeches and how the American singer’s album Lemonade remains an inspiration. Pic Courtesy/InstagramSinger Adele mentioned Beyoncé in one of her speeches and how the American singer’s album Lemonade remains an inspiration. Pic Courtesy/Instagram

Debarati Roy, image consultant and corporate trainer, agrees. “A speech that has stayed with me is when Kate Winslet won the Oscar for the Best Actress; she had shared how as a child she would practise giving a speech while holding a shampoo bottle. This makes the audience feel like the winners are normal people like them; they come off as more relatable.”

Telling your story, she believes, is all the more important when you are not a star. “When you are a public figure, people already know who you are, and what your story is. But in corporate settings, people know you by your work. This is the time to tell them your story and let them get a sense of the person behind the work.” But not at the cost of boredom. “Respect other people’s time as well. Your speech doesn’t have to be long to make a statement. Yes, it is your moment, but that doesn’t mean you hog the speech and make it all about me, myself and I.” 

Shivani Sharma, Debarati Roy and Mihika BhanotShivani Sharma, Debarati Roy and Mihika Bhanot

Recalling another favourite, Roy cites tennis champion, Novak Djokovic’s Wimbledon speech when he lost to Carlos Alcaraz in 2023. “Djokovic was upset about his defeat, and he made it clear in his speech, but his humility lay in the fact that he expressed that he lost to a better player, and that he will come back stronger. Being humble and grateful in your speech are extremely important aspects. Also remember that no one can do anything alone. Mention what inspired you [like music artiste Adele had credited Beyoncé as an inspiration in one of her speeches at the Grammys] and who helped you reach the podium you are standing on today. This shows a sense of community and fraternity.”

Laughter is the key

Humour can also be a vital element in your speech. Both Roy and Sharma believe that it adds to authenticity. “When Cyrus in her speech mentioned that while she doesn’t think she has forgotten to thank anyone but she has forgotten to wear underwear, this reflected her true, rebellious side. Injecting humour is equally necessary to make the conversation light-hearted,” Sharma explains.

Even as most speeches are prepared in advance, Roy explains that it is the talent of being spontaneous that adds to the witty factor. “It is okay to have a structure in mind; in fact, it is highly recommended. This way, you don’t feel at a loss of words. But remember to not restrict yourself by it. Be spontaneous and allow yourself to read the room and alter the speech a bit.”

Bite the burger

Mihika Bhanot, image consultant and personal branding expert, has an interesting take on how to give the perfect speech, dubbing it the ‘burger policy’. “A burger comes with a slice of bread on top — this is the introductory bit, where you either make a joke or comment on the weather outside. If it’s pouring outside, for instance, you could say something like — it is raining compliments today, quite literally. Don’t shy away from sharing what you feel. This helps make the speech light-hearted.” The patty is in the middle; this is where you allow yourself to tell your story. “Make this stage aspirational and humble,” she suggests. To conclude, you could leave the audience with a question to interact with them, or end with gratitude. “These steps work for people across fields. Remember to keep your speech short, simple and relevant.” 

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