We have finally arrived at the end of 2017, and it has been quite a year. When there's a lot happening, there's a lot to say. And when there is a lot to say, there are a lot of speeches. Here are nine unforgettable speeches from this year, along with what made them unforgettable, and what you can use to make your presentations better.
1. Mark Zuckerberg's Harvard commencement speech
Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg spoke to the Harvard class of 2017 at commencement this year. What made this speech a great one? First, Zuckerberg managed to pack a lot of information into a short amount of time; he covered doing good in the world, finding a sense of purpose, his time at Harvard, launching Facebook, and how he met his wife. More important, Zuckerberg was relatable, smiley, and actually funny.
2. Oscars' Moonlight and La La Land mix-up
The wrong envelope was given to the presenters, who announced the wrong film for Best Picture at the 2017 Oscars. What followed was awkward, painful, and a little unbelievable. The people onstage did their best to manage the mix-up; one of the presenters had to explain what happened, host Jimmy Kimmel tried to make a joke, the La La Land producers graciously congratulated the Moonlight team, and the Moonlight director returned the love.
The lesson here? At some point in your career, something will go wrong and possibly in a (very) public way. There will be a flub in your presentation. You'll send an email to the wrong address. You'll speak mistakenly in an important meeting. We are all human. A little grace and flexibility go a long way in the face of adversity.
3. Senator Jeff Flake to the Senate
Senator Jeff Flake's speech to the Senate announcing he wouldn't be seeking reelection was powerful for both its content and its execution. Experts raved about his use of rhetorical techniques, which fueled the speech's success.
Beyond the literary excellence, however, if you are a beginning speaker this is an important speech to watch. You'll notice Flake is reading the speech, that he even appears a little nervous, and yet the speech is still a great one. Don't let your nerves or the fact that you need to read your speech stop you from delivering a message the world needs to hear.
4. Yeomni Park speaking about North Korea
Full disclosure: This video is actually from 2014, but it went viral this year. Yeomni Park is a defector from North Korea. In 2014, she spoke passionately about what it was like to live in and escape from North Korea. What made this speech so powerful? The use of vivid details. Her story gave many of us our first real picture of what it means to live in North Korea.
5. Jay Silveria at the U.S. Air Force Academy
After racist graffiti was found at the U.S. Air Force Academy's preparatory school earlier this year, superintendent Lieutenant General Jay Silveria had to have a difficult conversation with his cadets. He clearly, on no uncertain terms, said racism would not be tolerated, going so far as to say, "If you can't treat someone with dignity and respect, get out."
The strength of this speech, beyond his stance against racism, is the way in which he addressed a difficult topic head-on. He took a position and delivered a thoughtful message with unwavering power.
6. Tracee Ellis Ross at Glamour Women of the Year
When actress Tracee Ellis Ross spoke at the Glamour Women of the Year Summit, she started with a story about growing up and planning a wedding and contrasted that story with how her life actually turned out, highlighting the expectation she and society placed on her as a woman. Never forget the impact sharing a powerful personal story can have on your audience.
7. Sheryl Sandberg's Virginia Tech commencement speech
Sheryl Sandberg's speech at Virginia Tech's commencement was both motivational and personal as the Facebook COO opened up about the death of her husband. And while showing vulnerability is always a powerful speech strategy, what made this speech a standout was Sandberg's control and poise while telling the most devastating story of her life.
8. John McCain to Senate
John McCain had a message for his co-workers, and it wasn't a pretty one. In so many words, McCain told the Senate how he thought they should all be doing their jobs better. Experts praised McCain's ability to give criticism effectively and with kindness. For leaders tasked with delivering difficult messages to colleagues, this speech is an excellent example of doing it with respect.
9. Pink at the VMAs
Singer Pink was awarded the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at the 2017 Video Music Awards this year. In her brief but incredibly moving acceptance speech, she told a brief story about her daughter that went viral almost immediately. It was a perfect example of how even a brief story can make a speech unforgettable.