In every awards show, there is the moment people talk about. An outrageous moment, the announcement of the wrong winner, and in the case of the 2018 Golden Globes, Oprah Winfrey's acceptance speech stole the show.
While her message was powerful and her presence even more so, there was another factor that made Oprah's speech the moment everyone was talking about. A skilled presenter, (Oprah was a champion competitor on her high school speech and debate team), Oprah applied one of the most effective speaking strategies there is: storytelling.
The good news, this is a technique anyone can use. Whether your next presentation is simply a recap at your next team meeting or announcing your plans to run for President, storytelling will make your message the thing everyone is talking about.
Here is the breakdown for how Oprah masterfully used storytelling in her Cecil B. DeMille Award acceptance speech and how you can too.
1. Launch immediately into a story.
The first few words out of your mouth when delivering a speech are the most important. Starting immediately with a story is the bold and confident move that set Oprah up for success with her first two words.
When Oprah took the stage she didn't waste any time on pleasantries or fluff. She immediately launched into the story with the words, "In 1964..." Do not underestimate the importance of this decision. By starting with an inspiring, endearing story Oprah framed the entire rest of her message with an inspirational tone.
Additionally, by starting abruptly with the date, Oprah signaled to the audience she was about to tell a story; this wasn't going to be your typical acceptance speech. With those two words she seized the audience's attention.
2. Use precise details.
From the mention of the linoleum floor to the white tie the award recipient was wearing Oprah expertly guided our imaginations such that we were all but picturing ourselves sitting in the room next to her.
When you only have a few minutes to deliver an important presentation, it is tempting to cut the details in the interest of time. This is a huge storytelling mistake. Your stories, and therefore your speeches, will be more engaging and effective if you keep the details in.
3. Use a story to support your theme or thesis.
Oprah spent many of the 9 minutes she had talking about changing the culture that allows the gross mistreatment of women. This message was intensified because she told the story of one little girl (herself) who had dreams for what was possible.
The first step to creating a great speech is to clearly define your message, thesis or objective. Once you thesis is clear, find a related story that can bring that message to life.
4. Tell more than one story.
Depending on how much time you have to deliver your speech, include more than one story. Always use a story to open the presentation, but if you are scheduled to speak for more than seven minutes, choose the next most important point in your presentation and tell another story to second story. This not only adds context to your secondary point, but also reengages any listeners whose attention has strayed since the previous story.
Five minutes and 20 seconds into her speech, after several minutes of thank yous and powerful oratory, Oprah drew the audience back in by telling the story of Recy Taylor. Once again, the story harnessed the collective imaginations of those listening and became the second most memorable moment of the speech.
5. End the presentation with the opening story.
Much like riding a rollercoaster; after taking the audience on an incredible ride with her words, Oprah brought us full circle right back to where we started -- thinking about a little girl. Ending the presentation with a nod to the opening story is an expert speaking move that creates an immense sense of satisfaction and delight for the listeners.
And while there can only ever be one Oprah, at least now you can use her storytelling skill to become a better orator yourself.