A Lesson in Public Speaking: 2018 Golden Globes Edition

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Oprah’s Cecil B. DeMille Award Acceptance Speech

For many reasons, the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards was among the most memorable and influential to date. During Sunday evening’s Golden Globes, Oprah Winfrey dominated the stage as she accepted the Cecil B. DeMille Award, essentially writing the book on public speaking. A communicator’s dream.

And, while there are many facets of this event that can speak to the influence of marketing, social media and public relations on a global scale, it was “Lady O’s” speech that left me asking, what can we learn from Oprah to help become better public speakers ourselves?

Here are my key lessons learned from Oprah’s 2018 Cecil B. DeMille Award acceptance speech:

  • Be a Storyteller. While we may never stand on a stage to accept a prestigious lifetime achievement award (or maybe we will), incorporating a personal story into any speech or presentation will engage your audience and leave them inspired and motivated. Winfrey used great detail to describe her unique and lasting connection with fellow Cecil B. DeMille Award recipient, Sidney Poitier. By sharing a heartfelt personal story, she captivated the crowd. As humans, we’re hardwired to love and connect with stories.


  • Consider Your Audience. Make your speech about your audience, not about yourself. Take time to learn about your audience and what they need from you, the communicator. Oprah spoke to a room filled with celebrities, but also took into consideration the millions of at-home viewers and everyday citizens who would hear her message and take action. Once you understand what your audience needs, you can tailor your speech to those specific needs.  


  • Master Your Tone of Voice. I get it. Fear of public speaking is among most adults’ greatest phobias. However, audiences instantly connect with messages that sound interesting and genuine. While we may think we’re entertaining the audience, being aware of your intonation (the rise and fall of your voice) and inflection (the emphasis you place on words) is crucial. As Oprah spoke to raise awareness of sexual harassment and assault, she changed the tone of her voice to emphasize those points that were most important, leaving a lasting impression on viewers.


Oprah Winfrey is among the world’s most highly regarded and skilled communicators. While we may not be presenting on topics as riveting or stages as large, we can all learn from and apply her techniques to our speeches and presentations in everyday life – I know I will.

Are you interested in learning more about how you can improve your public speaking and give high-quality, engaging and effective presentations? Chartwell Agency offers a number of training sessions for individuals or groups.

-RoseAnn Haedt, Communications Strategist 

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