While researching my topic, I stumbled upon one of today’s best-known women – Oprah Winfrey –and her 2013 Harvard graduation speech. I’m sure many people can offer an opinion on Oprah’s success. But if you can’t, the “whys” are all wrapped up and showcased in this speech. It’s too long for sure, but the speech is brimming with examples of humor, pathos, connectivity and caring about humanity—and in this particular presentation, the Harvard graduates and the challenges life has in store for them.
Oprah delivered and connected with a very personal message learned from her own painful experience: the initial failure of her television network, OWN. She began her speech with infectious, laugh-out-loud humor and then expertly set up her message and gave compelling reasons why the audience should listen.
In addition, the takeaway was memorable and offered universal advice for everyone: embrace your mistakes, mourn if you need to, learn from it, and then move on! Oprah is the complete package; funny, personal, caring, and lighthearted, she’s all the while skillfully using self-deprecating humor to create a rapport with her audience.
Her speech connected because Oprah was not afraid to share her embarrassing business weaknesses and lessons learned from experiencing failure. After almost rejecting the invitation to be the commencement speaker, she reconsidered and realized she had a powerful life lesson to share with the graduates; that is, “You will fail, but it isn’t life-ending!”
If you’re wondering how you can learn from Oprah, here are some tips for your next speech.
- First determine how you’re going to connect with the audience
- For a
genuine connection, be candid and share your own experiences
- Tell personal stories that will enhance your message
out a beginning, middle and end to the presentation
internal summary to help the audience stay with your message
6. Use self-deprecating humor
7. Give the audience actionable tips to write down and take away
- Practice, Practice, Practice, paying special attention to the beginning and end
and watch speeches and presentations on YouTube
10. Get feedback and coaching from other professionals
And if you have additional tips for connecting with an audience, I would love to hear from you!