Oprah’s Golden Globe Speech

January 11, 2018

The Power Of Effective Communication – What We Can Learn From Oprah’s 2018 Golden Globes Speech.

Oprah Winfrey is undoubtedly one of the most effective communicators in the world today. With her extensive experience as a talk show host, actress and television personality, Oprah has had the benefit of many years (and opportunities) to perfect her craft. We can learn valuable tools and a great deal of information about effective communication by watching Oprah speak at the 2018 Golden Globe awards.

Golden GlobeOprah took to the stage to accept the prestigious Cecil B. Demille award, an award presented annually for “outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment”. The award has been granted since 1952 and each yearly recipient is selected for a lifetime of achievement by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (an organization made up of journalists and photographers who report US entertainment news to the rest of the globe). Oprah Winfrey is the latest award recipient and the first black woman to receive the honour. Her win comes at a bittersweet time in Hollywood, at the end of a difficult but illuminating year that exposed many injustices and high-profile scandals. In her acceptance speech, she focused on the oppression and inequality of our past as well as the future we are building where these injustices will no longer be tolerated. Oprah used many of the best known public speaking techniques to create effect and leave a lasting impression on her audience.

Key Techniques Used By Oprah At The 2018 Golden Globe Awards:

  • Volume and Varying Tone of Voice
  • Pauses and Pacing
  • Contrasting Language
  • Invoking Visual Imagery
  • Storytelling and Personal Anecdotes
  • Use of Emotion and a Powerful Catchphrase

Volume and Varying Tone of Voice

Speaking volume and tone of voice can expertly boost audience engagement if used correctly. During her speech Oprah used both speaking volume and her tone of voice to communicate important messages and draw her audience in to listen to her closely. Throughout her speech Oprah used volume and tone as a means of punctuation, and during the final moments of her speech she raised the volume of her voice to enhance her final call to action.  

Oprah Winfrey Golden Globe Speech

Pauses and Pacing

The best speakers know that a well-placed pause and the right pacing can make a big difference. Varying pace is a great technique for placing emphasis on important points and highlighting crucial information. During Oprah’s speech she used pacing to drive home messages about racial equality, sexual assault, class equality, corruption and injustice. After commenting that she is the first black woman to receive the honorary Golden Globe, Oprah paused to let her audience digest that fact, to great effect.   

Contrasting Language

When used effectively, language can paint memorable contrasts into the minds of the audience. During Oprah’s Golden Globe speech she chose to open by sharing a personal story about the day that she watched the 1964 Oscars when Sidney Poitier became the first black man to receive the award for Best Actor. Oprah vividly described how she felt watching Sidney taking the stage to receive his award by using memorable contrasting language techniques; “…his tie was white, and of course his skin was black.” Oprah later contrasted hope for “a brighter morning” with our “darkest nights” in her final summation.

Invoking Visual Imagery

The use of visual imagery is a very powerful technique and in Oprah’s anecdotal story, she described herself as a young black girl sitting “on the linoleum floor” of her childhood home in Milwaukee. She further described her experience as watching “from the cheap seats” and recalled her hard-working mother arriving home after a day of “cleaning other people’s houses”. Invoking an incredibly powerful visual from the memory of the now internationally-renowned public figure. The image of her once unknown younger self-watching history unfold from the cold, hard, linoleum floor on the television that would one day serve as the platform of her own mission for change is incredibly impactful. To cement her message Oprah subsequently tied back to this theme by noting that there are girls today, just like her, watching her receive an honour as momentous as that Best Actor Oscar was in 1964, destined for inspired futures of their own.

Storytelling and Personal Anecdotes

Oprah’s Golden Globe speech began with an anecdotal story about her own personal experience, connecting Sidney Poitier’s victory at the Oscars to her own experience. Next she recounted the traumatic injustice of the rape of Recy Taylor and connected the event to the significant impact it would later have on civil rights activist Rosa Parks. All of these stories are interwoven and relate to a thread connecting her speech together, emphasizing a history of racial and gender inequality central to her overarching message. Storytelling can connect the themes in a speech to create a cohesive message.

Use of Emotion and a Powerful Catchphrase

“Their time is up.” By showing her emotions and using four simple words Oprah was able to underline the underlying message of her speech. Oprah’s powerful message against oppression, injustice and the abuse of power is simple, easy to remember and very effective. Emphasizing (and repeating) the key message of her speech by delivering just four words is a technique that truly resonated with her audience as they rose to their feet and began to applaud. A great motivator knows that a strong, simple, memorable refrain can be a very powerful emotional tool.  

During our 40+ years of working with top motivators and speakers, we have curated great speakers who use the incredible techniques that made Oprah Winfrey’s speech so special. Our speakers engage audiences and leave a lasting impact that will resonate and inspire your guests. Make sure that your next event is impactful and meaningful by hiring a speaker who knows how to use these effective communication tools.