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Why Jared Leto Had the Best Oscar Acceptance Speech

We can learn a lot about public speaking by watching The Oscars. The Public Speaker reviews Jared Leto’s Oscar acceptance speech and explains why it’s a great example of how to accept an award.

By
Lisa B. Marshall
March 7, 2014
Episode #241

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One of my favorite moments from this year’s Oscars was Jared Leto’s acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actor. He congratulated his fellow nominees, graciously paid tribute to AIDS victims, and thanked his mother for his success. It was a wonderful speech and a memorable moment.

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But wait – was that the same Jared Leto who accepted the Best Supporting Actor award at the Golden Globes just a few weeks before? On that night he opened with jokes about his “bubble butt” and having to shave his body to prepare for the role. The critics weren’t impressed. At least one magazine called it one of the worst speeches of the night. What a difference a few weeks makes.

I told you this story because I want to talk about what Jared Leto did right in his Oscar speech. Here are 4 things that made his speech memorable:

Tip #1: Learn from Your Mistakes

Jared Leto made some painful mistakes in his Golden Globes speech. First, he didn’t seem prepared. Second, he made jokes that appeared to mock the group of people his movie was about. Third, he put the focus on himself and his fame. 

When he won the supporting actor category at the SAG awards, he was prepared. He focused on the AIDS epidemic. He congratulated the other nominees, and then he thanked his mom. He said in an interview later that evening that he wrote notes to make sure he properly acknowledged those groups of people.

Fast forward to Oscar night and another big win. After hugging his family and acknowledging host Ellen DeGeneres, he started by honoring his fellow nominees. Then he told a touching story about the strugles his mother faced in raising two kids on her own. After, he paid tribute to those who have been impacted by AIDS. He also briefly mentioned the terrible situations in Ukraine and Venezuela. It was a near-perfect acceptance speech and it showed that he learned from his past mistakes. 

Tip #2: Tell a Story

Perhaps the most effective part of his speech was the story he told.  Stories are the best way to help your audience connect with your message. Which do you think has more impact?

A.    "I want to thank my mother for showing me how to dream."

or

B.    "In 1971. Bossier City, Louisiana. A teenage girl finds out she's pregnant with her second child. She's a high school dropout, a single mom. But against all odds, she manages to make a better life for herself and her children. She teaches them to be creative. To work hard. And reach for the impossible. That girl is my mother and she's here tonight. Mom, I love you thank you for teaching me to dream.”

Stories feel more personal to the listeners. Many will be able to relate or will think of a similar experience from their lives. Stories create a mini-movie in the mind of the listener making it easier to remember and repeat.  

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