Public Speaking 101: Lessons From a 9-Year-Old


In the vast sea known as award season it would be easy for a vessel like the Critics' Choice Awards to get lost. But not this year, my friends. This past weekend the show was stolen by 9-year-old actor Jacob Tremblay who won the award for Best Young Actor for his work in the indie film, Room. Full admission: I hadn't really even heard of the movie. But the speech he delivered makes me want to beeline for the theater right now, because it was an address that would make even the best orators blush. And while a great deal of his... "adorable-osity" is derived from the fact that his maturity is well beyond his nine-year-old frame, there is actually a lot that we can learn from his speech. Here are four-and-a-half lessons about public speaking from a young man half our size:

1. Be gracious. Tremblay was sure to thank the director, his parents and even gave a shout to his fellow actors in the category. Impressive coming from a kid, but it's just as appreciated in the business world as well. If you are a guest speaker at an event, be sure to thank the event organizers that brought you in. Theirs is often a thankless job, as most folks think events just magically appear. They don't. And a little love their way is always appreciated.

2. Be genuine. The first thing Tremblay said when he stepped up onto his apple box to deliver the speech: "This is so cool!" His self-awareness demonstrates that as humans we are wired to be genuine, but somewhere along the way we lose that... I blame middle school. Be in the moment and connected when you deliver a speech. Don't worry about your "ums" and "ahs" and simply be the best genuine version of you that you can be.

3. Be specific. The highlight of his address was announcing where he would put the award: "Right next to my Millennium Falcon!" This is such a small detail but it's specificity transports us right into his house. Great storytellers make small details come alive. And you can, too! Though, as a warning, there shouldn't be so many details that we lose our minds listening to you, but one or two specific descriptions can bring the audience along for the ride.

4. Be short. I usually can't stand award shows because the speeches are a laundry list of agents, producers and valet's that I don't know. I'm sure they appreciate their names being said on television, but nobody else really gives a rat's malarkey. So when in doubt, be short and get to the point.

And four-and-a-half: When it goes wrong, go with it. Even with the help of the apple box, Tremblay was still too short for the mic. Award presenter Bradley James was quick on the spot to hold the microphone for him and after a quick chuckle, Tremblay went on to absolutely kill it. Kudos, kid!

Check out the video here.

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