The Oscars Best and Worst Presentation Awards

OscarsDelivering an Oscar-worthy performance is one-thing, but what about an Oscar-worthy presentation?

Each year I hand out (not literally) awards for the Oscars Best and Worst  Presentations in a variety of categories, along with some helpful tips for us less famous presenters.  Here are my top awards from this year’s Academy Awards.  See if you agree.

The Oscars’ Best and Worst Presentation Awards from the 2018 Oscars

Best Acceptance Speech (TIE)

Frances McDormand, Best Actress
Jordan Peele, Best Original Script

If there was any doubt Frances McDormand’s speech was going to be standard fare, that was quickly dispelled with “I’ve got a few things to say” opening.  McDormand was passionate and expressive in words, face, and body.  Even so, she was able to channel her big personality and excitement enough to deliver a powerful message of change – along with specific instructions!

While Jordan Peele’s style was certainly more contained than Ms. McDormand’s, he was no less compelling as he expressed gratitude and humility.  An accomplished actor, writer and director by any standards, by sharing a personal story about his struggle writing the script, he became suddenly relatable to millions of people who have ever doubted their abilities.

Find out 7 things you can do to deliver a successful story in your presentation.

Worst Acceptance Speech:  Gary Oldman, Best Actor

Maybe there were others that were worse, but frankly, we’ve come to expect more from an accomplished actor.  A boring speech, mostly read from a script, we saw little of Gary Oldman’s face, let alone the man who can light up a screen with his presence! #Oscarsfail

Presenter Lesson: 

Let your audience see your personality.  While I feel like I know Frances McDormand and Jordan Peele, I have no idea who Gary Oldman is after his speech.  And if you’re going to use notes, see next category.

Worst “How to Address the Elephant in the Room:”
Jimmy Kimmel, Host

In an Oscars year with more elephants than academy members, Jimmy Kimmel made a valiant effort to address two major scandals during his monologue.  The results were mixed.  The first elephant was last year’s Best Picture fiasco.  An anecdote about how he had turned down the PWH accountant’s request to do some comedy last year, inciting the accountants to do comedy on their own, seemed adequate attention for an incident on everyone’s minds.

The second elephant, Jimmy’s attempt to bring some levity to the subject of sexual abuse, did not fare as well.  Describing the Oscar statuette as more appealing to women because he kept “hands to himself” and lacked proper male anatomy came across as light and dismissive for an issue that continues to bring forth more victims of sexual abuse – in Hollywood and other industries.

Best “How to Address the Elephant in the Room:” Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph

After a long dearth of minority Oscar presenters and nominees, it’s great to see the Academy making progress, but it’s certainly no time to rest on laurels.  Tiffany and Maya took on the cause with a delightful mixture of confidence and absurdity with their “are Oscars too black now?”  Their riff on #WhitePeopleWithClipboards allowed everyone to share in a long overdue laugh about a less than funny historical lapse for the Oscars that has finally received some course correction.

Presenter Lesson:

While addressing the elephant in the room is often the best tactic – especially when it is top of mind for your audience, how and when you address it requires thoughtful planning and testing.  While there were not real victims in the Price Waterhouse mix-up one year ago (besides PWC) the extent of the sexual abuse scandal in Hollywood and other industries is still unfolding and the woulds run deep.  When an issue is so heavily loaded, proceed with extreme caution.

Best Use of Presenter Notes:  Sam Rockwell, Best Supporting Actor

After sweeping every awards ceremony, it’s a testament to what nerves can do that Sam Rockwell fekt that he needed to use notes for his speech.  But unlike Gary Oldman, his notes played a minor role as opposed to lead actor.  Mr. Rockwell referred to notes only when necessary to get names right.  Once he got what he needed, he brought his attention back to the audience in a very conversational manner, allowing his passion and excitement to shine through.

Read more about How to Use Presenter Notes effectively here.

Best Out-of-the-Box Opening:  Allison Janney, Best Supporting Actress

99% of acceptance speeches start with some statement of shock or a gushing list of thank you’s.  Allison Janney defied expectations and began with a completely contrary (and tongue-in-cheek) “I did it all by myself.”  She even had the courage to pause and wait for the audience to realize she was kidding before she acknowledged the joke.

Get 5 Out-of-the-Box Opening ideas here.

Best Audience Engagement:  Frances McDormand

One of the most powerful moments of the evening came when Frances McDormand’s asked every female nominee and winner to stand up.  Not only did this get the audience engaged, it provided a clear visual of women’s under-representation in this area.  Ms. McDormand engaged the audience successfully by providing clear instructions, a solid (though unnecessary as it turned out) back-up plan to have Meryl Streep lead the charge, and specific next steps for everyone (take a meeting with these women.)

Presentation lesson:  Engagement is vital to a great presentation today.  Most audiences are passive and you have to work hard to get them to interact.  Like Frances, provide clear instructions.  You probably can’t get Meryl Streep onboard, but enlisting the help of a high level person in your audience to take the lead is a great strategy.

Best Team Presentation: (TIE)

Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph
Lupita Nyong’o and Kumail Nanjiani

Both teams displayed the easy confidence and great timing of presenters who have put in some practice.  While Tiffany, Maya and Kumail are experienced improvisers, Lupita both surprised and delighted at her ability to nimbly play off of Kumail and audience reactions.

Worst Team Presentation:  Salma Hayek, Annabella Sciorra, Ashley Judd         

While I applaud the bravery of these three talented women, their message got lost in the delivery.  Unclear transitions between team members followed by long, awkward pauses with each presenter looking in different directions created a disjointed presentation that felt more like 3 separate presentations that one cohesive message.  Whether they let emotions get the best of them or simply didn’t have a chance to practice together, this presentation didn’t live up to its potential, and that is a shame.

Presentation Lesson:

Preparation gives you confidence and allows your message to land on your audience.  As a member of a team, it’s vital that you practice not just your part, but those transitions between team members as well.  There should never be confusion as to who is going to speak first or any surprises as to what each team member is going to say or when it’s your turn.

See last year’s Oscar Presentation Winners…and losers here!

Photo courtesy of Flickr:  Prayitno / 

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