Speak for Yourself

Claire Duffy's blog about public speaking and communication (in real life). Speak well, do well!

Be careful what you say

Poor Luke Nolen.  Elite jockey rides legendary wonder mare in iconic race and wins. (Just).  77,000 people, including the Queen, are at the track, and half Australia stays up late to watch.  Minutes after passing the post he  has to navigate a scrum of reporters, front a microphone and speak to millions.

Has he prepared something to say? Apparently not. Or maybe he had, but  the shock of the race blew it out of his mind.

So, instead of  boasting, gloating or taking pride in riding Black Caviar to her narrowest victory ever,  the poor bloke analyses and criticizes himself.  “I just thought I could coast” he said.  He called it a ‘brain fade’  said he ‘duly shit’ himself, which is what I’m guessing  every spin doctor and media trainer did when they heard him say that. The UK commentator on Channel 7 said he ‘was being rather hard on himself’ but that’s where the generosity ended. According to The Guardian, as he left the interview the scrum actually pushed him over.

Now that we know Black Caviar had muscle damage and won the race in spite of that,  there’s a different story to tell. But that news came too late. The British press already had their skewers out. “Jockey error” the man with the whiskers tut tutted on camera.  “The blunder from Down Under!”  screamed the headlines. And now we’re getting coverage of the coverage: “Jockey Luke Nolen whipped by British press after poor ride” says the news today. If Australia suffers from Tall Poppy syndrome it’s easy to see where we learned it.

A jockey need not be an orator – but Nolen could have won more praise and less blame if he’d approached the occasion differently. It needed to be positive and ‘up’. Nolen’s mistake was not what he said (reflection has its place), but he said it at the wrong time.

Whether it’s Ascot or a chook raffle, anyone competing for an award needs to be ready with a few words  in case they win. A victory speech should  express someting between pleasure and euphoria. Winners need to be gracious, grateful, and humble. And they need to say thanks.

Here’s Justin Cinque’s summary. Maybe say something a bit closer to this next time Luke?

No horse has done anything like this. All considered, with injury, travel, and her unrelenting racing, it may have been the best win of her career. A champion thoroughbred is rarely defined by the margins they win by. A champion thoroughbred however, should be defined by the races they win, the horses they beat and the circumstances of their victories. By that measure, Black Caviar must be one of the greatest champions of all time.

Rules for accepting an award with grace:

• Keep the speech short
• Express your gratitude to the person/organization giving you the honour
• Speak of the significance of the award
• Praise the competition and other competitors
• Share the credit – acknowledge those who made it possible for you to achieve the award
• Say what the award means to you.
• Tell stories – small personal heart-felt anecdotes to show what receiving this gift/award means to your life.
• Indicate what you will do now.
• Acknowledge the audience who have come to witness the occasion
• Conclude with a final thank you
• Remember – be humble.

If you want to learn from a master, here’s my all time favaourite. Watch Meryl Streep say thank you.


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