And The Oscar Goes to … the Art of the Acceptance Speech

A study of 60 years’ worth of Oscar speeches suggests that these winners help set the standard for what people expect in any acceptance speech.

A fine-tuned speech is an art— just ask last night’s winners at the 2013 Academy Awards.

In fact, any award recipient might be able to take a cue from Oscar winners, according to new research examining Oscar acceptance speeches over the last 60 years.

“In a way, we see a part of ourselves on stage at the Oscars,” Rebecca Rolfe, the Georgia Tech University master’s student who conducted the study, said in a release. “While judging speeches each year, we shape the trends and customs society expects and accepts.”

Funded by the Online News Association’s AP-Google Journalism and Technology Scholarship Program, the research sheds light on how these public figures express gratitude—“an historically understudied field,” Rolfe said.

More winners thank Harvey Weinstein than God, for example. Weinstein, who cofounded the production studio Miramax Films, has been thanked 12 times, the most in Oscar history.

Winners also typically thank their lawyers before their families. “[They] tend to start their speeches broadly by thanking the Academy or fellow nominees, then gradually make it more personal,” Rolfe said.

In analyzing 60 years’ worth of speeches from five categories (best actor and actress in a leading role, best actor and actress in a supporting role, and best director), Rolfe also found that most speeches, nearly 80 percent, end with a version of “thank you.”

Every acceptance speech should include gratitude, along with recognition and sincerity, according to Chris Ford, a past president of Toastmasters International. Ford also advises counting to three before starting a speech, beginning by addressing the audience, and making the last line dispensable in case it gets cut.

Fun fact: Only nine Oscar winners have been cut off by the orchestra for speaking too long, according to Rolfe’s research.

While you may not need to thank Harvey Weinstein during your next acceptance speech, it is an opportunity to recognize the people who have helped get you up on stage. Who will you thank?

(Adarsh Upadhyay/Flickr)

Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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