I watch the Oscars each year and last evening was fortunate enough to do so in the company of others in the media production / television business. They, like me, love to give “live commentary” on everything from stage presentation, to acceptance speeches, and yes even wardrobe choices, as it’s happening. We agreed on many highs (Chris Rock’s opening monologue, Lady Gaga’s performance) and lows (Stacey Dash cameo,  Angela Bassett “Black History Month”), but were in most violent agreement about a segment without any star power at all.

The culprit was Cheryl Boone Isaacs, President of the  Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, when she gave the Academy’s  customary annual two minute address at each Academy Awards ceremony.  This year, the subject matter actually mattered…the need for greater racial diversity among all of Hollywood, both in front of and behind the camera. It was an opportunity for a stirring address from the highest authority of the governing body of the evening’s event. Sadly, given the grandeur of the event,  audience size and caliber, it came off  somber, uninspired, flat, and in box office parlance, it bombed (Click here to watch). This falls as much on Ms. Isaacs’ speech writer and speech coaches, as on Ms. Isaacs herself, as it violated several  basics of effective message delivery.

1. Visual aids. None. You’d think as the governing body of all that is motion picture entertainment, the powers that be for AMPAS would want to give Ms.  Isaacs some powerful impact to this important subject. Some photos perhaps of brave pioneers bridging the racial divide, even dare I say…a graphic to reinforce the small % of racial diversity say, from 1996 – 2016. SOMETHING more than another speaker in an evening gown standing at a microphone. Remember, people retain far more of what they see, than what they hear.

2. Analogies/Metaphors: She could have been remembered for that “one line” – should anyone have taken the effort to create it for her. President Reagan (former professional actor) was masterful at this. Something like, “Today, if you put all the employees and actors in a single line, it would stretch from Hollywood to NYC. And the people of color would only cover roughly 100 miles…”

3. Movement, eye contact, I’m sure in the name of moving the program along, the procedure of “walk out, stand at the mic, give your talk” are the core instructions of the evening. But, a) THIS IS HER SHOW, and b) since Ms. Boone Isaacs was promoting and encouraging her audience to take action – remember her closing line?:  “It’s not enough to listen and agree. We must take action” (See my related post from Feb 2, 2015, “Persuade, Don’t Just Convince”) – she could have  helped that connection to her audience with some stage movement, eye contact, and some hand gestures to highlight the important points. A sincere smile at the right time would have not only helped her make the audience feel they’re in this together, but would have provided a good counterpoint to more somber, non-smile points.

4. Lose the teleprompter. At the very least, memorize the speech. It’s only 2 minutes and you’re the highest authority in your world at that moment, and you’ve had at least 2 months to prepare. Not only that, if racial diversity is so critical to the industry and the Academy, you shouldn’t need a teleprompter to guide you. That’s how you convey conviction, passion and credibility. And logistically, if Chris Rock can walk around and be amplified, so can you.

There is more to effective delivery than the 4 points above, but oh how these could have made an important difference to her segment. Hopefully, we’ll see more creative and compelling messaging about this critical topic from AMPAS in the months to come.