Kevin Spacey is formidable actor who has taken quite brilliant risks to create incredibly memorable characters on stage and screen. Last week he was the first actor to deliver the showpiece MacTaggart lecture at the annual TV festival in Edinburgh.
Mr Spacey used the speech to call on the TV industry to be innovative and work harder in supporting new talent. He implored programme-makers to "keep the flame of this revolutionary programming alive by continuing to seek out new talent, nurture it, encourage it, challenge it, give it (a) home and the kind of autonomy that the past and present - of our three Golden Ages of television - has proved it deserves".
There has been much written about the content of the speech, which was dynamic and well crafted, but very little has been said about how he delivered it. For us here at Edison Red it was a masterclass in delivery, disclosure, structure, story and above all, confidence. This really was one of the best speeches that we have come across for a long time - not least because he was fixed behind a lectern for the duration!
Kevin Spacey is of course an actor, and many of you reading this blog may well be thinking that he should be good at presenting - after all it's his profession. However it's quite easy to recall many award ceremonies where actors have really missed the mark with either their hosting or acceptance speeches. We believe it's a misconception that actors can just present well instinctively.
Although most of us don't know how confident Mr Spacey is as a human being, he certainly seems it on stage. We believe that's one of the first keys of presentation - be confident and, if you don't feel it, mimic it. We all know what it feels like to be confident, because we've all experienced moments in our lives where we have been. Recreate those feelings and your body follows. Or flip it - mimic what a confident body does and your mind will soon follow.
Mr Spacey walks onto that Scottish stage with ease and grace. He looks out to the audience, waits for the applause to absolutely stop, pauses and says "Good evening". He seems completely in control. We recommend you really 'see' and emotionally connect with your audience before uttering a single word.
His delivery continues with hand gestures that fully connect with his thoughts and he also makes the audience laugh early on. He then discloses details about his early life as an actor and tells us stories of his mentor and great friend Jack Lemmon. Stories bind and connect us, but in the context of your presentation they must have meaning and relevance to your message. Jack Lemmon's advice to a young Spacey now becomes advice to a 21st century commissioning editor or a young scriptwriter.
An interesting moment for exploring what makes a great speaker happens around ten minutes in. Spacey makes an impassioned case for letting the creatives do their job and, when he finishes, there is a faint ripple of applause - he clearly was anticipating more from the audience. Yet with no sign of unease or panic he simply pauses and says "You can applaud" - and they really do. It's another example of seizing a moment with confidence. He is now playing with them.
His speech ends on a quote from Orson Welles : "I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts. But I just can't stop eating peanuts."
The audience, with no encouragement, applaud and stand for a truly well deserved ovation.
Presentation really doesn't get much better than this.
Image credit: Flickr