Postcards

How the power players do it - by Fortune senior editor at large Patricia Sellers

Communication lessons in Golden Globe speeches

January 13, 2014: 3:48 PM ET

From Jacqueline Bisset to Bono to Jennifer Lawrence, the Golden Globe winners delivered flubs, flaws and performances that business executives can learn from.

Guest Post by Mary Civiello

FORTUNE -- The Golden Globe Awards showed us that co-hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are not just one-hit wonders, that 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle are best bets for Oscars, and that too many star performers cannot, for the life of them, ad-lib on stage.

What we saw on Sunday night was not just highly entertaining and thoroughly Tweetable; it was packed with performance lessons for everyone in business. Here are three:

1. Always prepare. Jacqueline Bisset, whom I've admired for her beauty and talent, was downright disoriented in her acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress. The 69-year-old British actress showed us how awful it can be when you fail to prepare. No excuses, even if you think your chances of reaching the stage are remote. Here's how this translates to business: Don't assume you'll have no role to play in an upcoming meeting. Be ready to be called on. Every meeting, including social events, merits some degree of prep work. Back to Bisset, who won her Globe for her performance in the BBC's Dancing on the Edge: Maybe she decided to have a drink. While they poured, she should have had scrawled a few lines to say on stage, then smiled her radiant smile and all would have been good. That works for you too.

2. Recognize your spotlight. Jennifer Lawrence also seemed surprised to win the Best Supporting Actress award in the film category, for American Hustle. But unlike Bisset, she pulled herself together. The 23-year-old Lawrence graciously accepted her award, and so did Elisabeth Moss. As Moss was speaking, the cameras moved to two women she beat in her Best Actress category: Helen Mirren, who appeared sanguine, and then Jessica Lange, who looked sour. Lange made me think of corporate presenters who look uninterested as a team partner speaks. They're either bored and/or assume that no one is looking at them. Better to model Ms. Mirren. You are always on stage.

3. Make hay while the sun shines. Back in Kansas City, my hometown, that's the way they told us to make the most of the spotlight. I don't understand why more actors don't follow this advice. Every year at award shows, stars get up,¬†one after another, and struggle to remember everyone who has had something to do with bringing them into the world and making them famous--while few in the audience know or care about the people they mention. These "winners" can't win. They inevitably forget someone important. They also miss opportunity. Better to do as Bono did: He and his band, U2, won a Globe for Ordinary Love, the song they wrote for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. In his speech, Bono worked on persuading people to want to see the movie.¬†Matthew McConaughey also scored, accepting the Best Actor in a Drama award for Dallas Buyers Club. Here's the corporate case: Too many business presenters waste time showing org charts—a sure snooze that typically comes at the start of a presentation when capturing attention is most critical. I say, park that unless it's sure to make me want to buy what you're selling.

Do all this and then take a bow!

Mary Civiello is an executive communications coach. She works with leaders at companies and not-for-profits including Morgan Stanley (MS), Merck (MRK), American Express (AXP), AIG (AIG) and MetLife (MET).

Correction: This post originally said that the cameras focused on Jessica Lange and Helen Mirren as Jennifer Lawrence accepted her award. That was incorrect.

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