Naomi Osaka's Australian Open Speech

Naomi Osaka of Japan won the 2019 Australian Open in dramatic fashion. She beat the Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitová 7-6 (7-2) 5-7 6-4 to become the first woman since 2001 to follow her debut Grand Slam win with another one. Even after squandering three match points to lose the second set, Osaka fought back in the third to claim the title.

Her acceptance speech at the awards ceremony was delightful. When called to the microphone, Osaka began with a timid “Hello” which elicited good-natured laughter from the audience. She then said, “Sorry, public speaking isn’t really my strong side, um, so I … I just hope I can get through this.”

And she did get through it. She was gracious to Kvitova, appreciative toward the fans, grateful to the Australian Open organization and thankful to her team.

Osaka was clearly nervous and it would be easy to point out all the public speaking mistakes that she made. It would also be churlish to do so. Nobody cares that she was nervous or that she had lots of filler words or that she forgot part of her speech. Indeed, when Osaka said, “I read notes before this but I still forgot the rest of what I’m supposed to say,” she endeared herself to the crowd even more.

Naomi Osaka

There is a lesson in Osaka’s speech for public speakers of any level. If your words are sincere and you just be yourself, people will overlook most any public speaking misstep. And even if they don’t, a bad speech will not define you.

Naomi Osaka is only 21. She could be a tennis powerhouse for years to come. She will undoubtedly have other opportunities to give speeches after winning tournaments. I think that her speaking skills, like her tennis skills, will just get better. Let’s see what she says next time.

Photo courtesy of Carine06

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  1. Very true John, a sincere speech will trump a pompous display anytime (did I just say trump).

    I was helping a novice Toastmaster on his 2nd speech one time over coffee and he was nervous and anxious as I mentally noted things I could suggest, but my thoughts along those lines froze as I listened to him reliving his experience of being in an 8 floor building on the 5th floor during a force 9 earthquake in Japan.

    I wasn’t there on the night he presented the speech to the club, but he won best speech of the night.

    Keep up the good work and come out for a paddle on the harbour next time you are in Sydney Australia.

    1. Great story, Chris. Thanks for sharing. And I will take you up on your offer if I ever make it back to Sydney. I have fond memories of visiting many years ago. We stayed with friends in Epping. Our first full day, we went into Sydney and had lunch at the Sydney Cove Oyster Bar. I just remember sitting in that glorious sunshine eating prawns and drinking an ice cold Boag’s Beer with the Harbour Bridge on one side and the Opera House on the other. A stunning location. I need to arrange a speaking tour in Australia!

  2. As always John; superb, appropriate, and relevant article. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

    QUOTE There is a lesson for novice speakers in Osaka’s speech. If your words are sincere and you just be yourself, people will overlook most any public speaking misstep. And even if they don’t, a bad speech will not define you. UNQUOTE
    a similar argument is equally valid at the other end of the novice-expert speaker spectrum.
    Patti Smith knew, loved, and sang the lyrics of Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” for decades … and yet, at the Bob Dylan / Literature Nobel Prize Ceremony, she stumbled / forgot them.

    What followed was “sincere words”, “she stayed herself”, and if anything the event further endeared her to the world. To some extent, I believe it even redefined her more favorably.

    Sincerity almost always trumps sensationalism and expertise.

    When I watched Patti Smith’s performance, I remember thinking,
    “This will happen to me some day too. I will inevitably find myself in a situation where unfamiliarity, uncertainly, and anxiety will prevail over planning, practice and expertise. It is simply going to happen some day. I will simply have to handle the inevitable drama/trauma when the time comes.”

    Looking forward to your future articles.

    You/your readers may enjoy, and find instructive, Patti Smith’s recall of the incident. Superb article.

    1. Great comment, Rashid.

      I remember watching Smith’s performance and forgetting the lyrics and I had the same feeling. (As an aside, I still do not understand why Dylan himself did not go to get the award but that is another conversation.)

      And you are right. This is a lesson for speakers of any level, not just novices. Accordingly, I have changed the operative sentence to read as follows: “There is a lesson in Osaka’s speech for public speakers of any level.”
      Thanks for pointing out my oversight, Rashid. I always appreciate your comments.

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John delivered a keynote address about the importance of public speaking to 80 senior members of Gore’s Medical Device Europe team at an important sales event. He was informative, engaging and inspirational. Everyone was motivated to improve their public speaking skills. Following his keynote, John has led public speaking workshops for Gore in Barcelona and Munich. He is an outstanding speaker who thinks carefully about the needs of his audience well before he steps on stage.

Karsta Goetze

TA Leader, Gore and Associates

I first got in touch with John while preparing to speak at TED Global about my work on ProtonMail. John helped me to sharpen the presentation and get on point faster, making the talk more focused and impactful. My speech was very well received, has since reached almost 1.8 million people and was successful in explaining a complex subject (email encryption) to a general audience.

Andy Yen

CEO, Proton Technologies

John gave the opening keynote on the second day of our unit’s recent offsite in Geneva, addressing an audience of 100+ attendees with a wealth of tips and techniques to deliver powerful, memorable presentations. I applied some of these techniques the very next week in an internal presentation, and I’ve been asked to give that presentation again to senior management, which has NEVER happened before. John is one of the greatest speakers I know and I can recommend his services without reservation.

David Lindelöf

Senior Data Scientist, Expedia Group

After a morning of team building activities using improvisation as the conduit, John came on stage to close the staff event which was organised in Chamonix, France. His energy and presence were immediately felt by all the members of staff. The work put into the preparation of his speech was evident and by sharing some his own stories, he was able to conduct a closing inspirational speech which was relevant, powerful and impactful for all at IRU. The whole team left feeling engaged and motivated to tackle the 2019 objectives ahead. Thank you, John.

Umberto de Pretto

Secretary General, World Road Transport Organization

I was expecting a few speaking tips and tricks and a few fun exercises, but you went above and beyond – and sideways. You taught me to stand tall. You taught me to anchor myself. You taught me to breathe. You taught me to open up. You taught me to look people in the eye. You taught me to tell the truth. You taught me to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. I got more than I bargained for in the best possible way.

Thuy Khoc-Bilon

World Cancer Day Campaign Manager, Union for International Cancer Control

John gave a brilliant presentation on public speaking during the UN EMERGE programme in Geneva (a two days workshop on leadership development for a group of female staff members working in the UN organizations in Geneva). His talk was inspirational and practical, thanks to the many techniques and tips he shared with the audience. His teaching can dramatically change our public speaking performance and enable us as presenters to have a real and powerful impact. Thank you, John, for your great contribution!

Sara Canna

HR Specialist, World Health Organization

John is a genuine communication innovator. His seminars on gamification of public speaking learning and his interactive Rhetoric game at our conference set the tone for change and improvement in our organisation. The quality of his input, the impact he made with his audience and his effortlessly engaging style made it easy to get on board with his core messages and won over some delegates who were extremely skeptical as to the efficacy of games for learning. I simply cannot recommend him highly enough.

Thomas Scott

National Education Director, Association of Speakers Clubs UK

John joined our Global Sales Meeting in Segovia, Spain and we all participated in his "Improv(e) your Work!" session. I say “all” because it really was all interactive, participatory, learning and enjoyable. The session surprised everybody and was a fresh-air activity that brought a lot of self-reflection and insights to improve trust and confidence in each other inside our team. It´s all about communication and a good manner of speaking!"

Jon Lopez

General Manager Europe, Hayward Industries

Thank you very much for the excellent presentation skills session. The feedback I received was very positive. Everyone enjoyed the good mix of listening to your speech, co-developing a concrete take-away and the personal learning experience. We all feel more devoted to the task ahead, more able to succeed and an elevated team spirit. Delivering this in a short time, both in session and in preparation, is outstanding!

Henning Dehler

CFO European Dairy Supply Chain & Operations, Danone

Thanks to John’s excellent workshop, I have learned many important tips and techniques to become an effective public speaker. John is a fantastic speaker and teacher, with extensive knowledge of the field. His workshop was a great experience and has proven extremely useful for me in my professional and personal life.

Eric Thuillard

Senior Sales Manager, Sunrise Communications

John’s presentation skills training was a terrific investment of my time. I increased my skills in this important area and feel more comfortable when speaking to an audience. John provided the right mix between theory and practice.

Diego Brait

Director of the Jura Region, BKW Energie AG

Be BOLD. Those two words got stuck in my head and in the heads of all those ADP leaders and associates that had the privilege to see John on stage. He was our keynote speaker at our annual convention in Barcelona, and his message still remains! John puts his heart in every word. Few speakers are so credible, humble and yet super strong with large audiences!

Guadalupe Garcia

Senior Director and Talent Partner, ADP International