Was that okay Oprah?

Whether you love or loathe her, there’s no denying Oprah Winfrey is a consummate storyteller.

To look around the Brisbane Entertainment Centre and see thousands of excited eyes trained on one woman as she paced the staged for two hours (albeit in a very striking spangly dress) was proof positive we love a good yarn, told well. Certainly, it helps if you can name drop and, to the delight of her devoted fans, Oprah did just that.

From Mandela to Beyonce, Spielberg to Bush and Obama; she weaved tales of her often glamorous life and always circled the story back to a relevant and meaningful point.

Oprah also revealed the question most often asked, during 25 years as a talk show titan, by her celebrity guests: “Was that okay?”

We regularly get the same question from people at our media and presentation training sessions. But getting your message across and being ‘okay’ at speaking in public is not a matter of luck. It’s about understanding the intention from the outset (as our new BFF Oprah would say). For example, if you’re a financial expert being interviewed by Channel Nine’s A Current Affair for a story about avoiding Christmas credit card debt, then the expectation is clear. You need to have some great, financially savvy tips and deliver them in an entertaining, engaging way. Do that and you’ll definitely be ‘okay’.

Without bands or backup singers, without pyrotechnics or flashing wristbands, Oprah managed to keep the interest and attention of her audience because she was herself. Sure she’s had a lot of practice in front of mega crowds but, right from her early days, she figured out the importance of not creating a persona.

The casual Oprah with a handful of guests at her VIP sound check (been there, done that, got the photo) was just the same as seeing the Queen of Daytime TV writ large on stage, bringing the magic to tens of thousands of fans. You can’t fake real. Part evangelist, part motivational speaker, Oprah stayed true to her intention by taking the audience on a tour of her extraordinary life and what she’s learned along the way. One thing we know for sure is, as far as her Brisbane fans were concerned, that was more than ‘okay’.

- Melissa Watter

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