"And the winner is... " not the audience.
I scream and throw things at my TV when I hear you say, "I am shocked. I didn't prepare remarks." My poor dog Austin runs for cover (no, he's not at risk or anything -- it's just that he doesn't like "loud noises.")
If there are even five people in line at Starbucks I rehearse my order, and you can't come up with a few good things to say for winning Best Actor?
Were you unaware that you were nominated?
Perhaps you theorize that stammering is humanizing? Hardly -- it's painful.
Oh, I get it, you're superstitious -- preparing will somehow jinx your chance of victory. Fine, prepare your loser remarks for the countless interviews you will give throughout the night.
Unless you're up against Daniel Day Lewis, there is no excuse for being unprepared; one-in-five is a 20 percent chance -- that warrants at least an outline and some rehearsal.
You're not the only one to blame, some of that falls on your publicist. Ensuring that E! doesn't probe into your most recent heartache is important, especially given how "fresh" it all is, but getting you ready for your big moment is also part of their job -- certainly more critical than nabbing extra gift bags.
In addition to my own public speaking, I work with people like you, preparing them for these occasions. In the interest of sparing Austin unwarranted anguish, I offer a few pointers.
When it's time to announce the winner for your category, breathe.
Take a sip of cold water; it is best to avoid that fourth shot of Jameson.
Listen to your inner lifeguard: Walk, don't run. Face planting thanks to your Stella McCartney is awful, but so is breathlessness -- a condition impossible to overcome in your sliver of time.
As you walk to the stage, breathe --- breathe -- take one more deep breath as you approach the podium.
Head up, smile, hold it, just a little longer -- that's right -- you're off to a perfect start.
Thanking everyone is futile, don't even attempt it; rattling off names is the most insincere form of flattery anyway.
What we want more than anything is to know that this award means something to you -- regardless of how many you have won or how long you have been "at it."
Tell us why you are honored, touched, humbled, grateful, flattered.
It's enough to say the others in the category are great professionals -- real talents; no need to mention each of them personally.
Go for it, talk about yourself -- this is your moment -- own it -- you deserve it.
If you are compelled to thank people, avoid saving "the best for last"; you will most certainly forget those most important to you if you do.
A blanket thank you to your team, the cast, the crew and alike is totally acceptable; you are a class act, you will send them all a nice gift with a handwritten note anyway (let me know if you need my address by the way).
Your audience does expect you to show appreciation to your family -- start with them -- you don't want the guilt of forgetting them. Ask Ben.
Showing gratitude to the fans for spending their hard-earned money to support your work is also a nice touch.
Now, for the big finish: time to leave people with something to remember.
Inspire, impart, encourage, challenge...
As long as you avoid this award show favorite: I'm-running-out-of-breath-and-the-music-is-getting-louder-so-I-will-just-say-thank-you-over-and-over-while-slouched-over-and-frantically-pulling-away-from-the-microphone.
If you haven't already, check out Ashton Kutcher's speech at last year's Teen Choice Awards. Sure, it's a different format, he had more time than you will, but at least he went up to the mic with a speech -- a purpose.
I worked with enough of you to know that you are human and that even your nerves can get the best of you -- that's expected. But it is all the more reason to prepare.
If "winging it" is really your attempt to show humility, please know that pulling some notes out of your bra or coat pocket can accomplish the same thing without sending me to the vet to get more Xanax for Austin.