A right royal opening

Richard John says great presentations are nothing more than friendly, intimate, powerful conversations.

So,
it’s all over. Not a bad clutch of medals for the Brits, and if the
recession continues we’ll have something to melt down and sell.

Although
not a sports fan, I confess I did enjoy the opening Olympic ceremony,
mainly because the Queen proved that she really is up for a laugh. Note
to all event organisers; if our octogenarian monarch can do that, there
shouldn’t be anything your Chairman isn’t up for.

When I got a
bit fed up of the wall-to-wall coverage, it was time to hit the movie
channel, and, with monarchy in mind, I revisited The King’s Speech.
Knowing how poor King George struggled with public speaking, I realised
there are quite a few lessons to be learned for all reticent public
speakers.

And it’s worth realising that our Royals aren’t the
most confident performers, despite being born for the role; watch how
Prince Charles constantly plays with his cufflinks when speaking; he’d
like to fold his arms as a response to all the criticism he gets, but
decorum won’t allow that.

But he does it and – as he proved at his mother’s Jubilee – the more you practise, the better you get.

It also helps if you can practise in the location where you’ll be performing for real.

In
the film one of the most powerful scenes takes place in Westminster
Abbey, where Lionel Logue rehearses the King in the exact location where
he will address the nation’s leaders. If the real location isn’t
available, put some effort into finding a similar environment.

Our
Royals also know that a good opening gets the audience on your side;
some self-deprecating humour and natural sincerity will get things off
to a good start and allow nerves to settle down.
It’s also worth
noting that Logue’s efforts were unorthodox, especially as all other
attempts at treatment had been unsuccessful. That means taking a few
risks can be well worth the payoff; as we say in the world of training,
“there is no failure, only feedback” (although admittedly Mrs J doesn’t
subscribe to that view when it comes to my attempts at DIY!)

And
it’s also worth accepting any personal weaknesses, and building on them.
In an, admittedly, apocryphal scene in the film, Churchill reveals to
the King that he suffered from being tongue-tied as a child, but learned
to use the approach to make his speeches more impactful.

The King masters the art of pausing, in place of a stammer, which simply builds anticipation for his audience.

Returning
to the present day, think of comedians such as Jonathan Ross and Alan
Carr who have made careers out of ‘distinctive’ speech styles.

And
you might think that singing a song is a bit OTT, but for George VI it
delivered the results. For his time, his presentations became far less
starchy and much more familial. Great presentations are really nothing
more than friendly, intimate, powerful conversations.

Now, do you
think ‘Sir Richard’ has a nice ring to it? Public nominations for
worthy knighthood recipients are now being accepted and most are
probably going to be for ‘Sir Brad’?now there’s another interesting
speech pattern.

– Richard John is an events industry trainer and consultant. Any comments? Email conferencenews@mashmedia.net

Paul Colston

Author

Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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