The movie The King’s Speech was about King George VI’s inability to speak publicly and has fostered considerable and much needed attention on stuttering and stammering. But The King’s Speech was also about the King’s actual speech – a significant 3-minute radio address to the entire British Empire at the start of WWII. A huge feat for a newly ascended King with debilitating stutter.
While the movie touched me on so many levels (so worthy of Best Picture and Best Actor for Colin Firth for his amazing turn as the King), it was an entertaining reminder of the importance of learning how to speak in public and deliver words significantly.
While none of us are Kings and few of us will ever have to worry about rallying a nation, we all have to public speak at many points in our lives. For those involved in business, the community and politics, the need to publicly speak happens often. Yet despite this reality, I am repeatedly amazed how many well-known, seasoned, “they should be better” business, community and political leaders are horrific public speakers.
Sadly, but haven’t we all endured speakers who:
- Forget about eye contact, their speaking notes serving as their audience, rather than the crowd before them;
- Talk lightening fast or, perhaps worse, in a trance-like monotone;
- Forget they have arms and hands so there is nary a gesture;
- Don’t even think about inserting a laugh – that would be high treason;
- Masquerade as a “public speaker”, rather than just being themselves;
- Would rather take a bite out of the podium than deliver an actual sound bite;
- Or are, the curse of public speaking in Alberta, cowboy-hatted leaders talking on poorly lit stages so you are left to wonder if they really do have eyes, or if the hat is just a cover so we don’t see how nervous they really are.
And while we all can’t have a Lionel Logue – the King’s maverick speech pathologist – to help make us better, don’t we owe it to our own royal subjects (i.e., your audience, your constituents, your employees, your colleagues, etc.) to learn to speak a little better?
As Logue told the King (in so many words), it all comes down to a few simple rules:
Simply be yourself.
Remember your audience wants you to succeed.
Don’t try to be perfect, just aim to do well.
Make it personal.
And above all else, practice, practice and practice again.