Adding gravitas to a presentation or speech
Thoughts on writing a conference talk
Last week Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, gave her first public speech. If you haven’t yet seen it yet, check out the video above.
So how did Kate do in what is likely to be the first of hundreds, if not thousands, of speeches that she will give in her role as royalty?
Kate’s speech was extremely concise and well-structured. It gave the assembled media adequate opportunities to capture soundbites and didn’t seek to use any complicated words or sentence structures, which may have unnerved the future Queen on her first public speaking engagement. If Kate wrote this speech herself then I would be extremely impressed, but more likely it was drafted in conjunction with a royal speechwriter.
So if we can’t judge Kate on her speechwriting skills, how was her delivery?
Kate has clearly been trained in delivering a speech and specifically on making eye contact with her audience. If you watch the video of her speech you will see that she always looks right, left and then down at her notes, being sure to engage the whole room with her gaze. This is a great technique for communicating with all of your audience, however, the way in which Kate looks left, right and then down repeatedly and rhythmically does start to look a little stilted once you notice it. To counteract this, Kate should look to make eye contact with different members of the audience on each side of her, varying between those close to her and those at the back of the room. Doing this will lead to the length of her gaze in each direction varying slightly each time she looks around the room, and make her performance and eye contact seem much more natural.
In future speeches, I’d like to also see more vocal variety from Kate, which will lead to much more believable emotion within her speeches. In her first speech there is very little change of pace, intonation or volume and so although heartfelt, the speech does sound rather emotionless. The only emotion that we do see is after Kate mentions how she wishes that ‘William were here today’ and even that smile is a downwards one – more personal than directed at her audience. To remedy this, Kate should look to smile more whilst speaking to increase her positive intonation and should identify areas in her speech that might benefit from a change of pace or volume, prior to speaking. Such areas might be a rousing conclusion or a slower-paced story of how humbled she felt on her last visit to the centre.
Overall, Kate’s speech was a solid performance in which she successfully delivered a message to a warm audience for the first time. In future I hope that she develops some of the areas mentioned above and brings a much more human element to her speeches – something often cited as lacking in formal speeches from members of the royal family.