Presentation Lessons from the King’s Speech

Monday, February 28th, 2011 8 comments

kings-speechThe King’s Speech has won a multitude of awards and received critical acclaim worldwide for its powerful account of the true story of King George VI’s struggle with public speaking.

So what lessons can presenters and public speakers take from the film?

  1. Persevere – If you have difficulty delivering a presentation, don’t give up. Identify your problems, and work to solve them.
  2. Practice delivering ‘on location’ – To help with nerves, practice giving your big presentation in the same place that you will need to deliver it ‘for real’. Familiarise yourself with the running order of events. Try to make even the biggest occasion feel familiar.
  3. Nail the opening – If you can deliver the opening of your presentation, nerves should settle down and you’ll find that the middle and end go better. Focus a lot of your efforts on the first couple of minutes, so that you can start to build your own confidence as things start to go well.
  4. Go with what works, not the crowd – Prince Albert tried every establishment doctor, but to no avail. Even as Logue was clearly helping the future King with his speech problems, doubts about unorthodox methods crept in. A lot of people offering to help those who find public speaking difficult make things harder than they need to be. Go with what works, not what everybody else does.
  5. Turn problems into strengths – Churchill reveals to King George VI that he suffered from being tongue-tied as a child, but that he had adapted his speaking manner to make a strength of his slightly unusual pronunciation. King George’s pauses lend gravitas to his speech at the end of the film.
  6. Find your own way to deliver lines that cause you problems – King George finds it hard to say the ‘p’ in people. Logue advises that he say ‘a-people’ instead, ‘bouncing’ off the softer sound. Whatever you struggle with in your own presentation – certain words, explaining a certain concept – adapt what you say until you can deliver comfortably.
  7. kings-speech-sceneDeliver your presentation to one friendly face in the room – If you suffer from nerves, place – or focus on – a friendly face in the room, and deliver as if you are talking to them. In this way King George VI manages to deliver a compelling address, by talking as if only to his friend Logue, who is standing right in front of him.
  8. Put in the time – Just like presenters are often given company presentations to present, King George was given speeches by the Government. He put the time in to learn the speech and know where his pitfalls were so that he could overcome them. Do the same with your presentations so that you can focus on areas that might otherwise let you down.
  9. Sing a song – Cadence is an important part of how we speak. Use a cadence and rhythm that helps you to speak fluently, giving you the timing and pauses that you need to think about what comes next.
  10. Use language that you are comfortable with – King George used ‘strong language’ to refocus away from negative thoughts and distractions. Try to focus on language that you are comfortable with to avoid this being an issue.

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8 Comments to Presentation Lessons from the King’s Speech

  1. #1

    Keith Davis

    5:37 pm, February 28th, 2011

    Lovely article and a superb film.
    I’ve been doing a series of posts on speeches in films and my final article will be about “The King’s Speech” and Colin Firth’s acceptance speech.

    This article has given me a few ideas.

  2. #2

    Jessica Pyne

    5:15 pm, March 1st, 2011

    Thanks for the comment Keith – we’re glad we’ve provided some inspiration!

  3. #3

    Keith Davis

    6:26 pm, March 1st, 2011

    Hi Jessica
    Some good stuff on this blog but it would be nice to know when a comment has been added.

    Have you considered using the “subscribe to comments” plugin.
    Let commenters know when someone has replied and it encourages return comments.

    Just a thought.

    As I say a great site with great content.

  4. #4

    Jessica Pyne

    9:22 pm, March 9th, 2011

    Hi Keith, this is actually in our site development roadmap, and we hope to have it up and running very soon! We’re working on lots more things that will improve usability, so if you have any more ideas, please let us know. And as always, thanks for the comment!

  5. #5

    Lee-Anne Ragan

    4:53 pm, March 23rd, 2011

    Nice article- well laid out & helpful.

    I’ve found Scott Bercun’s book ‘confessions of a public speaker’ to be a great read as well. And to tickle your funny bone listen to this speech gone horribly wrong (from Canada’s number one story teller Stuart McLean):

  6. #6

    mona hubail

    9:08 am, March 30th, 2011

    I am trainer and every day i com to learn from your website,its help me allot in my work especial in animation presentation ,,

    thank you
    Mona Hubail

  7. #7

    Joby Blume

    8:53 pm, March 30th, 2011

    Mona – we’re delighted that you find this website useful. Let us know if you have requests…

  8. #8

    Joby Blume

    8:57 pm, March 30th, 2011

    Lee-Anne – sorry, for some reason your comment went into our spam queue.

    Thanks for that clip. Amusing!