Presentation Lessons from the King’s Speech
The 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?
- Persevere – If you have difficulty delivering a presentation, don’t give up. Identify your problems, and work to solve them.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Deliver 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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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Douglas Ritchie, Business Development Director, Serco
The presentation was a resounding success, enabling us to engage with the audience, demonstrate our understanding of the brief, effectively communicate our value proposition – and ultimately, win the business.