Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, has given her first public speech since becoming a Royal. She did it at the opening of the Treehouse Children’s Hospice for sick children in Ipswich, England.
The Duchess, who admitted that she finds giving speeches “nerve-wracking” was under a lot of scrutiny for this first performance. So how did she do? Her two-minute speech is below and the analysis follows.
Given the circumstances, and the pressure that she must have felt, I thought that Kate acquitted herself very well. Without question, there is room for improvement, but Kate will certainly have plenty of opportunity to do so. It will be interesting to follow her and see how she develops as a speaker.
What I liked
- The speech, which Kate apparently wrote herself, was simple but from the heart.
- She used repetition to drive home some key themes: family; hope; community; care; inspiration.
- She enunciated her words and paused well.
- She made good eye contact. Yes, she read her notes too much (more about which below) but she made an effort to look at her audience when speaking. When she looked at the audience, she swept the room from right to left. And she didn’t seem at all uncomfortable with the eye contact, which is a very encouraging sign.
- She reacted well to the laugh she got at 0:28 when she said that she was sorry that William was not there. She let the laughter run and flashed an endearing smile.
- Kate showed us her humanity. Yes, the speech was stiff in places, but for me there was a genuine warmth to her words. When she said that she felt “hugely honoured” to be there (0:19), I believed her. I think that we are going to see more of Kate’s humanity and vulnerability as she progresses as a speaker, and that’s a good thing.
- The biggest thing to work on is becoming less attached to her notes. Speakers almost always sound tentative and less natural when reading out loud. But Kate should take it in steps. I recommend that she start by nailing down her openings and closings so that she can deliver both without notes. They are two of the most important parts of any speech, so being able to deliver them without reading is key.
- As for those notes, Kate should gradually try to reduce them to key points that will serve as checkpoints rather than the entire mapped-out route. In the meantime, I echo my comments about notes in this post and this other post.
- Kate should inject stories into her speeches. I thought that she was going to do so at the 1:00 mark when she talked about visiting the hospice in Milton. She went there with preconceived notions of what it was going to be like, but the experience was quite different. A short, 15-second anecdote, perhaps of someone she met, would have been a nice touch here.
- Kate needs to get more comfortable using body language. She did gesture now and then with her hands, but it was the same basic gesture over and over. I think that as she becomes more comfortable without notes, the gestures will flow more naturally. Also, she will not always feel compelled to stand behind the lectern.
Hi John, good analysis. I can’t imagine the pressure she was under to deliver that speech. It seems like a simple three minutes, but it’s difficult for anybody to deliver their first speech in front of an audience — she has millions of people watching!
I agree a story would help. It’s easy to tell this was written far ahead of the event. With time she’ll get a bit more comfortable with reading the audience and interacting with them before the speech to provide anecdotes, stories, etc.
Still, first speech under pressure. Phew! Only nine more speeches in the Competent Communicators manual to go. 😉
Thank for the comment, Brent. The part about the CC made me chuckle.
Yes, certainly a great first effort and with some one on one with you John, she will be a star.
One aspect that could enhance her overall performance would be the elimination of the periodic head shake to control her hair. A bit of work with the hairdresser may fix this. She is in limelight now and will do well with her obvious warmth and sincerity and I too wish her well.
PS – Is there some easy to follow form you have to assist with evaluations at your club?
Thanks a lot for the comment, Chris. I’m not sure how much Kate would improve working with me … but I’d sure love the contract!
You are spot on about the hair. At one point she even has to brush it back with her hand. I don’t follow the Royals closely, but it occurred to me that I cannot think of a time when I have seen Kate when her hair was not left long and flowing like it was during the speech. In fact, I just did a Google image search and if you click the link, you will see that in almost every photo, her hair is long.
We don’t have a form in our club. Everyone pretty much uses their own style. Having said that, I gave an educational on evaluations at the TM Club in Zug, Switzerland and will be giving another one in Utrecht, Netherlands next month. Perhaps I’ll turn it into a post. In the meantime, you might find this post on evaluations useful.
Excellent John, I’ll use some of those pointers this Wed.
Thanks, Chris. Glad you find it useful. Good luck on Wednesday.
I’m sorry but I disagree with the “good eye contact.” She did not look up enough and that short little ditty could certainly have been memorized very easily.
Fair enough, Leigh. Not everyone sees – no pun intended – the same speech the same way.
What repetition did she use?
She repeated key words. See, for example, “achieved” (0:39), “home” (1:15), “place” (1:24) and “fun” (1:30).