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 did Kate do well?
- 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.
How could Kate improve?
- 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.
So well done, Kate. I hope that you’re chuffed with your performance and that you’re already looking forward to the next one.