For anyone interested in how to come across well on TV and radio, there’s a fleeting moment to look out for in The King’s Speech.
It comes just as King George VI is about to deliver what was arguably one of the most important royal broadcasts. Arguably it ranked alongside the Abdication speech in significance. Britain was at war with Germany and it was the King’s task to rally the nation with stirring words – except that he stammered.
The King’s speech therapist, played by Geoffrey Rush, stands before the His Majesty and counts down the seconds until the red light goes on and the King goes live. Colin Firth brilliantly portrays a man wracked with nerves, struggling to comprehend how he will get his first word out, while aware that millions are tuned in.
With the King looking as though he’s about to collapse at the thought of what’s now expected of him, Geoffrey Rush – with just a few seconds to going on air – stands before him and delivers the following line:
“Forget everything else. Just say it to me.”
The King appears to relax a bit and goes on to deliver a rousing call to arms, his stammer almost overcome.
How does he achieve this? Because, following the advice from his speech therapist, the King doesn’t “broadcast to the nation” but simply talks to his speech therapist; the idea being that, if you can convey your thoughts to one person over the airwaves, the better the chance that you can convey them to millions.
While the advice from Geoffrey Rush’s character was meant for a King with a speech defect, it nevertheless holds true for anyone who is going to take part in a broadcast interview.
The advice is this. Don’t think of the millions who are watching or listening to you. Just have in mind one person, whom you know, and talk to them.
If you go down the first route of “broadcasting to the nation”, you might feel intimidated, overcome with nerves or start “speechifying” i.e. using “grand” or inflated language that’s supposed to impress your peers but which dies a death with the audience because it sounds so contrived or leaves them struggling to work what you are talking about.
Instead, by having a conversation in your head with a family member or a friend, you will come across more naturally. Your interview will sound more like a chat with your audience instead of a stilted, jargon-ridden incantation.
In the film, King George VI talks to his speech therapist, but ends up having a conversation with the nation and the Empire.