The King’s Speech II
After I wrote my first speech in Fall of 1991, my speech coach Marty Tarras, after reading what I wrote — or “trying to read it,” I should say — looked at me, and with the harshest of terminology (see Practical Lessons From “The King’s Speech” I) questioned my mental ability.
Thank you Lord for Marty!
Marty knew that I had enough self esteem to bless me with the words I desperately needed to hear! I did not realize it at the time, but Marty was coaching me in both speech, and life! It was clear to Marty that I had some pretty unique, if not severe challenges — and that I was VERY immature! I was in real need of a wake-up-call! If I was going to be a part of the competitive public speaking team at Los Angeles Valley College, Marty was not going to coddle me with candy-coated-words or enable me to continue writing like a 2nd grader (I was 22 years old)! Marty, without pulling any punches, directed me in the art of public speaking, while at the same time forcing me to acknowledge, confront, and overcome any and all challenges that would otherwise prevent me from properly composing and delivering any and all future presentations to the best of my ability.
In the film The King’s Speech, we meet a very challenged individual (The Duke of York, and soon to be King of England), and his speech coach (Lionel Logue). This sensational movie chronicles a very scared man’s journey as he addresses his worst fear, and his greatest challenges…while the whole world is listening! The film also depicts his ultimate triumph, and the great empowerment realized by: 1) submitting to direction, and 2) committing to direction!
SUBMITTING TO DIRECTION
“The King’s Speech,” offers us a tremendous example of an individual submitting to direction, and in doing so, making the seemingly impossible…possible!
Public Speaking is the number one fear in life!
For most people, “There is no greater challenge in life – than public speaking.” When you add to this fact, that often individuals are cursed with – or blessed with depending on how you look at things – other obstacles in life, public speaking can seem like a totally unworkable task. The film artfully, very realistically, and with great accuracy portrays not just the fears and challenges most people face with speaking publicly; but The Duke of York (Oscar winner, Colin Firth best actor) is also burdened with arguably more challenges than most people could ever conceive of. He is haunted by a tortured childhood and as a result he is oppressed with a very sever stutter in his voice. Furthermore, he is suddenly thrust into the position of King of England during a time of war, as a result of his selfish older brother failing to live up to his duties as the King of England following the death of their father.
King George VI had a speech-specific-handicap, and the highest profile public speaking position in the world.
As the King of England he was called to lead and inspire his nation, and the world, against Hitler! With speeches! Thankfully, King George VI was blessed with a loving and discerning wife, Elizabeth, who sought help for her husband. Elizabeth sought direction for her husband from a very eccentric speech coach named “Lionel Logue” (Geoffrey Rush). Lionel was unapologetic in demanding total submission to the direction he gave his students…regardless of who they were!
Early on in the film Lionel makes it very clear that, he is in charge, stating, “My castle – my rules!”, and later,“my game – my rules!” It did not matter that Lionel was working with the Duke of York, what mattered was that his student (who happened to be the future King of England), had to be willing to submit to direction! I always tell my students and clients:
“Public speaking is 5% direction, and 95% doing!”
Truth be said, public speaking, once you understand how to manage your nerves and properly prepare and structure your thoughts and information, is really simple! Lionel even acknowledges the simplicity of his direction in the film twice saying, “I like to keep things simple.” In reality – once an individual embraces and puts into practice the “simple-direction” regarding their public speaking anxiety, and embraces and puts to practice the “simple-direction” regarding foundational mechanics of how to properly compose and deliver a speech, the rest is about the individual doing! SPEAKING! And taking every opportunity to do so!
If an individual truly desires to improve their public speaking ability, the person MUST put into practice the “simple-direction” they have been given! They must SPEAK, and take advantage of every opportunity to do so!
Sadly however, most people do not like to submit to any direction in life – even when it can greatly improve, and often empower their overall wellbeing and position in life (school, work, hobbies, relationships, anything and everything!). The Duke didn’t even look for or find Lionel, it was his wife Elizabeth. And as witnessed in the film, the Duke had to be dramatically humbled before he would submit to the simple-direction Lionel so passionately wanted to bless him with. Twice in the film Lionel stressed to The Duke, who to his dismay Lionel insisted on addressing by his boyhood name “Bertie,” “Trust and total equality – no exceptions!” At their first meeting, it’s clear that the Duke is reluctant to receive the help his wife has secured for him, and thinks himself far superior to Lionel. While Lionel is evaluating The Duke in his own unique way, The Duke as if his time is being wasted says to Lionel – with a very condescending attitude – “Are you going to start treating me…?” To which Lionel responded, “Only if you are interested in being treated!” Lionel knew that if “Bertie” was not willing to submit to his simple-direction, that he could not help him!
If someone truly wants to overcome a challenge, and improve with anything, they must be willing to submit to direction!
At the end of their first meeting, the Duke tells Lionel that he will not be continuing with his services and walks out; but soon after, desperate and realizing he has no other options Bertie humbly returns, and says to Lionel, “I’m willing to work hard!” Once Bertie stopped acting like he was a King with a peasant, and realized that he had to submit to the direction of his speech coach, his training became very effective and ultimately lead the soon-to-be-King-of-England to discover his voice, to lead his nation, and the world! However, the key to Bertie fully realizing and reaching his full potential was not just about submitting to the direction of his speech coach, but also committing to the direction he was being blessed with.
COMMITTING TO DIRECTION
In the film we see Lionel give Bertie a variety of exercises to help prepare him for his speaking engagements. Once Bertie humbly began submitting to and committing to the direction Lionel was giving him, Bertie begins to — with real confidence — negotiate very effectively his challenges (on all levels). Lionel has Bertie sing silly songs, recite nursery rhymes, do breathing exercises with his wife Elizabeth sitting on him, tongue twisters, humming out of open windows, calisthenics, rolling around on the floor, publicly practice in a grocery store, cursing aloud, head clearing walks in the park, dancing, and perhaps most challenging – Lionel insists that the Bertie bare his sole to him through personal narratives (not unlike the cultural narrative assignment in Speech 101, class). At one point in the film, Bertie protests Lionel’s direction to sing, but Lionel boldly responds that, “Rules are Rules…SING!” And to Bertie’s credit, he submitted to the direction of his coach…and he sang!
I always tell my competitive speakers, and professional clients:
“Stay humble, or you will stumble.”
I frequently give my students seemingly silly direction as well. I know certain exercises can very effectively help people overcome their challenges, sharpen their presentation styles, and ultimately secure success every time they speak, IF they are willing to commit to the direction! Every presentation deserves 100% commitment throughout the entire process, on both a preliminary level, and a performance level; because every audience deserves 100% commitment. I recently had a client (CEO of a Fortune 500 Company) call me because, his words, “I had a speech go really poorly.” I immediately asked him, “How did you prepare?” To which he responded, “I knew you were going to say that.” He continued, “I did not prepare like I did for the last one, that went so well,” i.e. he did not fully commit to the direction he had paid me to give him – even though it had served him well in the past…and he knew it! He did not even need to call me.
AGAIN: PUBLIC SPEAKING IS 5% DIRECTION, AND 95% DOING!
Some people celebrate the direction fully…but most do not. Bertie did! In one scene, he proudly, but humbly tells Lionel, “I’ve been practicing an hour a day.” Later in another scene Bertie is seen practicing in the car while on a trip with his wife. He tells his wife, “I have to keep doing this!” I often tell my students “The more you practice, the more prepared you will be; and, the more confident you will be when you speak.” You can’t get rid of the fear of public speaking, but you can manage it. You can’t get rid of the butterflies in your stomach, but you can get them to fly the direction you want them to fly. Practice, and preparation are foundational to managing anxiety. There are also fear-management-specific exercises, which can seem silly, but if a person will commit to employing the direction, they will discover the ability to herd their butterflies with great success! “You needn’t be governed by fear,” Lionel tells Bertie. This is so true.
I always encourage my students to employ internal positive refrain. IPR is basically internalizing positivity by: employing catch phrases, acknowledging your unique and individual strengths, and imposing your will on the audience. Bertie, as encouraged by Lionel committed to practicing IPR. Bertie, as the King of England, when speaking would repeat in his head, “I have a right to be bloody well heard.” And when pausing between lines, he would repeat, “God save the King.” This was witnessed at the end of the movie, when the now King George VI of England is presenting the most important speech of his royal life.
As a result of 1) submitting to direction, and 2) committing to direction, The King’s most important speech was a great success!
It even appeared as though the King enjoyed the experience. Following the King’s speech, Bertie looked at Lionel, with a small but visible grin, and stated, “I suppose I’ll have to do a great deal more of these.” Public speaking is the greatest fear in life; however, more often than not when a person successfully negotiates a great challenge (skydiving, fire walking, swimming with sharks, or public speaking!) the experience becomes enjoyable because of the exhilarating and empowering high, and great sense of achievement that accompanies the success. I often tell my class that, “Speech is the great equalizer!” This means that when an individual is given the stage, no matter what their position or place in life may be (King, or Walmart greeter), when an individual has been given the stage it is their opportunity to be heard; and the opportunity MUST be fully embraced and celebrated.
Are you fully embracing your opportunities to be heard?