18 March 2009

Check the fixtures and fittings before you speak

Prince William recently gave a speech that, not surprisingly, received national media coverage. After all, here was a very famous person who had lost his mother at a young age and in tragic circumstances becoming patron of the Child Bereavement Charity, which helps children and families who have lost a parent.

It must have been difficult for him not to accept their invitation – and even more difficult to have to make a speech in which he could hardly not mention his mother, the late Princess Diana.

If that wasn’t going to be tough enough, he then had to speak without a lectern and without a stand for the microphone, even though the organizers must surely have known that it was going to be broadcast to a mass television audience.

The result was that the viewers saw a nervous young man standing at the bottom of a staircase with sheets of paper in one hand and a microphone in the other (see below).

Not surprisingly, it could hardly be said to be a model example of how to deliver a speech. However difficult Prince William was going to find it speaking about something so close to his heart, it would have been a little bit easier if he (or the organizers) had made sure that clutching paper and a microphone would not be necessary parts of the performance.

The very obvious general point is that, whenever speakers can, they should always check out – in advance – the room, layout, fixtures, fittings and equipment. Otherwise you risk falling foul of the inadequate arrangements made by your hosts.

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