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The King's Speech: Tips for Nervous Speakers

Imagine yourself walking up to a microphone to give a speech. Now imagine, in front of you are about 10,000 people eagerly awaiting your every word. This is how the movie The King’s Speech opens. Only you have to add one other factor. The person speaking, the Duke of York, speaks with a debilitating stutter. When a guest speaker comes to your church, chances are they feel nervous. Using methods like the Queen of England used, you can give them the confidence they need.

The movie is based on the true story of the Duke of York, who would become King George the Sixth, his speech problem, and the man who taught him how to overcome it, Lionel Logue. Looking back on this movie, there are three people who made a difference in King George’s ability to give speeches.

The three people and what you can learn from them:

1. The radio broadcaster. His role is minor but does not go unnoticed. He sets up the broadcasting room for the king so it’s free from distraction and free from clutter. When the king arrives, he greets him cordially, calmly, and shows no apprehension even though the whole country knows of the king’s terrible stutter.

The take-away:

• Approach guest speakers in a calm and confident manner. If they get their own wireless mic, help them put it on and make sure it’s in the right location. Also, make sure it’s turned on (muted on the mixer).

• Make sure the stage is clear. No wires running around where they walk up and where they will stand.

2. Queen Elizabeth. She was by his side throughout his most difficult times and was supportive of him all along. She was an excellent encourager. When he failed, she still loved him and encouraged him.

The take-away

• Guest speakers usually need a bit of encouragement. After setting up their microphone, ask them about their topic, ask them about the best speaking engagement they have given. Then load them up with confidence. Compliment them on their attire. Tell them the congregation is looking forward to the speech.

• After the service, when you go to get the microphone from them, compliment them. This helps them at their next engagement. If they struggled through their talk, encourage them. “It’s ok; Babe Ruth struck out half the time he was at bat. Next time you’ll do great.” If they are speaking at more than one service that day, this will help them build that confidence.

3. Lionel Logue, his speech coach. Lionel taught him how to form words, how to focus on the words, and how to get the words to flow. He walks him through the events of his coronation. Lionel was not only his coach but also his friend. In the final scene, as the king is preparing to start his speech that would call England to war against Germany, Lionel looks at the king and says in so many words, “Just talk to me.”

The take-away:

Walk the guest speaker onto the stage, showing him/her where to walk and where to stand. The latter part is helpful if you have more than one podium on the stage, for example one for the pastor and the other for Scripture readings.

Tell them, “In case you get nervous, just look at me.” When I first started in broadcasting, my boss told me, “If you ever get nervous, put up a picture of someone you like and imagine you are talking to them.”

Hand them a schedule so they know when they are to go on stage. I know they might have been told but if the guest speaker is very nervous, they could easily forget – now one more thing to worry about.

In summary, public speaking is one of the most nerve-racking events that people go through. You have the opportunity to help the next guest speaker that walks through your door. You might even be able to help someone in your church who is going to speak for the first time. Take those few moments you have when you help them with the microphone to give them the instructions and encouragement they need.