A former actor turned public speaking advisor is credited with saving the reputation of The King of England and the entire United Kingdom just before World War II.
You may be familiar with the story of another reluctant leader who dreaded public speaking, King George VI of England, whose story about transforming his stammering and paralyzing fear was popularized in the award-winning historical drama film, the King’s Speech.
In a similar way to the Bible’s Moses, Prince Albert, the man who would become King George VI, was thrust into the monarchy against his will and in an unexpected way. His older brother,a gregarious, articulate and favored son, was supposed to be the king. But just four months before his coronation, Edward ducked out to marry a newly-divorced woman who was not acceptable to the standards for a Queen in that time.
Fate intervened, and the man who would be king was encouraged to seek out the help of a former actor who had recently moved to London from Australia, Lionel Logue. Using methods from acting, including breathing and diction exercises, along with heavy doses of positive reinforcement, Logue guided the future king from his fearful, awkward delivery style into a more confident, forceful and natural-sounding leadership voice.
Not revealed in the movie was that Prince Albert (Bertie) had worked with nine other speech specialists before Logue with no improvement. With Logue, he reportedly had 82 therapy sessions in a four-month period, along with a seven-day-a-week commitment to practicing. And there was a back-up plan should the king freak out at the last minute.
His coronation speech on May 12, 1937, was the first ever to be delivered by radio to the entire commonwealth. By all accounts, the new king did a spectacular job, exceeding everyone’s expectations. My point here is that good public speaking is no accident, and it does take courage.