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Speaking and keeping on message

One of the skills of speaking is to know your audience, keeping on message and when to finish your speech; or as some people say “When to Shut up”. This was what crossed my mind, when I watched the re-run of the Royal Wedding on Saturday, when Bishop Michael Curry addressed the congregation and the wedding couple. Watch his speech below.

This is an interesting debate: there has been divided opinion about the address: was it too long? was it appropriate? Did the Royal family start giggling? Was it on message? Was he disrespectful for going massively over his allotted time? And simply because his speech provoked debate is a good thing, or is it??

I am coming purely from the perspective of a speaker: how the speaker engages with the audience; the structure of the speech; the audience; the length of the speech etc. I am fully aware that there were different tastes and expectations within the congregation. There were people who were more used to a ‘Traditional’ Church of England address and those who were more used to a slightly different style of delivery.

Bishop Curry’s delivery wasn’t a traditional Church of England style of delivery; and all the better for it! He was passionate and spoke from the heart. He provoked discussion; he provoked emotion and for many people, he touched their hearts. That is a genuine gift.

My concern is that the content, structure and length – yes, this is the elephant in the room, didn’t work so well for me. My gut feeling is that the enormity of the moment got the better of him, and the adrenaline rush took over.

  • He kept repeating the same phrases: not in a way that further emphasised the thought but almost as though he had got lost within his speech. He was rambling and rather than having real clarity: I have to be honest – he was….
  • His start and finish weren’t as impactful as they could have been. In fact for many people there was huge relief he’d finally finished.
  • Whilst there was a lot of emotion, there appeared to be random thoughts rather than genuine clarity. This was a shame because the core message (if you could call it that) was empowering.
  • He ran over big time. He was allotted a set amount of time and should have stuck to it. We have all been at the events where I speaker has hogged the air time – or a meeting where no one can get a word in. It is rude. An in the case of a strictly timed event like a Royal Wedding, it will put out details further down the line!
  • The style of delivery did not work well for a significant number of the congregation; sadly his excellent passion was seen as amusing and long winded by some members of the congregation. No one would have missed some of the glances some of the Royal Family were sharing with each other.
  • As speakers we have to understand the nature of the event. And whilst a wedding is a wedding, this was a more formal wedding than most. Of course where were a lot of individual features that were unique to this Royal couple and Bishop Curry’s message of love was fabulous, but because it was rambling, it missed the point.

I am absolutely certain that Bishop Curry’s speech was delivered with genuine love. However, he would have made even more impact and engaged all of the congregation if his speech had been concise, structured with a clear beginning and end and been shorter.

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