Kate Middleton’s First Speaking Engagement

Posted March 26, 2012 by Marcy Twete in Leaders We Adore
Shakespeare wrote, “Be not afraid of greatness; some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” The same is true with power and status – some are born to it, some achieve it, and others have it thrust upon them. None could be more appropriate an example of the third than the beautiful, poised, and soft-spoken Kate Middleton. In the course of her relationship with the future King of England, she became a fashion icon. Their marriage, however, “upped the ante”, if you will. She’s now expected to be more than just a pretty face – a role model and a spokeswoman for charities and organizations.

It’s been nearly a year since Kate and William wed. And just last week, Kate gave her first speech at a children’s hospice. Women’s Wear Daily reported Kate telling an acquaintance, “I find doing speeches nerve-wracking.”

I took a few moments to watch Kate’s first speech, an address to a children’s hospice center she’s been championing in her charity work. (See full video below). And I found myself….critical. Could she have read less? Looked down less? Spoken with more sincerity? Like we judge presidential candidates, CEOs, and other leaders whose jobs involve public speaking, I was judging Kate. This changed when I thought to myself, “She didn’t know this would be part of her job!”

We’ve all been there – you take a job, you think you’re doing well at it and then something comes along and you think, “That wasn’t what I signed up for!” In this, you have two choices. #1 – Fail…or Quit, equally as terrible. Or #2 – Rise above and get the job done. Kate Middleton isn’t a gifted speaker. And she may never be. But what she’s done, we can all learn from. When she took the job of Duchess of Cambridge, marrying Prince William, she took the following steps:

  • Listen – it’s been nearly a year since Kate and William married. Since then, we’ve seen Kate spending a great deal of time with the Queen, William, Camilla, and other members of the royal family. At appearances, she remains quiet and reserved. I contend she’s doing exactly what she should. She’s listening, knowing that someday (last week, to be exact) it will be her turn to speak.
  • Keep it simple – if there is a portion of your job you’re completely uncomfortable with, don’t try to knock it out of the park. My favorite self-help guru Martha Beck once cleverly reminded us in O Magazine that the best golfers don’t often land holes in one. They’re the ones who get the ball closest to the pin consistently. If you’re uncomfortable, focus first on doing the job adequately and meeting expectations. Over time, you can get better at something and perhaps even shine. I think, over time, we’ll see Kate shine even at her nemesis of public speaking.
  • Practice makes perfect – don’t underestimate the power of practice. Whether it’s in your career or your life, we all avoid practicing the things that make us most uncomfortable, but we must. I will never become good at yoga’s “pigeon” post, my archnemesis on the mat, if I don’t practice it at home between classes. And Kate will never become a skilled public speaker if she avoids it either.
  • Just do it – preparation is important, but sometimes you just have to jump in head first. It’s been nearly a year and the world was ready to hear the voice of Kate Middleton. I think we’ll continue to hear her voice stronger and stronger for years to come. If you’re scared to do something in your career, sometimes you just have to take the leap.

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."