Thursday, 13 January 2011

William & Kate miss a vital trick in construction of their big ‘Presentation’ on April 29

The Royal Family is really all about Presentation Skills and they tend to be rather good at big show pieces – because they have stuck to the same formula and had hundreds of years of practice – but fare less well at all the communication that goes on between the big events.

One of their biggest showpieces for many years comes up on April 29th with the Royal Wedding.  This is the Royal Family’s big opportunity to stake its claim to a relevant role in the 21st century.  As such, it has potential to make much greater impact than anything we do in 2012 to look back at the 60 years of the current monarch’s reign.

The big day itself is, however, just the icing on the cake.  As I always say to the business people I coach in Presentation Skills, Construction is just as important as Delivery and, indeed, Delivery becomes so much easier and more effective if proper attention has been paid to the Construction process.

So all the work they are doing currently will be vital to the ultimate and lasting success of the Royal Wedding and thus far they are doing rather well on the Construction process. 

  •    They appear to be keeping things relatively simple, with plans such as Kate Middleton’s arrival by car rather than glass coach serving to underline that. 

  •   They have anticipated issues such as the cost of the wedding in the midst of a recession, with suitable comments from official spokespeople and a clear and early indication that the two families will be shouldering many of the costs.   Furthermore, this has been done without overstressing.

  •   They are demonstrating a fair degree of independence from the protocol mongers at Buckingham Palace, which brings some fresh air to the process and added conviction to what they say.

  •   They have even cleverly anticipated the inevitable – in this case memories of, and comparisons with, Diana.  The revelation that Prince William had given Diana’s ring to Kate initially caused a slight shock, but in retrospect it was a good move.  I say to those I am coaching: if there is something that is inevitably going to be on the minds of your audience, then address it upfront so as to clear the issue out of the way and move on.  While memories of Diana will inevitably be looming in the weeks ahead and on the day itself, we are already past the ‘awkward’ stage – there is no ‘elephant in the room’.

All that said, there is one simple and highly effective strategic opportunity that they have failed to grasp.  And it is going to haunt them more and more as we get closer to the date and for some time afterwards.   As soon as the wedding was announced commentators were confidently predicting it would be held on Friday because that has always been the way with Royal Weddings.  And sure enough, that proved to be correct, the only slight surprise being that they were wisely going for a fairly early date. 

The moment the date was confirmed, however, debate started as to whether it would – and indeed should - be a public holiday.  Times have moved on since a big Royal event automatically triggered a day off and we have the big matter of a global recession to deal with.  It’s all too easy to come up with vast calculations about production lost, the legality of being able to enforce a day off, and much more besides.  All kinds of anomalies will emerge and those working in the Royal Palaces are already reportedly feeling disgruntled because they will not be getting the day off.  The government needed to make a quick announcement about the extra Bank Holiday and they seemed rather on the back foot as they made largely unquantifiable suggestions about it being a great morale booster for everyone in the UK, as well as a tonic for our tourism industry.

To compound the potential for unrest about the extra Bank Holiday – and we have only seen the start of it so far – quirks of the Easter calendar mean that we are going to be simply bombarded with holidays from late April onwards, with some children not even going back to school until May.  This really should have been the deciding factor – William and Kate could have made it so much better for themselves – and the rest of us – if one of their welcome breaks with tradition had been to plump for a Saturday!  We could still have joined in their celebrations but without all the moaning and groaning that I can just see coming over the horizon.

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