It’s easy, a vote of thanks. A few minutes at the end of the night that captures the mood and sends everyone home happy. Well, yes and no. If it is easy, why do we so often see people making a mess of it?
I can tell you, it’s because they don’t bother preparing.
Even if it’s not easy, it can be said that Prince Charles has a bit of previous in this kind of thing. You might say it’s his job. But then you might also say that there were plenty others on stage doing their job and seemingly wading through treacle. I have no idea why they said yes. To be sure it was not exactly Elizabeth I at Tilbury but taking everything into account this was spot-on, the right way to end the Jubilee Concert. As a side-issue, it seems to have done no harm as a job interview. And do you need any more evidence of the power of oratory?
Here is why it captured the zeitgeist. Next time you are tasked with delivering a vote of thanks, you could do no better than follow the example of this one:
It was brief. Apart from the inimitable Grace Jones, though maybe I am biased, he was the only one on the night that left us wanting more. The future king could have taken much more of our time - he can do what he likes - but was smart enough not to. You can say a lot into a short time, and Charles managed to pack a lot into a few minutes.
It was prepared. Cards, I’m fairly sure he had cards. This was a vote of thanks that knew where it was going: how it was going to start, what was in the middle, and what he was going to say to get his round of applause at the end. Saying “Her Majesty The Queen” as a finale in front of a loyal audience was a sure winner, right enough.
It was sincere. Faking sincerity has to be something people such as Charles have to do on a daily basis and if this was such a performance then we could not see the cracks. Of course the sincerity comes as much from showing that you have taken the time to prepare something that does the job. Taking your time and letting the emotions of the audience ripple through the Mall helps too.
It was well-timed. Waiting, staying silent, pausing when in front of an audience is the biggest gift you can give yourself. It allows you to think and lets the millions know you are in control. Seeing the man who would be king in full control was a terrific thing for Charles. I am sure his advisers were Highgrove- fiving as he was bossing it in front of the Big House.
It was funny. Never open with humour is a mantra I never tire of using, because you are likely to bomb. A vote of thanks may be an exception, because the audience are well warmed up by the time you are in front of them. The “mummy” opener was always going to be a winner as long as he delivered it properly. And this is an old joke which I have no doubt Charles has used this before; in fact I am sure I have heard it before. No matter, it worked. They laughed, at least partly because he timed it better than many of the professional comedians on before him. There were other humorous notes that all had the hallmarks of what I would call “a light touch” that show trying too hard can be the biggest problem for performers, especially when trying to make people laugh at the end of a long night.
It was personal. His remarks about his mother and father were sincere without being mawkish and his short history lesson about the accession appropriate and understated.
It had rhythm. Unlike Sir Cliff, who has never really mastered the art of dancing in half a century, there was rhythm in the prose. The repetition of “proud” in the peroration is as good an illustration of the power of three as any.
“Proud at a time when I know how many of our fellow countrymen…"
“Proud, to be lining the banks of the Thames in their millions…”
“Proud to be part of something as unique as the commonwealth…”
It thanked the right people. How easy is that? Well, if you are light in your preparation you leave people out. Charles never, and for such a huge event managed to encompass everyone he needed to. The use of the “all 600 of them”, to show he knew how many technicians there were, was a nice touch of detail.
Last night I watched Andres Iniesta effortlessly glide past other top professionals at Euro 2012; soon we will be seeing Usain Bolt do his version of “Knees Up Mother Brown” in the last 30 metres of the 100 metres final at the London Olympics; at some point during the summer Fred Couples will stroll around a golf course with the nonchalance of a middle aged man out walking the dog.
It was effortless, right?
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