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Britain's Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, with Canada's Governor General, David Johnston, take part in a youth reception at Rideau Hall in Ottawa June 30, 2011. (CHRIS WATTIE/CHRIS WATTIE/REUTERS)
Britain's Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, with Canada's Governor General, David Johnston, take part in a youth reception at Rideau Hall in Ottawa June 30, 2011. (CHRIS WATTIE/CHRIS WATTIE/REUTERS)

Guest Column

My meet and greet with the royal couple Add to ...

It’s not every day that Canadians have the opportunity to meet a member of the royal family, never mind an extremely famous newlywed royal couple.

On their first day in Canada, however, I found myself doing exactly that.

Early in the day, I watched the public welcoming ceremony in front of Rideau Hall from an excellent spot just a few feet behind the royal entourage. The crowds roared as Will and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, made their way into Rideau Hall.

Later that afternoon, I, too, made my way into Rideau Hall. I had secured an invitation to a private reception with just 100 distinguished young people from across the country. My attendance was a result of my company, Invenia Technical Computing Corp., having won two awards from the Canadian Youth Business Foundation, one a national best business award and the other for being the most innovative company in Canada.

Invenia is a software company that uses artificial intelligence to make renewable energy more efficient. Our innovative, green technology landed me in the middle of the private gardens in Rideau Hall, surrounded by a small group of amazing individuals.

As the partygoers began to mingle, the sound of the music was dampened by a downpour of rain. Our garden party, as it turned out, was destined to become a reception in a fantastically decorated ballroom.

As the party moved inside, a hush fell over the room as the royal couple entered. The enthusiastic royals were followed by a somewhat more placid Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Governor General David Johnston.

Prince William and Kate were wonderfully casual and engaging. While she remained in the dress she had worn to the welcoming ceremony, he had swapped his suit for more informal khakis and a dress shirt.

They didn’t wait to be approached, and were fantastically curious about the work people were doing.

As Prince William approached me, I was struck by the fact that he is far taller than I had realized.

I introduced myself and he asked how I had come to be at the party. I told him about Invenia, our work to fight climate change, our cutting-edge technology and the awards we had recently won.

To my surprise, this launched us into a conversation about tidal energy and the potential to harness the power of the oceans. Clearly aware of the issues, he was interested about whether this new technology would solve some of the challenges. He was truly insightful and interested, despite his extremely long day.

Kate was equally charming. Surrounded by guests, she made a pointed effort to include everyone in the conversation.

There is, it seems, somewhat of an art to royal mingling. After you introduce yourself, there is often a follow-up question or two before giving the next person a chance to say hello. Kate accomplished this with grace and many smiles, delighting guests in the process.

While my personal conversations with the newlyweds lasted just a few minutes, the unusually small gathering allowed them to spend much more time talking with guests than they would normally have.

The evening was exceptional in other ways, too, affording an opportunity to network with young people from across Canada, some of whose work overlaps with ours, from engineers working in Africa to a Thiel fellowship winner who is designing a new type of solar panel.

Networking events that draw on a national cross-section of youth are rare and offer a fantastic opportunity to cross-pollinate business ideas and technology. In addition, the political players attending provided guests the chance to try to influence policy on youth engagement and entrepreneurship.

I am certain that many relationships that began that evening will produce interesting outcomes for my company, and for many other organizations.

It was a wonderful experience, and I was very impressed by the engaging and energetic presence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Many will long remember Will and Kate’s Canadian tour. My day with the royals is one I will never forget.

Matthew Hudson is the chief executive officer of Invenia Technical Computing Corp.

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