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Review: Confessions of a Public Speaker

March 6, 2010

Confessions of a Public Speaker
Scott Berkun, O’Reilly ©2010

Scott doesn’t need another favorable review of his new book but he’s going to get it anyway. 😉

As you can tell from my bookshelf lists, I’ve read a bunch of books in the last couple years about presentations and human communications. Here’s the bottom line:

If you have even the slightest interest in the topic, get it, read it, use it.
Thank you.

Thank you? No, I don’t somehow get a kickback here—well, not money anyway. What I do expect (desperately hope) to get is one less presentation that falls into the “it sucked” group, which is pretty much the norm otherwise.

Scott’s book is written from first-hand experience. He tells stories. And his book becomes one big example of just how powerful that can be. This is pragmatic, concrete advice from a man who has given talks that sucked and talks that were great (a lot more of the latter I’ll bet). Let me give one example of something that hit home for me. In the chapter Do not eat the microphone he has a list of four things you must do to prepare for your talk:

  1. Take a strong position in the title.
  2. Think carefully about your specific audience.
  3. Make your specific points as concise as possible.
  4. Know the likely counterarguments from an intelligent, expert audience.

Good list and he discusses each but the first one really hit home for me. It’s directly connected to the standard-but-sage advice about having a good opening (first 30 seconds are crucial). But even more, he shows how having a strong title helps you create a clear purpose for the talk, limit the content in the talk and get organized to give it.  Wow.  All of that from a good title?  Yep, and then he gives you a sample list of <your topic here> examples to use. I loved it and related to it.

While it’s the most important thing, Berkun’s not only speaking from personal experience. His book references a bunch of the ones on my lists and “connects the dots” between them. Scott’s style is informal, entertaining and easy to read. His ideas are powerful and need to be spread—please! I’m tired of all the death-by-powerpoint and boring speakers.

There’s only one downside here. I’m sorry Scott wrote this book, because I wish I had!

Highest recommendation.

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