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Book Review: Stage Fright by Berry & Edelstein

June 18, 2010

Stage Fright, Mick Berry and Michael Edelstein, See Sharp Press ©2009

A few months ago the publisher offered me a copy of this book suggesting I might want to review it for this blog. The topic seemed to fit, so I agreed to take a copy with no commitment to a review but with the intent to do so.

Bottom Line?

If you are one of the many who are bothered by stage fright and it’s an obstacle to your success as a presenter, consider this book. The first 27 pages are a useful, but too brief, summary of the author’s analysis of what that’s about and how you can successfully deal with it. Treat the rest of the book as examples of how others have overcome various degrees of this and it might be worth the price and time. Frankly, however, unless this is a major problem for you, this book is one you can skip. I would have.

Overview

This isn’t a bad book, in fact, it’s gotten some excellent reviews. But it’s an odd volume because the author’s didn’t write most of it—well, not in the usual sense anyway. Of the 249 pages of the book, the authors actually wrote 27 pages. Roughly 90% of the book consists of interviews done with forty public performers of various kinds, some well-known and some not (at least to me).

What I liked

The first section of the book is interesting and connects quite well with Brain Rules and with Art of Possibility. While I really don’t suffer much stage fright, the thoughts and exercises here are nice to have in any presenter’s tool box.

What I didn’t like

If I’d run across the book in the store, I doubt I would have bought it. The first reason is the interview format—I don’t need the “even the famous and the pros get stage fright” message forty times. Secondly, a scan of the 20-something pages the authors wrote would quickly convince me that although they’ve got something useful to say, the Zander’s ‘Art of Possibility’ covers the key thoughts at least as well, albeit from a different angle. Stage fright isn’t much of an issue for me and the format of the book just doesn’t work for me.

In addition, the book’s subtitle, 40 Stars Tell You How They Beat America’s #1 Fear, might be enough, by itself, to make me leave it on the shelf as well. Many of the 40 people interviewed aren’t what I’d call ‘stars,’ but that’s a quibble. Far more serious is this bit about “#1 Fear” that’s repeated again (without citation to source) as the first line of the book. The fact is that this is almost certainly wrong. Without the source citation I can’t know for sure, but I’d wager their source is an often repeated, but bogus, bit of hype that turns out to be pulled from an old, unscientific survey that really didn’t say that at all. If the authors have a real source they didn’t cite it and that leaves me thinking that either the authors didn’t check the source or don’t know it, and either way that’s bad.

Summary

This one is clearly in my pass-it-by group. Leaving out the silly “#1 fear bit,” the book is well written and section one plus a couple of the interviews are interesting. I’m not in the target audience and having 90% of the book consist of celebrity interviews doesn’t fit my interests. If you’re the target audience and like the interview format, maybe you’ll feel more like some others who have written glowing reviews.

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UPDATE: a better resource than this book is a post over at PresentationZen. He also has a link to a different book that sounds interesting.

 

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