Public speaking can be scary. Even skilled presenters get nervous. However, talking to a crowd can be especially terrifying if you’re shy, lack confidence, or a little socially awkward.
Presentations is a short book that walks you through the basics of public speaking. While there are more in-depth titles out there, I found this to be a great introductory guide.
You’ll learn all the key ingredients for giving a stellar speech, without having to wade through any unnecessary details.
The book is around 100 pages and written like an instructional manual. Presentations is a stripped down how to guide that gives you the tools you need and nothing else.
Unlike many other public speaking products out there, which are often bogged down with personal stories and lengthy examples, Presentations is meant to be read in one sitting. It’s part of the Harvard Business Review’s 20-Minute Manager series, a collection of short titles that bring you up to speed on a topic as quickly as possible.
I read this book in two hours, took notes, and watched my public speaking abilities skyrocket.
Watch the short video below (it’s less than two minutes long) and compare the difference in how I talk. Both clips were recorded within one week of each other:
(“Presentations Before And After Video”)
If you have no public speaking skills, or struggle to communicate effectively, Presentations can help. I went from being a rambling mess to becoming decent speaker in a matter of hours.
How You Can Benefit From This Book
(I read this book while tanning at the pool)
At some point you are going to have to speak in public. You might have to give an oral report for class, or explain a concept for work. Presentations are even a big part of day-to-day life. You may have to give a best man speech at a wedding, or you might want to record a YouTube video or podcast for fun.
Whatever the event may be, speaking in public is unavoidable. If you have to do it anyway, you might as well learn to do it well.
Here are just a few of the overall benefits of public speaking:
- Audiovisual presentations (videos and PowerPoint) are more effective teaching tools than text heavy resources like articles, books, or blog posts.
- You can convey important ideas in a short amount of time.
- You are able to use vocal inflection to influence the listener.
- Services like YouTube and SoundCloud offer SEO bonuses when linked to websites.
- Easier to speak in crowded environments like nightclubs, house parties, and office meetings.
- You’ll be less nervous when you talk to strangers.
If you have information that you want to share, giving a presentation can help you to get your message out effectively. Even if you prefer writing, filming YouTube videos and producing podcasts can help you to rapidly build up an audience.
Public speaking is also a great sales tool. Seminars, video sales letters, and face-to-face selling all outperform print advertising and text-based landing pages.
Lastly, knowing how to engage a crowd is a great skill for parties. There’s nothing more rewarding than telling a great joke or story that makes everyone laugh.
Three Speaking Tips You Can Use Today
(People learn more from visual mediums, like YouTube, than from books or blog posts)
Even if you have no intention of buying this book, I wanted to share a few useful lessons that you can benefit from. Some of these may sound like common sense but, like I said earlier, this is a book on public speaking 101.
Great orators and master storytellers will probably know this advice already, but anyone new to public speaking is going to benefit greatly.
1. Write Down What You Want Your Presentation To Accomplish
Every presentation has a purpose. If you don’t have an end goal in mind, you’re just wasting everyone’s time.
Before doing anything else, take a pencil and paper and write: “I want .” This gives you a sense of purpose and a clear objective. Even a simple goal like “I want to tell my audience why Presentations is a great book” (what I wrote down before filming my review) is better than going in without a plan.
Silly as it may should, but a one sentence goal can make a huge difference in how your presentation turns out.
2. Connect With The Crowd
If you can’t get your audience to care about your cause, you’re going to struggle to keep them engaged. Whenever you’re presenting anything, be it information or a sales pitch, you need to get your audience involved in the action.
Tony Robbins has engages his audience by giving them activities to do. Comedians “work the crowd” and joke around with fans. Even talk show hosts interact with viewers by giving answering calls or reading Tweets on-air.
You can easily find a way to keep people invested. Even something as simple as asking a rhetorical question at the start of a video can capture your audience’s attention.
3. Issue A Call To Action
Every good presentation gets the audience to take some sort of action. Martin Luther King Jr. “I Have A Dream” speech promoted civil rights, George S. Patton’s speech to the Third Army got his troops fired up for war, and Billy Mays’ infomercials sold OxiClean.
Even mundane presentations, like office meetings, have something they want to accomplish. Be it sharing information, or teaching employees a new skill.
When you end your speeches your audience should know exactly what actions you want them to take. This could be buying a product, trying something you taught them, or even something as simple as subscribing to your podcast.
At the end of every presentation you give, provide your audience with instructions on something they should do.
When you want to become a better public speaker as quickly as possible, Presentations can help. The book can be read in an hour or two, and you can use the information right away.
From reading this book and taking a few notes, my own speaking skills improved greatly. While I still have a lot of work to do, I did get noticeably better and learned how to focus what I was discussing.
If you’re a person who struggles as a speaker or has trouble “getting to the point” when they talk, the book can help you. I watched myself get better and you’ll be able to do the same.
P.S. If you’re looking for a good free resource on public speaking, check out “How to Give a Stellar Presentation.” This is a free article published by the Harvard Business Review and gives you some pretty good tips on what you should, and shouldn’t, do during your presentations.
P.P.S. Generally I don’t like to write a lot of book reviews on this site. However, I’ve got a secret motive for posting a few of them this week. You’ll see what it is when Monday rolls around.
(“Presentations By Harvard Business Review” – Shot Immediately After Finishing The Book)
While I’m still not “great” at public speaking, I’ve definitely improved. For a guy with a speech impediment my presentation skills got considerably better within the span of a week.