Book review - Confessions of a public speaker

There are many books on public speaking, which probably makes sense: people who are good at speaking on stage usually also enjoy spreading their ideas in print. Many of these follow the same pattern: the experienced speaker explains to us (inexperienced novices who "hum", read out bullets from the screen, and avoid eye contact with the audience) how we can improve our stage performance.

Confessions of a Public Speaker is different. Scott Berkun is a public speaker, he does it for a living. What makes this book so interesting is that he discusses his own mistakes, failures, and stage fright. He puts into practice one of his techniques to gain credibility with your audience: tell the truth and be honest.

Here are some of the examples of the interesting experience and advice that are discussed in the book. Yes, taken out of their context and in random order:
  • Why it is not useful to imagine your audience naked
  • Even if (you think) you fail miserably on stage, the audience probably won't notice
  • You have the mike, you are in control, do something nice for the audience (ask to change the freezing temperature of the A/C)
  • Don't talk endlessly about yourself and your resume
  • I love the chapter about "eating the microphone". When you start a presentation you have all the attention, the audience really wants you to do well, If things go bad, you will hit a point that you lose the audience, nobody is paying attention anymore. You ate the microphone.
  • It pays of to learn how to write better headlines/presentation titles
  • Anticipate the obvious question that any intelligent audience member would ask.
  • The concept of interference (taken from physics): the audience is still digesting one point when you bring on the next. As a result, both points are lost.
The most important thing we learn from the personal experiences and mistakes of Scott is to practice, practice, practice. Never try to wing a presentation.
Disclosure: O'Reilly mailed me a free copy of this book for review. I earn a small commission on products you buy on Amazon via links on this site.