New book review for Confessions of a Public Speaker, by Scott Berkun, O'Reilly, 2011, reposted here:
About a year ago, shortly after one of the directors at the consulting firm with which I am currently employed recommended that I look into speaking on a more formal basis, partially as a way to build my personal brand, I surveyed what was then available in this genre of books and decided to read a book written by Alan Weiss called "Million Dollar Speaking: The Professional's Guide to Building Your Platform" (see my review), which was itself rebranded for the version of the book published last year (2011).
As someone interested in exploring public speaking as a professional, and not as a debater, for which some undergrad professors unsuccessfully tried to recruit me, what Weiss provides, combined with the effort being discussed here by Berkun, is probably all that one needs to read to get a good idea of what one is to expect when trying to succeed in this field of work. While there is overlap between these two books, the core difference is that Weiss offers advice regarding the business side of public speaking, while Berkun concentrates solely on the public speaking experience.
The chapters I especially appreciated in what Berkun has to offer include Chapter 4 ("How to Work a Tough Room"), Chapter 8 ("The Things People Say"), and Chapter 10 ("Confessions"), along with the appendixes entitled "How to Make a Point" and "You Can't Do Worse Than This". Although the last area of the book I list here does not provide explicit advice, it shares 19 stories from a variety of professional speakers that are intended to provide encouragement, and are at times so hilarious that it is worth checking this book out for at least these stories.
In my opinion, this book is so easily accessible because, like Augustine, Berkun is willing to share the good, the bad, and the ugly (at least when it comes down to his public speaking abilities and experiences). While attempting to demonstrate infallibility might help establish credibility, the purpose of this book is to share with the goal of influencing others who practice the same work, rather than to show how the author is so good at what they do to those who might want to purchase his services.
To this point, the lessons learned from a University of Southern California research study in Chapter 8, in the context of receiving audience feedback, were very well placed. After discussing the audience feedback he has received in the past, he points out to the reader that while audience feedback can provide valuable information, many times it really does not say much, and proves his point well by discussing the results of this research study, which demonstrated that even the credibility, superficials, and enthusiasm of an actor in the guise of an expert can skew feedback results.
Recommended to public speakers and anyone interested in public speaking, as well as professionals who are not necessarily looking to be paid for public speaking engagements, but spend some of their time addressing groups of colleagues or clients in their respective professional areas. Informative and entertaining. Well done.