I just finished reading the book "The Power Presenter" by Jerry Weissman, a public speaking coach.
My main interest is in graphical slide design, so it is a bit unusual for me to be reviewing a book that is solely about delivery of speeches and presentations. Initially I found it a bit hard to get into the story of the book, but as I finished more and more chapters the entire plot of the book became clearer and by the time I read the last page I found that I learnt some real valuable lessons that will affect every presentation I will give in the future. The central objective of the book is to get rid of a presenter's adrenaline rush when presenting: the instinctive debate of the body whether to fight or flight a stressful situation. Rather than prescribing a number of dogmatic "presentation rules", Jerry suggests way to create a natural way to becoming a more confident speaker.
Central in his book is a concept called "ERA":
- Eye connect: "only speak to eyes". Much more powerful than "don't turn your back to the audience", or "don't muffle your voice". It is a simple rule that everything you say, everything, should be said by looking a member of the audience straight in the eyes, waiting for eye contact, delivering the sentence, and then move on. No exception. Quite a challenge for a presenter, but it makes sense
- Reach out with your hands and your body language to simulate the appearance of a hand shake
- Animate, adding more drama and passion in the way you deliver your message
Especially the "eye connect" suggestion will change the way I deliver presentations in the future.
ERA is backed up by a lot of analysis of political speakers: Kennedy, Nixon, Gore, Reagon, Bush, and even Obama (however mostly focusing on his 2004 speech at the Democratic Convention). Sound bites are important for political speeches, and Jerry spends some time discussing cadence, rhythm, etc. to improve "slide-less" presentations.
When it comes to slides and graphics, Jerry bases his advice on a very conventional use of PowerPoint. The thing I like is how Jerry talks about "graphics synchronization", making sure that visuals are perfectly aligned with the speaker. Secondly he is an advocate of the "less is more" principle when it comes to slides.
I am less convinced on the slightly mechanical technique of "tell 'm what you're going to tell, tell 'm, tell'm what you just told" that he is suggesting for every slide. A bit mechanical.
Jerry spends some time suggesting ways to deal with the uncertainty of "what slide's next" in a live presentation. Presenter view can solve this issue.
A great innovation is the access to online video clips of the speeches Jerry is discussing in the book (server bandwidth is a bit thin).
All in all a useful book about presentation delivery with many big (i.e, "ERA") and smaller pieces of advice of an experienced speaking coach.