I’ve finished it – just… I must admit I was surprised (and flattered) to receive a freebie copy but never the less, I leapt at it when it arrived: Scott Bergun’s “Confessions of a Public Speaker“. Looking at the list of people who’ve already reviewed the book favourably though (including some presentation heros of mine such as Garr Reynolds), I can’t see why I got a copy, but never look a gift horse in the mouth. Of course, as all the listed comments are breath-takingly positive, I’d be a minority of one if I didn’t like it… and a very brave (or foolish) minority at that.
Let’s deal with the downsides first: quickly getting them out of the way…
after that, it’s all various shades of ‘good points’. Actually, I say that advisedly as you might not find the book to be what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a simple ‘how to’ book, this isn’t it – it’s not a book about presentation skills: there’s plenty of good, sensible advice here but it’s not a simple ‘recipe book’ of getting your presentations right (or even just getting them better). Instead, Scott assumes you’re his readers are intelligent and are prepared to read/work/think. If you are, great, because there’s lots you can use.
And there’s the issue – this is a book that you have to work at to use if you want to be a better speaker, with better presentation skills.
Because as I said above, it’s not a “how to” book. It’s a conversational, entertaining (but informative) book: it’s more coffee-table than office bookshelf (though the latter is where I’m going to keep my copy). There are little wry smiles of ‘ah yes, I recognise that!’ all the way through and if the footnotes and other humour are anything to go by, I think Scott and I would get on very well indeed if we ever met up. His humour is slightly more dry and subtle than I’ve come to expect of Americans, almost British in it’s levels of irony: as I’m British I lapped it up, of course!
On the downside, I shouldn’t like him, because he’s what I fear most when I have to train people – someone who speaks to speak. He’s a professional public speaker and my experience of ‘professional public speakers’ is that most of them are far too fond of their own voices and not fond enough of their audience. I prefer to work with people who don’t necessarily want to speak but who feel passion-bound to do so.
Despite that personal bigotry on my part, I loved the impression I got of the man.
Sure, there’s some padding: the chapter on confessions is drivel, full of mistakes that only a rookie presenter would make, such as getting surprised by porn on your computer – but somehow even that, coming as it does towards the end, takes on a gentle, wry humour that keeps you smiling to yourself.
On the upside there’s some great reference material to balance the fluff: the bibliography alone more than cancels out any hints of negativity I might have had after ploughing through self-agrandising confessions. (You know the type – people confess a mistake only to brag about how they managed to create a work of art out of the ruins of the presentation.)
So that’s it.
In short, well worth the read. Not a how-to but more of a how-I type of book; more reading for leisure than reading for training but if that’s what you want, very definitely worth your Â£Â£Â£ or $$$