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Book review: Confessions of a Public Speaker

Confessions of a Public Speaker

I picked this book up from the swag table at a conference I attended, and have to admit I picked it because all the other books were not interesting to me. Picking the least bad from a group is not a promising endorsement. However, once I had a closer look at it, I found the compelling reasons.

First, after getting home I realized this book was written by Scott Berkun, one of my favorite authors. I already have one of his project management books, and have read a number of his online essays at I probably missed his name when I picked up this book because it is not prominently displayed on the dust jacket.

Second, the book is an enjoyable read. I like Scott because he demonstrates skill in the way he crafts his writing. To get an idea, read any of his online essays. He is an interesting writer with a light-hearted touch. Good ideas, clearly presented without fluff.

Third, the book is useful. I am one of the organizers of the Atlanta PHP User Group and our usual meeting format is to have a speaker present on a topic of interest. We encourage members to give presentations, and remind them that it’s a good venue to sharpen presentations they might want to give at a conference. Scott’s book gives practical advice on how to hone.

The first chapter sets the stage (podium?) by introducing the stupid advice people give to encourage speakers, and subsequent chapters teach you how avoid the butterflies, how to avoid common presenter goofs (as in practices, not people), and even what life can be like as a full-time public speaker. I specifically use the word “teach” in describing the subsequent chapters because Scott reminds you throughout the book that your success in public speaking is really defined by what you actually teach through your presentation.

The book is full of personal anecdotes that drive home the key points of each chapter, and each chapter stands on its own. You could probably read them in any order. The last couple chapters deal with how to handle awkward situations, and give pointers to additional resources.

Overall, I highly recommend this book. It’s an enjoyable read, and you will learn something practical from each chapter.

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