Confessions of a Public Speaker

imageI scrambled for excuses—I’m too busy (lie), I’m tired (lie), my feet hurt from the road test (bad lie)—but before anything good came to mind, he said these invaluable words: “The clutch is your friend.”

How could the clutch be my friend?

How indeed? For Scott Berkun this datum came out of the dark at just the right moment. It distilled a lot of information into a single memorable idea that was needed to be successful at a crucial task (learning to drive his brother’s beloved ‘84 Honda Prelude.) These memorable points, important as they are, are often buried or missing from the lectures, sermons, and talks that we hear (endure?). Should this come as a revelation? As people who communicate for a living it becomes all too easy for preachers, teachers, and speakers to forget the foundation of public speaking: conveying information of value to an audience whose lives will be enriched by receiving it. Everything we think about in terms of speechifying should swirl around this single ideal. To the rescue comes a new reminder in Berkun’s Confessions of a Public Speaker. 

Confessions is not a how-to book as in make three points and start with a humorous story. Instead, the reader gets the benefit of Berkun’s hard earned knowledge of what it’s like to stand up in front 5 or 5000 people and convey something in a meaningful fashion. He talks about the highs and lows with plenty of reality based examples that can aid any speaker willing to invest the time in improving their public speaking skills. There is much about the business of speaking in these pages but the most valuable paragraphs are those in which Berkun is willing to share the failures and their causes. Here is where we learn to improve.

If you are involved in any type of speaking, whether it is in front a church or classroom or simply presenting the TPS reports at a staff meeting, you need to ask yourself how much you have invested in improving yourself in this critical area. We tend to invest our time in learning the information we want to present but simply let the end product, the communication, just happen. The pages of Scott’s invaluable book remind us of the reality; unless we can effectively communicate that information to an audience all of our other efforts are for naught. Make the commitment to improve. Read Confessions and then spend the time necessary to think about the process of speaking. Practice, practice, practice. Then go out and make some noise of your own.

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