Title: Lend Me Your Ears
Author: Professor Max Atkinson
Publisher: Ebury Press Vermilion
Reviewer: Anne Teggart
This book was written by the same man who trained former Liberal Democrat Leader, Paddy Ashdown, in the art of public speaking. How do I know? Well, he mentions it at the front of his book. He has also included favourable references to himself from Michael Sheehan, a former speech coach to Bill Clinton. So, if he is looked to by someone so close to the most powerful person in the world, then surely what he says must be true… right?
At first glance this book looks to be visually pleasing on the eye. The layout suggests that it would be quite easy to scan the book to find the particular subject area you are interested in. And indeed it is. Split into five parts, the book looks at the various areas to consider when giving business presentations or having to speak in public.
The first part looks at the language of public speaking – how to keep your audience engaged and probably most importantly, awake! It then goes on to look at using visual aids, the power of words (and how you can convey a message but with a greater impact), and lastly but not least of all, the use of body language.
You get the feeling fairly early on that having OHP slides or PowerPoint ® as your ‘crux’ is not a great way to conduct your presentation. This is because the presenter can become over-reliant on the points made on each slide. The audience can also get bored quite easily as they can see from the slide exactly what the presenter is going to say next.
This book works on many levels. It can be used for those who are new to giving presentations as well as the more seasoned presenter who wants to make a bigger impact and polish up on their presenting skills. For that reason, it can be used for those trying to get their message across in the office or in the political arena.
Below are a few useful pointers that would help no matter what the purpose of the speech:
- Don’t be afraid of silences – they can increase the impact of what has been said; it can slow down the pace of delivery; and give the presenter a chance to recover if it goes wrong
- Enthusiasm is the easiest emotion to convey and you can’t have enough of it!
- Don’t talk too formally – you will come across as wooden or pompous
- Don’t try and be over-friendly with your audience, i.e. don’t use slang or swear words – you may offend some people
- Try not to use too much detail. If you are referring to a report or proposal, make a summary so interesting that you wet the appetite of your audience who will want to find out more afterwards.
If anxiety gets the better of you before your big moment forget all the myths you have heard about communication. Just remember a few of these truths:
- Speaking is physically stressful that can cause a rise in blood pressure
- Physical tension directly affects the parts of the body that affect the voice
- Breathing is the best thing for good delivery – remember deep breaths beforehand
- Most people speak too fast – if what you are saying sounds to you to be too slow, and if the pauses sound too long, you’ve probably got the right pace.
- And most importantly, don’t drink alcohol before or during your speech! You may think it will steady your nerves but at best you won’t have a clear head and at worst, if you have too much, you will slur your words and be incoherent.
Now all of this you may think is pretty obvious, I find to be very useful to have such good advice to hand to alleviate any fears you may have.
As the author himself says, “Like any other activity involving knowledge and technique, effectiveness depends on practice, and the more you practice, the better you get.”