CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 13 . . . . February 16, 2007
We often hear that many people fear public speaking more than death. Given our dread terror of speaking before an audience, Pembroke’s 32-page flipchart on public speaking will be of interest to many readers. In Powerful Presentations: Seven Steps to Successful Speaking, readers will find much useful information that will be of assistance to educators planning for conference presentations, professional development service, or opportunities to address the school community.
Having previously published Seven Steps to Successful Writing, it is apparent that the author, Graham Foster, has a penchant for breaking things down into sevens. His seven steps to successful speaking are: 1) identifying a purpose; 2) selecting content; 3) considering voice and illustrations; 4) commanding attention; 5) presenting with confidence; 6) assessing impact; and 7) setting future goals. Written in a simple, straightforward manner, the guide will be a useful resource to many people who feel unsure of their skill before an audience. Powerful Presentations is presented in an easy-to-read “flipbook” format that makes the information easily accessible.
Given that the guide emphasizes the need to consider one’s audience, it is somewhat ironic that I am not sure what audience Foster has in mind for this publication. I believe that it is intended for adult readers, but not exclusively for teachers. Indeed, for a publication for educators, one of its weaknesses is that it does not cater specifically to teaching or the topic of education. One of the final pages is directly targeted to teachers in that it talks about supporting student presenters, but, generally, the guide lacks the direct links that it should have to make it more tailored to education.
I suspect that, in its current, simplistic form, the guide is likely to be of greatest value, not to teachers, but to high school students—those making their first forays into public speaking. The accessible format will make it a perfect reference resource for students making presentations—either before the class or sharing information with a broader audience.
One particular section of the guide drew a hearty “hear! hear!” from me. As one who often finds himself listening to public speakers in a variety of settings, there is nothing that turns me off more than when a speaker begins his or her presentation with an apology. “I wish I was better prepared” or, far worse, “As I was preparing my speech in the car on the way here this morning….” Rather than drawing from me what I expect are supposed to be feelings of sympathy, such comments invariably draw nothing from me but disdain. As Foster stresses, “Never begin by telling [the audience] that you feel unprepared.” I find it rude when a speaker begins with such a comment, and I often feel like rushing to the exit. I use this example to illustrate that I am in strong agreement with the things included within Powerful Presentations. Foster obviously knows his topic, and he recognizes that many of us can use assistance in preparing to speak before an audience. These things being said, the guide is a useful resource; however, I wish that the links to education were stronger.
Recommended with reservations.
Gregory Bryan is a member of the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.
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