A new book titled The Power Presenter: Technique, Style and Strategy from America’s Top Speaking Coach focuses on improving your delivery, what you say and how you say it.
Author Jerry Weissman starts with a story of a CEO who gave the same presentation in a two-week period. The first week didn’t go well and the second was a winner. What was different? Not the material. It was his delivery. He was dealing with a problem during the first week and had solved the problem over the weekend before the second week’s presentations.
Weissman also surprises the reader with a fact about which of three characteristics of a presentation impacts the audience most: visual (presenter’s body language not the slides), vocal (voice and storytelling approach) or verbal (the story). The story itself comes last! While your content is important, you need to concentrate on how you move and tell your story because those have a greater impact on your audience.
Do you love examples and learn best from them? The Power Presenter holds page after page of examples including links to view the videos online through a special page for book owners. (I’m the worst person to want to look at these videos because they’re rarely ever closed-captioned). However, Weissman piques my interest in the videos because he discusses more than just what the speaker says.
Weissman analyzes John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon in their famous televised debate. He recalls how Bill Clinton wasn’t always a natural speaker and gives examples proving his case. Clinton receives analysis of his speech, hand gestures, and his eye contact.
Bob Dole had a great line in his candidate speech, “…my heart is buoyant.” Great line, right? He blew it by saying in a flat manner. Weissman guides the reader through George W. Bush’s failed responses and successful speeches especially in his first post-9/11 speech.
The tips cover hand gestures, vocalization, pauses, body language, eye contact and when to make more eye contact, completing the arc of a statement and more. The author breaks down speeches by sections or lines to show what works or what fails complete with gesture and other notes.
Weissman decides to ride the Obama wave by adding a chapter devoted to his speaking skills, “What Every Speaker Can Learn from Barack Obama.” He ties Obama’s actions with past chapters in the book to show their effectiveness.
Slide and graphics interaction also receive a couple of chapters of coverage. Weissman shows how to work with the slides from a visual and vocal point of view. He digs into the Title Plus method of looking at the entire slide during the pause.
If you’re a politician or running for office, the book brings a range of techniques together to improve your presentations. But very little material addresses business presentations, which would make the book well rounded and appeal to a wider audience. Aside from the discussion of speeches, the writing reads like corporate-speak — flat and without personality. Perhaps, Weissman relies on other cues — as a good speaker should — that he can’t capture in the written word.
But overall, the examples along with Weissman’s explanations in The Power Presenter will help you understand what makes a speech powerful so you can apply those concepts in your own presentations.