Monday, February 21, 2011

Lessons From the Podium

As you might expect, I read a lot of books about the subject of speaking. Most recently I reviewed 'Resonate' by Nancy Duarte. Just as with Nancy's book, I received an advance copy of Lessons from the Podium for review purposes.

Author Steven D. Cohen has chosen to identify his work 'Public Speaking as a Leadership Art', and he presents several strong arguments throughout. He opens by discussing 'The Leadership Mindset', stating that the very process of speaking is the speaker taking a leadership role.

He covers topics you would expect, from 'Overcoming Nervousness' to 'Using Natural Gestures', from 'Connecting with Your Audience' to 'Using Your Voice'. He discusses each topic from an analytical point of view, offering a dissection of why we take certain actions and offering substitute actions to replace our bad habits.

Cohen also covers strategies for more specialized speeches - impromptu, persuasive, and inspirational.

Overall, the book is a bit of a dry read. His concept of Speaking as Leadership has potential, but is all but abandoned in favor of Speaking using Musical Theory midway through the book. The book feels a bit disjointed at times, and lacks a personal feel that would build a connection with the reader.

At only 125 pages, with ample white space and generous quoting from other sources, from Malcolm Gladwell to Carmine Gallo, as well as speech excerpts from famous and not-so-famous speakers, "Lessons from the Podium" is a quick read.

Personally, I rarely find a speaking book that I don't get something out of, and this book was no exception. The 'Leadership Mindset' is an excellent concept, and one I wanted the author to delve into on a deeper, more personal level. Still, I find it difficult to recommend this book to anyone other than a truly new speaker, or a speaking book junkie looking to find one or two new thoughts. Ultimately, I finished the book wanting so much more.

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