Book 7 of 52: "Pitch Perfect" by Bill McGowan

To start this review, let me say that Pitch Perfect is probably the best book on public speaking, bar none, that I’ve found.  This book has so much good advice, I’m actually considering buying a copy to keep it around permanently.

Let’s face it – everyone hates public speaking.  Some people are better at it than others, and I like to believe that I, personally, am not the worst at it.  But still, whenever I have to get up and talk (even if it’s just in a small meeting), I get nervous.  And presenting a more detailed topic, to a large audience?  I cringe at the thought!

In Pitch Perfect, McGowan starts by acknowledging this, and he first drills down on the idea of practice, practice, practice!  He explains how everyone goes through three stages: dread, acceptance, and enjoyment.  He emphasizes that it takes lots of time/practice to get to the enjoyment stage, but that it’s possible!

He also brings up practice to show that all those people who are “natural” speakers are nothing of the sort – they have practiced!  This was a huge realization to me personally.  I always thought that some people could just stand up and talk, and their words would come out perfectly.  Oh, how I envied them!  But the dirty truth is that these people have to practice, just like everyone else – and if they don’t, it shows in their next talk.

After these broader statements, McGowan buckles down and emphasizes everything that can go wrong, everything that makes a speech fail.  He touches on body language, overused words, the most common (and, coincidentally, the worst) ways to start a speech, and how to fix each of these points!  He shows how even experienced presenters shoot themselves in the foot, and how to avoid those same mistakes.

Finally, McGowan talks about some of the more specialized speeches – how to give a toast, how to speak at a corporate event versus a social event, and how to handle other parts of communication.  In the end, I finished the book feeling strengthened, but not overwhelmed.

In fact, only a day or two after finishing the book, I had to give a speech, and I put some of McGowan’s suggestions into effect.  And I was astounded to see positive effects right away!  I would wholly recommend this book to everyone, and in fact have already done so to several colleagues.

Time to read: about 6 hours.  I really focused on going slower with this book to absorb everything.

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