Book review: Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun

I like to go to developer conferences. It is great to meat new people and learn something about new technologies like Clojure, Scala or Akka.
Unfortunately sometimes the talks I listen to during conferences are terrible. Very boring speaker, many bullet points, monotone voice and other things make it hard to stay awake after 5 minutes.

Giving good talks is not easy and I have been guilty of giving bad and boring talks myself.

The good news is that public speaking can be learned. Not everybody will be able to speak like Steve Jobs or Barack Obama but everybody can improve. (If you want to learn how Job and Obama do or did it, I recommend The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience and Say it Like Obama and Win!: The Power of Speaking with Purpose and Vision, Revised and Expanded Third Edition).

The most important thing to do is to actually practice public speaking by giving talks. For next year I plan to give at least one talk a month. All this helps to practice. But practice is only good when you practice how to do it correctly. If you practice bad things you will just get better at doing bad things.

There are many ways to learn how to be a better speaker incl:

  • Listening to talks on youtube
  • Going to great talks and ask the speaker for advice
  • Going to a Toastmasters club near you. (I will do that next year)
  • reading a good book about public speaking

Reading a good book is always a good idea and Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun is one of the best books I’ve read so far on public speaking.

It is a much more personal book than most other English and German books I’ve read (or plan to read) on public speaking.

Scott writes about many things a public speaker (from a professional speaker to anyone who wants to give a talk) should know incl:

  • How to deal with your fear of public speaking
  • How to work a tough room
  • How to prepare
  • How to talk on television
  • How not to be boring
  • How realistic it is to make $30,000 an hour
  • How to teach people something
  • Funny and scary stories by other speakers and what went wrong during their speeches

Scott not only explains what went well but also what went wrong during his own speeches.

Scott’s book is not only a great source of information about public speaking, it is a joy to read and often very funny because Scott is also a great writer (check out this blog)

Confessions of a Public Speaker is great for you if you want to give a talk at work or during your free time. No matter what you want to talk about, this book will be helpful. Highly recommend!
Note: Just reading through the book once is a good start but to actually get a lot out of it, it is important to check your talks against the advice in the book and see how you can improve your speeches and presentations!

Author’s website: