Many books offer great advice. Some are so powerful they change your mind on issues you consider settled. Very few are so clear you can learn something about thinking just by reading them. TJ Walker’s Secret to Foolproof Presentations is all three.
At first glance, this book appears to be a compendium of answers to frequently-asked questions (FAQ’s) about public speaking. The chapters have titles such as “How can I get over stage fright or nervousness?” and “What do I do if I make a mistake or forget what I am about to say?” Each chapter answers the title’s question in a clear, direct way.
But that’s where the similarity to a typical FAQ ends.
Though the questions come from different perspectives, the answers all come from TJ Walker’s. He’s a man on a mission to persuade his readers of one thing: “Don’t focus on making a bad impression. Spend your time figuring out how to leave a lasting positive impression.” He hits this point in some form in every chapter—without ever being redundant.
In fact, the book as a whole is a deft dramatization of how to respond to the issues of immediate concern to your audience, while still getting *your* message across in a compelling way.
There is something fresh in every chapter. In some cases the advice is familiar (analyze video of yourself) but the argument is strikingly blunt: “Is it painful to watch yourself? Yes. But this is less painful than wasting the time of people you are speaking to because you were boring or hard to follow.”
In other cases the advice is surprising. For example, Walker tells you to put no words—zero words—on the Powerpoint slides you show to the audience. But make a second set of slides with bullet points, and give that to them afterwards for reference.
I particularly appreciated how Walker made every suggestion easy to implement. His simple advice for how to find appropriate stories and humor was eye-opening and empowering.
Even if you have no particular interest in improving your communication skills, I recommend you read this book. Because if you’re interested in thinking skills (as I presume those on this list are), you’re interested in clarity. And for sheer clarity, this book is remarkable. It vividly demonstrates how to use words to make your ideas unmistakably clear and compelling.
Whatever your reason for reading it, don’t be surprised if TJ Walker inspires you to improve your presentation skills. Before I read this book, I felt pretty satisfied with my own presentations. I opened up the book hoping to pick up a few extra tips. By the time I finished it (less than 24 hours later), I was filled with insights and inspiration, and passionately committed to taking my presentations to the next level.
Book Information: TJ Walker, TJ Walker’s Secret to Foolproof Presentations, Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2009.