Review: Confessions of a Public Speaker


Since I began teaching Public Speaking in 2010, I’ve heard about Scott Berkun’s Confessions of a Public Speaker.  Finally, for my birthday back in April, I purchased a copy and really, really enjoyed what I learned.  While the text doesn’t offer anything new or groundbreaking, I appreciated Berkun’s down-to-earth, “let’s get real” style of writing.

One frustration for me was that Berkun’s book wasn’t as organized as I would have liked.  For example, consider Garr Reynolds’ The Naked Presenter text on delivery.  Each chapter builds off of the previous, and while reading the chapter, you understand not only where you are, but also where you are going.  Since the public speaking and presentation field is already so confusing in and of itself, a well organized book can really help a presenter understand in a more clear way.

My favorite part of Confessions was the new information I learned.  For example, Berkun explained very well that the feedback loop for presenters is broken.  In my own class, Professional Communication and Presentation, I’ve noticed that students don’t know how to provide constructive feedback for one another.  I’m definitely going to take Berkun’s advice into the classroom this month and form feedback worksheets that ask the right questions so that students can provide quality constructive criticism for each presenter.

If you’re interested in delivery, specifically, Garr Reynolds’ The Naked Presenter is my delivery bible.  If you want to know more about creating effective visuals to accompany your presentation, read Nancy Duarte’s slide:ology and Reynolds’ Presentation Zen and Presentation Zen Design.  If content is what you need to improve, Duarte’s resonate is an amazing place to begin.  I think Berkun’s Confessions is a great additional text in a public speaker’s library, but I feel that its comprehensive nature is less organized and more difficult to digest than books separated into the three legs of the presentation stool: 1) delivery, 2) content, and 3) visual presentation.

What great public speaking/presentation books have you read lately?


5 thoughts on “Review: Confessions of a Public Speaker

    • On the professional side, a book called “Imagine” by Johan Lehrer. Incredible tour of the neurobiology of creativity. Should finish it next week and I’ll be posting a review on the blog. For fiction reading, “The Odditorium” collection of short(ish) stories by Melissa Pritchard. Strange, haunting, with magnificent prose. I’d recommend both of them

      • Hey Peter, I heard about Johan Lehrer’s Imagine on NPR… How are you liking it? It’s on my must-read list. For the past year, I’ve been reading solely nonfiction, so I’m happy to have a fiction recommendation! Thanks. I’ll check out Pritchard.

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