Though I had three books ahead of it (these and this one), I couldn’t resist the pull of How To Be A Presentation God: Build, Design, and Deliver Presentations that Dominate by Ethos3’s CEO Scott Schwertly. Schwertly was kind enough to send me an autographed hard copy of the text a few weeks ago, and since I opened the first page, I was hooked. My initial review after skimming through the text and reading the first few chapters was that the book was “insanely good.” After finishing the entire thing, I am happy to report that my first impression was correct; the book is great!
I’m always baffled when I read a lukewarm review of a book I enjoyed. However, my dad taught me an important reading lesson; he said we must read books at the right time in our lives. For example, let’s look at Dr. Nick Morgan‘s review. Morgan writes, “I’m always on the lookout for good new books on public speaking, but I can’t recommend this one. The advice is too general for anyone who has any sort of experience speaking – or has read more than one or two books on the subject” (Source). So why might Dr. Morgan and I differ in our views of the text? Again, I believe it is because you must read a book at the right time in your life. If you come to a book expecting a life-changing experience, you might be disappointed. I try to read a text without any expectation other than to learn and to grow, and I am usually happy to expand my knowledge base in some way.
I enjoyed many things about Schwertly’s book. First, the book explained the presentation revolution concept in a new, interesting way using fantastic metaphors (ethos as an interstate highway) and examples (Bruce Lee, Ron Burgundy). This made the presentation revolution more accessible and understandable for the beginning presenter. My favorite part of the book was the first part called “The New Era of Presentations” comprised of three chapters. Schwertly captured the presentation revolution’s goals perfectly in this section.
I also loved Schwertly’s humor. Has a book ever made you cry? Has a book ever scared you? Has a book ever made you laugh out loud? If a writer can make me feel feelings, I consider that writer successful because it is so rare. Humor helps us learn because it helps us remember and retain information. If a book can make you feel a specific emotion, such as happiness, the writer is doing his or her job. If you can have fun while reading a book, the writer is successful.
The third thing I loved about Presentation God was the use of design to help us retain and remember these principles. For example, I loved the ideas behind “Narcolepto” or “Mediogre,” but the full-page images applied the picture superiority effect and really helped these concepts stick in my head as characters.
There were things I didn’t like about Presentation God, too. First, Schwertly’s Ethos3 is known for its beautiful, well-designed Slideshare presentations (among many other things). I would have liked to see a more in-depth chapter on design letting us in on the company’s secrets. Schwertly’s next project should definitely be a design “how to” book using images in addition to text. It’s hard to write about design without showing examples.
Though audience analysis is extremely important, I did not enjoy Chapter 7. I would have liked to see a different approach to audience analysis using more Brain Rules techniques to define what an audience needs from a presenter.
Finally, I would have restructured parts of the “Delivery” section (Chapters 11 through 13). Some of “Delivery” was about presentation anxiety, which, in my opinion, should be covered before the three legs of the presentation stool: content, design, and delivery. With a separate section on “Presentation Anxiety” before the three legs, the “Delivery” section could have focused on actual delivery: eye contact, movement, nonverbal communication, proxemics, etc. Delivery is really, really hard to write about; do yourself a favor and read Garr Reynolds’ The Naked Presenter immediately. You won’t ever need another resource on delivery as long as you life. Okay, that’s lofty, but I love the book.
I recommend Presentation God to beginning presenters and public speakers who want to learn more about the presentation revolution. It would be a great classroom textbook because the writing style would instantly hook student readers. I would also recommend the text to intermediate presenters who want to brush up on their skills and to re-learn material by thinking about it in new ways. I highly recommend it for public speaking and presentation teachers or coaches who need a variety of ways to explain concepts to others.
Have you read How To Be A Presentation God? What did you think about Scott Schwertly’s debut book?