I'm currently wrapping up the semester at Drake, which means I'm listening to a plethora of student presentations. I have to say, most of my students do an admirable job of presenting their thoughts, but there are always those one or two who are just not comfortable in front of an audience. That's a shame, too, given how critical public speaking skills are. At the beginning of the semester in almost every class, I ask my students how many of them are in sales. I get the obligatory one or two whose job title includes "sales" who raise their hands. After explaining to them all semester how they are constantly being assessed by those around them, and how their ideas are being weighed for acceptance, by the end of the semester they all raise their hand when asked how many of them are in sales.
That's why I was so excited when I received a copy of Carmine Gallo's new book, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience (McGraw Hill). There's one caveat I must share before going on. I receive an avalanche of requests to review books on my blog (which I find flattering). Because of this, I have to be pretty selective before I agree to review anything, and I use the title test as my first hurdle for deciding what to review. After all, if the name by which the book is branded doesn't get my attention, the promises for the content itself do not bode well.
I have to thank Gallo and his publicist for their patience on this review. When a book makes that kind of promise, I decided I didn't just want to read it and review it; I wanted to kick the tires and take it out for a test spin. And that I did, as I've been preparing to deliver the material around my own next book, Gallo helped me channel my own inner Steve Jobs. Obviously, Gallo's research was solid. As a writer for businessweek.com, he's had the opportunity to see Jobs firsthand at numerous keynotes, press conferences, and product launches. He leverages all of that, as well as countless hours of Youtube videos to provide relevant and practical examples of the charismatic master at his best.
There were times this past weekend when I longed to introduce students to this book (and when I say introduce, I mean strap them to a table and through a process of brainwashing osmosis, indoctrinate them through force to the ways of meaningful presentations... but I digress). While one student was meandering aimlessly through countless points, I thought of Jobs' rule of doing everything in three's (and why Goldilocks did not meet four bears). While another student struggled to find a central theme, I inwardly smiled about Gallo's admonition to find a Twitter-worthy focus for your presentations (and why it's important to sum up your thoughts in 140 characters or less).
Overall, the book is organized brilliantly, supported by practical tips that anybody from a seasoned professional to an elementary school student could use to wow their respective audiences. Gallo uses relevant examples and tools of today (with numerous references to Youtube and Twitter). He actually lays out the entire book like a stage performance in three acts, inviting you into Jobs' world, mind, and skill. You're on your own for the black turtleneck.
As for me, I have completely retooled my upcoming presentations on SWAT - Seize the Accomplishment, and I'm looking forward to delivering the first formal keynotes on the topic early next year. There are a lot of books out there on how to be a better speaker. If you decide to invest in only one to help you in this arena, you can't go wrong by learning from the master. (And I'm passing along this review to the professor who teaches presentation skills and personal branding at Drake. Hint! Hint!)