29 May 2012

Book review The Art of Speeches and Presentations

This month, we review <i>The Art of Speeches and Presentations</i> by Philip Collins

In a word this book is about content. Philip Collins is a former speechwriter to Tony Blair and his aim in this well-crafted and extremely useful book is to provide readers with a simple toolkit that allows them to create the perfect presentation every time. This is not a book about how to make a speech, although it also covers some of that ground, but rather how to prepare in the right way so that you’ll create a speech or presentation that’s most appropriate for the location, audience and situation that you find yourself in.

Whether it’s a formal speech at a major industry event or a casual few words to a bunch of workmates at a leaving do, Collins says that success comes from careful preparation, a process he breaks down into the six-point mneumonic DETAIL. That’s Delivery, Expectations, Topic, Audience, Individual and Language. This then forms the loose structure for the book, although Collins sensibly doesn’t stick rigidly to this order.

The key messages are the importance of having a clear, cogent central argument to any speech and to make sure that while you adjust your delivery to suit the occasion you still present what Collins calls "a version of yourself" to the audience. Because the focus of the book is the content and not delivery, there are gems and nuggets here for experienced presenters and novices alike. The only annoyance is the page of white type on grey background that introduces each chapter, which is tricky to read.

But perhaps the most powerful part of the book is a section on how to distil your core message down to its bare essence. Collins advises starting with writing a single page and then cutting that down to a single paragraph. If you can’t manage to do this then it’s possible you don’t have a decent enough grasp on the essence of your argument.


Richard Cree