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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elegant and entertaining
We've waited a long time for Tony Blair's speechwriter to share his secrets and he's produced a slim but very readable tome. He's had access to the people at the top of politics for many years and he's delivered for them. Collins is a great stylist. He's at ease quoting Larkin and Martin Amis and you enjoy his creativity, intelligence and experience. He's of the literary...
Published on 12 April 2012 by William Cohen

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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good man speaking - quite well
Tony Blair's former speechwriter is on a mission. Many speakers worry about how they'll perform, he says, "but they do not worry enough about writing the speech in the first place."

The point's well made. Some write speeches; some write others' speeches; and some present. Presenters tend to write nothing but slides (which should be more or less wordless,...
Published on 25 May 2012 by Alan Barker


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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elegant and entertaining, 12 April 2012
By 
William Cohen (London) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
We've waited a long time for Tony Blair's speechwriter to share his secrets and he's produced a slim but very readable tome. He's had access to the people at the top of politics for many years and he's delivered for them. Collins is a great stylist. He's at ease quoting Larkin and Martin Amis and you enjoy his creativity, intelligence and experience. He's of the literary school of speechwriting and the Collins methodology of this book is built around a sharp focus on the topic.

It's worth comparing this book with Max Atkinson's Lend Me Your Ears. Atkinson's theory is that you have to use specific techniques to stop the audience falling asleep, which they will naturally do when released from the conventions of conversation. It's encouraging to have different schools of British speechwriters. With this level of debate, there's no reason for our public figures to be boring and there should be plenty of work for expert speechwriters.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good man speaking - quite well, 25 May 2012
Tony Blair's former speechwriter is on a mission. Many speakers worry about how they'll perform, he says, "but they do not worry enough about writing the speech in the first place."

The point's well made. Some write speeches; some write others' speeches; and some present. Presenters tend to write nothing but slides (which should be more or less wordless, anyway). Collins wants to help all three groups. Tall order.

He's at his best when focussing on the speech itself. Speeches and presentations are notoriously ineffective at explaining; classical rhetoric is all about persuasion. An informative speech will only work if it has a non-informative subsidiary function, and Collins helps us find one.

He's brilliant, too, on finding the topic of the speech. "Try writing the opposite of what you have written," he suggests. "If it makes sense, you have a credible topic."

These chapters alone are worth the price of the book.

Given all this evident good sense, it's a pity the chapter on language offers so little detailed guidance. We're told to read Orwell(good advice but hardly new) and to avoid clchés(Collins' dislike of 'proactive' seems harsh). We're given a four-page anecdote that may or may not be about Kissinger. We need more.

"Profound public speech." says Collins, "has become more difficult than ever before." But his belief in the moral force of rhetoric remains strong. So many leaders don't care about being dull and unclear. "They should care," he says, "because to speak poorly in public is a bad thing to do in itself." He's echoing Quintilian, who famously defined rhetoric as 'a good man speaking well'. And he's right.

A longer version of this review appears here:
[...]
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I Can't Dance" still- but I did learn to give a better speech, 3 Aug 2012
By 
Wayne Redhart "@wayneredhart on Twitter!" (West Midlands, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
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I had a strange sensation while waiting for the vine newsletter- a curious kind of anticipation of something special. While I couldn't quite place it, I had the abstract feeling that there was something "In the Air Tonight". Sure enough, when the list arrived I was offered this wonderful book on speech writing, by Philip Collins. Although there were a number of other items that interested me, something about it just said "Take me Home". As soon as I had ordered it, my stomach was literally (in the metaphorical sense) turning itself "Inside Out" with anticipation!

Unfortunately, I had a busy evening on the day that it arrived- although I consoled myself with the knowledge that it would be just "One More Night" until I could get started. After all, "Why can't it Wait Until Morning", I thought to myself? The next day the weather was lovely- which meant that I was able to relax in the garden while reading, with "No Jacket Required" (although what with the hosepipe ban I almost found myself thinking "I Wish it Would Rain Down").

Anyway, Collins gives a refreshingly different take on speech writing. According to him, the "Genesis" of a good speech stems from clarity of content- and he drums his message out like nobody's business. Now, "You Ought to Know" that the chap was Tony Blairs's speechwriter. While everyone tends to regard the former PM as a bit of a dong, these days, "Do You Remember" quite how powerful an impact his speeches used to have on people? Surprisingly, I can "Testify" that there's nothing here about the secrets of delivering bare-faced lies though a smarmy grin- so let there be no "Misunderstanding" about that. Blairs may be associated with cheap superficiality, but I soon found myself thinking- "I Don't Care Anymore" about any associations to him. Clearly he and his writer led "Separate Lives" in many respects- for what Collins is concerned with here is substance. Although he deals with "Both Sides of the Story" (ie. what to say and how to say it) the bulk of his writing is about making quality points, rather than delivery. Charisma alone can't make up for the lack of a message. "That's Just the Way It is", when it comes to any decent speech- and there's "No Way Out" of it.

What I picked up within has made for a heck of a "Wake Up Call" about how to capture the attention. "Going Back" I realise that fellow "Everyday" drinkers in my local Wetherspoons always lost interest in my speeches, in no time at all. No sooner had I even started than I was already "Throwing It All Away"! Sometimes I had barely begun clambering my way up to stand on a table (a plinth from which I like nothing better than to recite the tale of how, "Against All Odds", I was once featured on BBC Radio 4's Pick of the Week) than every single person would have moved to the other side of the pub! Still, "It's Not Too Late". Thanks to the advice here (about structure, enagement and brevity etc) as many as two people have recently been known to smile and nod politely while I orate. Sometimes they even stick around for as many as the first five minutes of my hour-long talks! "But Seriously", the advice here is well worth reading at "Face Value" and will do no end of good for anybody who performs public speaking. If the author's former associations to a war-crimininal are too much for you, all I can say is- look here "Buster"! I don't care if the man wrote speeches for Fred West! His "True Colours" are on display here, and you ought to both "Take a Look" and "Hang in Long Enough" to learn something valuable from him!

Anyway, "Hello, I Must be Going", so "That's All" folks!!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars NOT a Science!, 31 July 2012
By 
Mr. Stephen Redman (York England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
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This is not a new subject but it is a new voice - an authoritative one. Former speech maker to Tony Blair, the author has his own views on exactly how you make your presentation or speech effective and impressive. The book is broken down into clear sections that deal with the vital elements of an impressive presentation.

Much of this material is available elsewhere, and the writing isn't 'gripping' - but then how would you make this subject exciting? The benefit is that this one book probably would do instead of 2 or 3 others.

What this book does deliver is a reasoned and practical set of guidelines which will help any public speaker, preacher, teacher or communicator. The layout is helpful and the 'do nots' are just as helpful as the 'dos'.
His section on 'editing' is a vital read and his emphasis on personalisation is excellent too.

The title is important because the author is not trying to make a science out of public speaking - this is definitely about releasing your creativity (within helpful boundaries) and producing ART.

Probably as good a book on the subject as you could wish to buy!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative and entertaining., 23 July 2012
By 
M. D Roberts (Gwent, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This book is an extremely enjoyable read, while being both informative and entertaining at the same time. The author addresses in considerable detail, how the prospect of speaking in public incites fear in a number of people, and then sets out to counteract these fears. Discussing how to convey a persuasive argument, a plethora of issues surrounding public speaking are tackled, including the audience, topic and art of delivery. I found the text easy to understand and the book difficult to put down.

Early on this book is quick to illustrate that many orators actually say quite a lot about a subject without ever quite knowing what they are talking about. To support this statement the author quotes Churchill as once describing orators as people who "..before they get up they do not know what they are saying; and when they have sat down, they do not know what they have said...".

Indeed, at the outset the writer stresses that he is not setting out to transform the reader into a Martin Luther King, Neil Kinnock or Barack Obama, but to personally assist the reader in becoming the best speaker that they can realistically be, on the subject that needs to be delivered.

The experience of Tony Blair's former Chief Speech Writer is evident throughout, and no matter how you feel about the former Prime Minister, Philip Collins obviously knows what he is talking about. I highly recommend this book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Art of Speeches, 30 Mar 2014
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Any book that tells me something that I did not know is a success (for me). Had read other books on the topic so did not expect to find anything particularly knew. Good summary of key points. Worth noting that this book is about speeches as well as presentations, and each activity requires a different approach
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4.0 out of 5 stars Very useful but a tad dull, 9 May 2013
By 
MJ King "MJK" (Birmingham, England) - See all my reviews
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Written by Tony Blair's former Chief Speech Writer Philip Collins, this is a book whose impact will - in my opinion - vary from reader to reader.

Much will depend on whether you are reading out of general interest, to learn how to give better presentations or to learn how to create better presentations.

If you fall into either of the first two categories, then I suspect you will be slightly disappointed with this book. Yes you will acknowledge is sensibly laid out, uses fairly obvious words and has some 'good ideas'.

Trouble is, you will probably find the way its presented is a little dull. Ironic, given the book's title. Dry as other reviewers have noted. It's all written in a rather formal, old fashioned BBC News type way, with lots of text and not much else.

If it were a Microsoft Power Point presentation it would be one with dull pictures and mono colours!

So its not going to really excite or inspire a casual reader and it contains very little advice on how to actually deliver a presentation.

But - and it's quite a big but - if you are someone who already delivers great presentations then this book could well be of use! Its central point is that great presentations depend on their content.

To be honest, I'm not sure I personally agree with that but what this book does deliver is lots of useful advice about content: how to choose it, how to lay it out etc.

I'd probably add a star if you need help with WHAT to say but maybe deduct one if you need help with HOW to say it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Very useful to have on your bookshelves, 27 Jan 2013
By 
Trickle Tree (The universe) - See all my reviews
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I purchased this book due to having to give my first professional talk. Although I knew my subject well I was concerned about my lack of confidence and making my audience fall a sleep. This book was priceless in my preparation. Lots of handy tips and presentation of information ideas. On the day I felt very nervous but was able to hide most of them with the help of the tools provided by this author.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Treatment of the Subject, 22 Sep 2012
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Amazon Customer - See all my reviews
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I got this book not because I was thinking of embarking on a speech tour but just to see what a professional speech writer has to say about what can go wrong. I have to present at work quite often but more often than that, I'm in the audience sometimes wondering why my mind is wandering. I think we basically all know why speeches go wrong, but at least here are some good tips for how to (at the bare minimum) keep your focus and avoid losing your audience in the first few minutes. Written in an easy to read style which is just as well given the subject of the book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Honest and covers practicalities well., 20 Sep 2012
By 
Jack Chakotay "Ender Brazil" (Northern Ireland) - See all my reviews
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I went into this book with some trepidation when the blurb on the cover pronounced "speechwriter to Tony Blair". As a PM whose government's usage of spin was unprecedented, I personally felt the blurb was more of a negative especially when Mr Blair's speeches was played a huge role in facilitating that spin.

That said living policies aside, you can actually see the approach to the fundamentals quoting both debating, rhetoric and exposition techniques as well as the practicalities of image projection and practice.

You realise that this book isn't going to quite get you to a sustainable speech making/presentation giving level in a week BUT you'll have groundwork to make a passable speech. Practice giving speeches and presentations regularly and you can get by with less material which I find is always a good thing.

This book isn't groundbreaking in any way, but it is very well presented and can serve as the "one book in your shelf" that covers the topic of speechmaking.
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