Lend Me Your Ears: All you need to know about making speeches and presentations Paperback – 2 Sep 2004
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"There was scarcely a single major speech, in my eleven years as leader of the Liberal Democrats that I mad without benefiting from Max's personal advice and help. 'Lend Me Your Ears' includes many new insights into the art of effective speaking, and will be invaluable to all those interested in making words count and using verbal communication to influence people." (Paddy Ashdown)
"Neither politicians nor business leaders can lead today without the ability to communicate effectively with audiences of all sizes and compositions. They have two choices: (1) be born with the ability, or (2) read Max Atkinson's books and learn." (Michael Sheehan, Speech coach to Clinton)
A groundbreaking, yet practical guide to the art of public speakingSee all Product description
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In the book common myths about what is necessary to a good presentation are convincingly exposed and all that is truly necessary is clearly explained. The section on rhetoric, which seems to be either a forgotten or maligned art these days, was exceptionally interesting and useful. Examples to back up the points are used throughout.
If you have to make a presentation or speech and you don't know where to start then this is the book you need.
Max is an acknowledged expert in public speaking, and brings his obvious experience to the book: all the way through you get the sense of experience coming through. His bias is towards political speeches, but there is enough in the book to be genuinely useful for any kind of speech. His specific area of interest is in rhetorical devices: things like contrasts, and analogies, and the like, that help get your point accross. On this territory he is excellent.
But this is just one chunk of the book. The other bits were less perfect, although all were very sound. His discussion on visuals was a bit muddled: swinging from exhortations to make bullet points appear one at a time in Powerpoint, to condemnation of words on slides at all.
The section on the use of the voice was good, and clear.
Where I think the book was weak was in two areas: firstly on body language. He rightly asserts that lots of the modern body-language hype is meaningless, but he never serious tries to talk about how body language can be another visual aid at the lecturn (compare the expressionate Tony Blair and paper-shuffling Gordon Brown for a good and poor body language speaker). He also never gives constructive suggestions for using the body to retain eye-contact, and other ways to command a stage seen in all the top-paid keynote speakers.
And secondly I think it was weak in terms of structuring the speech. Rhetorical devices are only one part of rhetoric. The construction of an argument is also crucial, and it would have helped to understand how to put the whole speech together in a more concrete way that 'pre-introduction, introduction, main-bit, summary, conclusion'. The structuring of the speech section was very week I felt, and I really wanted to know more.
I'm not an expert by any means, and despite the fact that I didn't learn some things I was very keen to learm, I did get a lot from the book. It is very readable, and I would recommend it.
I am a mainly self taught trainer and speaker who, at the age of 66, gained a PGCE in the Post Compulsory Education and Training Sector as part of a retirement plan to set up as training consultant. Reading this book was an absolute breath of fresh air to me as I mentally ticked off all the things I've got wrong over the years and which are so eloquently dealt with in the book. If only I'd had a copy of it all those years ago!!!
With the tag of "Professor" Max could be forgiven for taking an academic stance in his writing and it came as a pleasant suprise to discover how clearly he explains himself in such a down to earth manner.
I shall be happy to recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in making presentations and congratulate Max on a super piece of work.
As a CEO I have sat through so many turn-off presentations by people I know to be literate and interesting. This book demonstrates how unnecessary this is, and that one does not have to be a "born speaker" to make lively, interesting, really effective presentations.
It is completely practical in identifying the tried and tested techniques which have served the great communicators down the ages, all of which are easily learned and applied. It is also first class on how to use (but not overuse) modern computer aids to great effect.
No wonder speechwriters to Presidents Reagan and Clinton say the author Professor Max Atkinson is the speechwriters Guru."
Throughout I have read any book on oratory that I can lay my hands on and Max Atkinson's "Lend Me Your Ears" is by far the best.
All the others I have read whilst helpful, are spoilt by containing some advice that is conterproductive and conflicts with my own experience on how audiences behave. I have not been able to reccommend them.
I had planned, in my retirement to write the perfect book on public speaking. I will now have to find something else to do!
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