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4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 15 November 2005
Having taught presentation skills for many years I had often wondered why the resulting presentations were often so dull and forgettable. Now I know. Throughout the book I found myself saying "Yes, that's exactly the problem I've been having!". I am now convinced that any presentation or speech can be made memorable and interesting with a little effort.
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.
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on 17 January 2005
This book has high praise from people involved in public speaking and good reviews. I can definitely see why, but I don't think it is perfect.

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.
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on 14 March 2006
"Without doubt this is the best ever "how to" book on speeches and presentations, no matter what the topic - business, social, political, or technical.
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."
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on 10 March 2006
Like a number of other people I came upon this book by accident, whilst researching the subject, as part of my preparation for delivering a talk on presentation skills to a meeting of a professional body in Cardiff.

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.
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on 22 September 2004
Over the last 30 years I have spoken in 28 countries, launching cars, opening buildings and guest speaking at conferences.
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!
Peter Hancock
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on 10 September 2004
I am passionate about management training. It is so easy to rearrange existing knowledge and experience to meet the needs of new delegates. However the difficulty is in remaining motivated and stimulated. This book has done just that for me. I have already improved my presentations and audience involvement by using Max Atkinson's tips.
I rate this book so highly not only because I agree with so many of his observations, but also because I disagree with a few comments as I come from a psychological background rather than a sociological one. It has made me revisit some of my assumptions and inspired me to check out previous and new research.
It is easy to read, as it is joyful and jargon free. I loved 'death by a thousand slides,' and the anecdotes. Every teacher, trainer and tomorrow's leaders need to read this.
This will be a best seller like 'Men are from Mars.' For me it is a better book as it does not repeat the first chapter in various disguises but offered me new ideas as I read through every word until the end. This is very rare for a professional book. As I am an author of seven management books, I wish I had thought of it!
Jeanie Civil
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on 15 April 2005
I do alot of public speaking and thought I knew about the tips, techniques and strategies that can make for a successful event. This book is the one-stop shop in terms of covering all the important elements of giving a presentation along with some of the things we all think about but nobody has ever written about, i.e. the annoying way that some presenters pull the paper backing off of acetates!!
If you are a seasoned presenter or tasked with doing your first stand up presentation, you will not be disappointed in this publication. It is one of the few books I have purchased which fits into the category of an 'investment' in improving my performance versus something that was nice to have read and then goes onto the shelf never to be referred to again. Great stuff.
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on 7 June 2007
I could never figure why speeches and presentations frightened me. A confident personality, I would nevertheless only address an event under duress. Then one morning I heard Prof Atkinson on Radio 4. Here, it seemed, was a fellow who made sense. By marvellous happenchance that was two days before the final interview round - which included a 10 minute presentation - for a job I wanted dearly. I bought his book and spent the weekend working through the chapters, assembling my arguments and speech. It was the best £9.99 I've ever spent. It explained to me why I could confidently chair a meeting, or do a TV interview but hated speeches. And more importantly it showed me what to do about it. There was no waffle, no nonsense and no management gobbledegook. I got the job. I would have absolutely no hesitation in recommending this book to anyone. In fact I do - every time somebody praises a speech I've given with the words 'I wish I could give speeches like that'. Because you can - and even come to love giving them.
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on 30 October 2004
This book is brilliant (and a great source of comfort when planning your first presentation!). I found the analysis of different methods of presenting your material i.e. PowerPoint, flipcharts etc. and their relative merits in different situations particularly helpful. I couldn't help but trust every single word this author says - not only because of his calm authoritative style, but also because his ideas correspond so well to my own experiences of being part of an audience.
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on 27 November 2004
I love this book.
I had never heard of Max Atkinson until I discovered his book accidentally. And I'm so glad I did.
I am an independent trainer & consultant based in Oxford. I help European and Asian business people to be better communicators. This book has been extremely helpful already.
I have been able to improve a number of points in my own training courses including the roots of (classical) rhetoric, using lists of three and asking rhetorical questions to link sections. In addition, the book has helped me to confirm a lot of my own beliefs as a trainer such as pausing with purpose, stress & intonation and not doing 'death by powerpoint' - something which is still popular in Europe and Asia.
My clients will be even better communicaors because of Max Atkinson.
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