On my bookshelf

  • "The Breathing Book" by Donna Farhi
  • "Confessions of a Public Speaker" by Scott Berkun
  • "My Freshman Year" by Rebekah Nathan
  • "Power Presentation" by Patsy Rodenburg

Monday, December 13, 2010


What do we fear when we get up in front of large or even small groups of people? Is it that they will throw rotten fruits and vegetables at us, tie us to a stake and roast us over a hot fire or simply think less of us? Since the first two are fairly rare, I am assuming for most of us the answer is the latter. I have spent too many hours in my lifetime worrying about what people think of me, but if I remind myself what I am doing when I present it simplifies things.
"What are you doing?" you may ask yourself.
"I'm exchanging information." I respond.
"But you are the only one talking?" you query.
Ah, I may be the only one talking out loud, but every single person listening is having a thought as I speak and hopefully I am responding to those thoughts.

I recently worked with a presenter who wanted to become more comfortable with his material. We found that whenever he turned his material into a question and answer all of the technical elements fell into place. When he verbalized, "What are our objectives for today's session?" he began to breathe and add vocal variety and relax his body and connect visually with his listeners.

"So you actually want me to try this?" you ask incredulously.
"Why not? What do you have to lose? At least use it as a practice technique to see whether or not it changes your relationship to your material or the listener. I've found it even helps answer questions people have around structuring their content." I respond confidently.

Go on-- give it a try!


Last week, with my one-year old daughter strapped on my back and my four–year old son in tow, we spontaneously made our way into Santa’s workshop on Granville Island. After a rousing rendition of Jingle Bells, accompanied by maracas and bells jangled in a most rhythmically challenged way, my son had the opportunity of a life-time: to sit on Santa’s lap for a full ten minutes. Despite the fact that he has been writing his Christmas wish-list since April 28th, the day after his birthday, he was stunned into silence by the gigantic realness of this mythical being. When Santa came to that perfect of all questions, “What would you like for Christmas?” my son said nothing!!! Santa suggested board games to which Griffin blithely nodded his head in a euphoric stupor, despite the fact that he already has Candy Land and Snakes and Ladders, the two board games Santa proposed bringing.

Now, I don’t know about you, but in the event that I, too, lose my brain the next time I see Santa; I thought I should get down in writing what I would really like. Last year, he brought me the perfect present, a DVD collection of Playing Shakespeare (John Barton’s master class with Royal Shakespeare Company actors bringing life to the Bard’s sonnets, scenes and monologues).
This year I am dying for Patsy Rodenburg’s latest book, The Second Circle. I haven’t read it yet, but take a look at this video:

For those of you confused by the concept of “presentation/performance energy” this is the book for you. I’ll fill you in further in the New Year, if Santa is good to me. I know that what my son really wants is the Playmobil Red Dragon. Think I might have to track Santa down myself and fill him in.