Book Review: Lend Me Your Ears: All you need to know about making speeches and presentations by Max Atkinson
Delivering effective presentations is such a crucial task for many business owners and professionals. Yet, as Professor Max Atkinson argues in this though-provoking and highly useful book, the industry-standard, PowerPoint list model that many presenters now follow is almost guaranteed to send your audience to sleep.
Drawing on extensive research and over 30 years’ experience in the field, as well as classical theory, Atkinson explains the unique factors that make public speaking different from any other kind of communication – and how you can deal with them effectively.
Covering everything from sentence structure and word choice to eye contact, visual aids and body language, this comprehensive guide lives up to its subtitle’s billing as “all you need to know about making speeches and presentations”.
Yet, with the book clearly structured into particular sections and subsections, it’s easy to pick out the key points and tips without getting bogged down in the often detailed explanations of the reasoning.
At times some of the advice seems more dated than the 2004 publication date would suggest (and I doubt many readers need concern themselves too much with the practicalities of acetate slides!). However, there are some useful tips on effectively using PowerPoint, which remains the default choice for most speakers these days.
In any case, the vast majority of the techniques in the book are pretty timeless. Indeed, one of the most interesting and useful sections is on rhetorical devices – which have been written about since ancient times. Here they are well explained in simple language, with tips that can easily be replicated in the reader’s own speeches.
And as with almost every recommendation in the book, they come with plentiful examples from well-known speakers, which often liven up the text as well as demonstrating the point.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given Atkinson’s background as a long-time adviser to Paddy Ashdown, these are primarily from the world of politics, but there is also a specific section of the book dedicated to how these techniques can be applied in a business context – and this is also filled with real-life examples.
Meanwhile, the end of every chapter features a handy recap followed by a series of exercises to help readers better understand and put into practice the ideas discussed.
This, combined with a wealth of well-researched and clearly explained content, makes Lend Me Your Ears an incredibly useful learning tool, and reference guide, for anyone looking to deliver more effective presentations.
If you’re looking for more help to improve your presentations or speaking skills, our friends at the College of Public Speaking offer a wide range of helpful public speaking courses in London.
These include the popular Fear of Public Speaking courses and professional Train the Trainer courses, which lead to a widely recognised BTEC qualification.
We also recommend their free 5-part email mini-course: 5 Powerful Shortcuts to Conquer Your Nerves and Speak with More Confidence