If you could have only one business presentation book to help you with your presentations, what would it be?
You have many from which to choose. Too many, in fact.
Hundreds of them.
So this question is part rhetorical and part genuine inquiry to discover what motivates, trains, and aids students and young executives in their development into capable presenters. No, not just capable presenters . . . especially powerful presenters.
I have my own answer to this question, of course, and I’ll share it with you in a moment. It’s based on reviewing a skein of presentation and public speaking books published over the course of 2,500 years. All of ’em? Close to it.
It’s an esoteric subject with a tightly circumscribed group of recognized and established authors and scholars. The mid- to late 1800s was the golden age for modern oratory and presenting. This was when Philadelphia was host to the National School of Elocution and Oratory, and departments of public speaking flourished in universities across the land.
Business Presentation Books
Today, we have “communications” courses that offer tofu and tedious texts. They offer impractical and vague suggestions that are often impossible to put into practice.
Today we have The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs supplanting the rich and powerful books of speaking masters who offer the soundest and most-proven presentation instruction in all of recorded history. This is not to harshly criticize The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs. I don’t imply that it isn’t useful at all. The author, Carmine Gallo, is a delightfully engaging and powerful public speaker himself. He pens a superb column for BusinessWeek.
And sure, this book has a pocketful of useful tips.
But the book, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, is more about Steve Jobs than about you. It’s more about Steve Jobs than about presentation secrets that you can actually use.
Let’s put it this way: Steve Jobs’s #1 presentation “secret” is to speak only at Apple product launch extravaganzas populated with early adopter evangelicals and to ensure that he is unveiling the next generation high-technology gadget that has been hyped in the world press for the previous 12 months. In such a scenario, you and I could paint our faces blue and dress like Jack Sparrow and deliver a successful and quite powerful presentation?
Of course we could. That is Steve Jobs’s actual “secret.”
Jobs is an above-average speaker with a distinctive style. His public appearances are highly orchestrated, and his speaking competition in America’s C-Suite is abysmal.
In short, Jobs is a celebrity CEO armed with a built-in audience poised to cheer his every word. That’s surely a “secret,” but it’s not helpful to the average presenter.
So, will you learn anything from Mr. Gallo’s book? Sure, but it has nothing to do with Jobs or what he does.
Mr. Gallo laces enough fundamental advice throughout the book to help a neophyte improve his presenting in several aspects. But the question I asked at the beginning is this:
If you could have only one book to help you with your business presentations, what would it be?
Not that one.
In fact, I could recommend a dozen books that are utterly superb, none of which published after 1950, that far outstrip today’s pedestrian offerings. Business presentation books that offer a wealth of powerful and mysterious techniques to transform you into the most dynamic speaker you possibly can be. Business presentation books to stretch you to your utmost limits, books that propel you to fulfill your fullest presentation potential.
Single books that are worth any 10 “business communication” texts costing more than $1,000.
But if I had to choose one . . . and only one . . .
It would be this book . . . a book first published in 1913.
This Business Presentation Book
Subsequent to its original publication, this incredible tome went into more than 58 editions and was constantly in print until 1962. In that year, it was revised and given a different title, and it went into another 28 editions, the last one I can find published in 1992. Its title was again revised and a new edition published in 2006.
It remains in print today. Many reprint editions are available and are quite inexpensive. Like diamonds upon the ground that no one recognizes.
And of all the more than 1,000 business presentation books I own, dating from 1762 to the present day (and reprints back to 430 BC), this is the one book I commend to you. You can search it on Amazon.com and purchase an inexpensive copy today.
The one book I recommend is . . .
Public Speaking and Influencing Men in Business, by Dale Carnegie.
Post-1962, the book is called The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Public Speaking, an edition revised by Carnegie’s wife [I dislike the new title, because it gives the mistaken impression that great public speaking can be “quick and easy,” an addition to the original book added much later, but I’ll not cavil on that point here].
The newest edition is called: Public Speaking for Success.
Of course, Public Speaking and Influencing Men in Business doesn’t mention the PowerPoint software package, for obvious reasons. Instead, it focuses on the most important elements of any business presentation, whether delivered by Pericles to the Athenians in 430 BC or by you to your Global Business Policies course in 2011. It focuses on you . . . your message . . . your audience.
Buy this book . . .
Read this book. . .
Learn from this book . . .
. . . and enjoy the fruits.
More on Business Presentation Books in The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.