The divide between good communicators and not-so good communicators begins early. Most of us stumble through middle and high school speeches along with possibly a course or two in college (unless you’re majoring in communications). Most of us accept that we will only be mediocre speakers, unless we’re born with the gift of charisma.
Yet, communication skills are one of the top skills necessary for succeeding in every single job on the planet. People who communicate better get promoted more often, get more proposals, and have an easier time addressing conflict in their business.
So, it pays to be a better communicator!
The catch-22 is that most of us assume we can read a book or two on public speaking and stop there. We don’t grow these skills as we could, either because of lack of time or lack of knowledge. As a result, we don’t grow these skills to the epic awesomeness that Ruth Sherman, communications coach and commentator (@ruthsherman), says that we can.
The Basic Misconception About Public Speaking
Sherman points out that the problem most people have with public speaking begins with a basic misconception. It is the mistaken belief that great communication (including public speaking) is a natural ability, something that people either have or they don’t.
In her book, “Speakrets: The 30 Best, Most Effective, Most Overlooked Marketing And Personal Branding Essentials,” Sherman challenges this myth. Her promise is that public speaking can be improved a little bit at a time with only the time it takes to read and practice the information in her book.
Does this promise deliver?
Focusing on the Overlooked Fundamentals
The purpose of “Speakrets” is not to provide a comprehensive or textbook introduction to public speaking and communication. Instead, the focus is on the simple fundamentals most of us (including some textbooks) take for granted. Still they are ideas that really impact performance. Sherman calls these “speakrets” because she says, if they are not actual secrets about public speaking, they might as well be. They were just as little known.
“Speakrets” is divided into three parts that focus on effective communication in three different settings. They include private speaking (techniques that can be easily practiced in private with other individuals), business speaking (techniques that can be used in presentations and other business interactions), and public speaking (techniques reserved for larger public events). It is highly geared toward the business executive, but offers advice that can be used by anyone. Each chapter ends with a “Speakrets” toolkit, which provides bite-sized instructions or sayings that can be put into immediate use.
At first read, “Speakrets” offers deceptively simple advice. For example, the first chapter is simply titled, “Listen” and delves into how actually listening in a conversation can radically improve communication. A reader looking for tips on how to improve the technical aspects of their presentation might be bothered by this, but that misses the point of the book.
Sherman wants readers to really focus on the important aspects of giving a speech. Technical details, like lighting and slides, can help enhance your speech. But nothing can help if you don’t master the fundamentals. Those fundamentals, as presented in those books deal with presentation, knowing your audience, and knowing your own mindset before you speak or send an email.
Is “Speakrets” a Worthwhile Read?
“Speakrets” offers straightforward advice on the fundamentals of all communication (oral and written) in ways that can implemented within 5 minutes or less. If you are someone who is looking for a quick read and even quicker ways to improve communication skills, this book can be worked through on a lesson by lesson basis.
In a couple of the “Speakrets” toolkits, there are useful checklist that force the reader to reflect on whether they are aligned with their communication style. This self-reflection is something that is often neglected in communication books. If you don’t feel comfortable communicating as you want to communicate, your message will not be as strong as it could be.
This points to another aspect of “Speakrets” – flexibility. Sherman doesn’t prescribe how you should communicate (except in some obvious circumstances), she advocates an approach that works best for the reader. “Speakrets” readily recognizes that we don’t all communicate the same way to same people at the same time. The point is to be authentic while presenting your message the best way you can. This review is based on an electronic copy of the book provided for reviewing purposes.