(NOTE: The author and guest blogger, John H. Redekop, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus, Wilfred Laurier University)
When I approach a book with serious intent, I come with a red pen in one hand and a long, blank envelope in the other. In reading Richard Goossen's Public Speaking Laws of Success; For Everyone and Every Occasion I went through a good bit of red ink and two long envelopes were insufficient.
Three noteworthy features of this monograph must be stressed at the outset. First, the author is not only highly educated but also, even more important, his writing is rooted in decades of successful speaking in a wide spectrum of arenas. Second, this book may well be the best, most helpful, publication on this topic currently available. I have found nothing more helpful. Third, by reading this book, a novice public speaker will learn all the basics; a good public speaker will discover how to become better; and an excellent pubic speaker will realize there is always room for improvement.
The book ranges widely, dealing with all components of effective platform delivery ranging from preparation to venue and from audience expectation to successful delivery. While thirty-two chapters deal with insight and wisdom relevant for all categories of speaking, eighteen describe applications in specific situations ranging from weddings to workshops.
This volume boasts numerous additional strengths. One is that the treatment of the topics is not theoretical but highly practical. Another is that the book is full of stories and examples. We all know that people remember stories better than non-illustrated principles. Author Goossen describes many stories, some humorous and some oratorically tragic situations.. Sometimes he recounts his own faux pas. Importantly, his accounts ring true and are consistently instructive. Of particular interest to me were the many times that the reader is told of presentations that did not go well or became outright failures. Descriptions of what went wrong, and why, are powerful teaching tools.
A delightful surprise for this reviewer was to discover that not only is Dr. Goossen a distinguished speaker but also a skilled wordsmith and adept at effective phrasing. I illustrate three categories. First, in various chapters the reader encounters concise, common-sense reminders such as "Say less, and say it right", "Don't finish a presentation with a whimper", and "It is important to look professional".
The second category incorporates gems of pithy wisdom. Examples include "your character will dwarf your competence", "a momentary lapse can derail a great presentation", and you should "leverage your expertise".
The third category, for me especially helpful, was Richard Goossen's frequent innovative turn of phrase. Some which struck me as being particularly insightful were "hectoring from the front", "Pablum for the mind", "an island of spiritual awkwardness", "an ideal student trifecta", and "cringe-inducing". I have added those to my repertoire.
More than five centuries ago Francis Bacon wrote that "Some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly." This book deserves thorough digestion.
I hark back to my trusty red pen. I used it – extensively. Carefully flipping through the book I note that on only two pages is there no red. Significantly, one has only six lines of text and the other three.