Book Review of The Exceptional Presenter: A Proven Formula to Open Up and Own the Room

The Exceptional Presenter: A Proven Formula to Open Up and Own the Room
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I freaking despise public speaking. Like the time I had to give the Best Man's speech at my brother's wedding. I knew about 6 months beforehand that I would be giving that darn speech and it was like a black cloud hovering above me the entire time, until D-Day, when he got hitched, I got semi-drunk, and delivered what surely was one of the greatest Wedding PowerPoint Presentations of all time. Or the time I dressed up as Forrest Gump for Halloween in Fifth Grade, stumbling through my lines about life and its stunning correlation to boxes of chocolates. Yes my friends, I have issues.

Fast forward to present day, where I have a job that requires me to conduct meetings all of the time. Heck, I don't even enjoy talking to most people in real life...imagine having to do it as part of your job. Now of course I could simply get another job if it really bothered me that much, but I actually really enjoy my job! Can you see the conundrum I'm presented with?

With that said, imagine my surprise when I received an inter-office package one day with this book inside. No note, no return address. Nothing but the book. Of course I instantly began wondering if my presentation skills were so bad that someone would anonymously send me this in hopes that I'd read it and improve my skills so that they'd never have to suffer through another one of my meetings. My conspiracy theory was quickly squashed however when I inquired with my manager about the mysterious package. It turns out that everyone in my department received one as a method for us to improve our presentation skills. Phew!

The book sat on my shelf for months collecting dust before I came to the realization that even though I despise public speaking, I do enjoy my job and would like to increase my comfort level with delivering presentations and running meetings. Plus, who knows, I figured that it may even help me connect on a deeper level with friends, family, and those random strangers I run into from time to time, but always pretend not to see. Acting like you're talking on your cell phone works wonders in avoiding unwanted conversations, in case you were curious.

Like most books of this genre, I found it to be rather dry, however it was a very quick read and offered some very helpful tips and tricks. Koegel walks us through the entire life cycle of a presentation, starting with the initial meeting preparation (agenda, handouts, participants), learning your audience so that you can position your message accordingly, structuring your speech to ensure your most important messages are absorbed and remembered afterwards, proper use of eye contact, body language, and voice tone while presenting, gauging your audience's reaction, conducting a Q& A session, closing a presentation, etc.

While I found a lot of this information valuable, I also found that quite a bit of it was not applicable to my current role, as I telecommute and conduct the vast majority of my meetings via conference calls. A more "modern" version would be appreciated. Also, did Koegel really need to use the word "exceptional" so much??? Yes, I get that the book's title is "The Exceptional Presenter" and I get that Koegel's goal is to make us all exceptional speakers, but this book has to hold the all time literary record for the use of the word within one body of text. You know that weird feeling you get when you're watching a movie and one of the characters says the name of the movie while they're talking to someone? That's how I felt every time the word "exceptional" popped up in this book. Am I the only one bothered by this? Probably. Sigh.

Anyway, when all is said and done I'd recommend this book for anyone looking to improve their presentation skills, especially those that perform them in front of live audiences. You're certain to find many helpful hints throughout the book. Besides, Koegel used to coach Bill Clinton on his presentation skills back in the day, and we all know how that turned out.

NO, not the Monica Lewinsky scandal folks...Jeez.