Book Review: Confessions of a Public Speaker

Scott Berkun’s Confessions of a Public Speaker is an enjoyable read with lots of nuggets and insightful information. The book explores what he has learned as a professional public speaker, the nature of the business, and general speaking tips and suggestions for those looking to make the jump. Here’s my complete review.

What I liked

After reading this book, it’s hard not to like Scott as a person. He’s funny, interesting, and quirky enough to leave you wanting more. I enjoyed his description of how he answers when people ask him what he does for a living. If he says he’s a writer, they’re disappointed he’s not an ultra-famous one. If he says he’s a public speaker, they think he’s an awful motivational-speaker type, and if he says he’s a “freelance thinker,” his most accurate title, then people will think he’s unemployed.
I especially enjoyed his honesty and transparency. He openly shares how much money he makes per year, and how much of that comes from book royalties and speaking fees. (He gets paid around 5k per talk, makes 100k a year, with 60% coming from speaking fees, and 40% from book royalties).
He does a great job identifying what every public speaker faces on the road and at ever-changing venues and events (different technology, changes of schedule, bad room layouts, empty crowds, and more).
Confessions of a Public Speaker also takes you for a brief peek inside the TV industry, showing behind-the-scenes images of studios and what a speaker faces when speaking on television.

What could be better

While the book does a great job balancing teaching points and personal stories, I did want to hear more about his own life. Especially about his early beginnings, and how he broke into the industry. I image that most people reading this book have some interest in being public speakers themselves, and information that steers them in the right direction would have been greatly appreciated.
Also, while he gives readers many useful tips on how to improve every aspect of a presentation, the book is a little short on external resources. This book could have been a great opportunity to connect his favorite blogs, resource sites, services, and more, becoming a reference guide that readers can refer to for a long time.

The take-away

People are lazy, most rooms suck for speaking, imagining people naked is awkward, and professional speaking is a hard business that you can master with lots of practice. I took away from this book a real sense of what it takes to successfully make a living in this platform. If you have any aspirations of ever speaking professionally, or you would like a smooth, easy, and enjoyable read from an interesting guy, then read Confessions of a Public Speaker