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Harvard Business School professor John Kotter studied a number of successful general managers over a five-year period and found that they spend most of their time with other people, including subordinates, their bosses, and numerous people from outside the organization. His study found that the average manager spends just 25 percent of his time working alone. Most of that time with others, Kotter found, was spent talking and listeningand a sizable fraction was spent presenting ideas and actions to others.
Similarly, management consultant Dierdre Borden found that successful managers spend about 75 percent of their time in verbal interaction with others: on the telephone, face-to-face, in meetings, and in presentations to large and small groups. The fact is, most information in contemporary business and social settings is passed orally, and our most important ideas are frequently formalized in presentations to clients, customers, shareholders, superiors, and key decision makers.
You can't avoid it. At some point soon in your career, you're going to be asked to give a presentation. The problem is that most people are genuinely apprehensive about doing that. We can compose a memo, letter, report, or e-mail in the quiet and comfort of our home or office, but standing in front of a group to offer our thoughtsor to motivate them to actionis simply frightening to many people. Like it or not, during a presentation you're being evaluated by everyone in the audience. You're being sized up, critiqued, and assessed. For those 15 or 20 minutes, your value to the organization, your career...your future are on the line. No wonder people get nervous.
I've been teaching public speaking to business school students, government and military officials, and professionals in all lines of work for more than 35 years, and I've learned one simple truth about public speaking: It's not easy, but it's certainly doable. I've helped people overcome fears, anxieties, and apprehensions of all sorts and watched them go on to wow an audience with their presentation skills. If they can do it, so can you.
This book, simple and compact as it is, can do three things for you. First, it can help you to diagnose your current speaking abilities It can help you size up your skill levels and get some sense of whether you're "ready for prime time." Second, it shows you the standards of the North American marketplace. Point-by-point, you find the expectations of the business and professional world. Finally, this book gives you the toolkit you need to prepare, improve, and present. It's all here, neatly tucked into 51 Truths.
The most important truth to be learned, however, is this: Great presenters weren't born that way. They became great by focusing on their message, the needs of the audience, the pattern of organization, and the details of presenting. Persistence, dedication, and a little practice can go a long way toward making you a top-notch public speaker. The details are straight ahead.
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