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Book Review: Captivate: Presentations that Engage and Inspire

Posted By Earl Dumitru, President, Association of Law Officers of the Crown, Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Anyone can do this.

~ Steve Hughes

As a firm introvert who (too occasionally…) has the privilege of speaking with an audience of up to 500 people, I am always on the lookout for good practical advice on presentations. ACLEA has definitely earned its registration fee this year by introducing me to the work of Steve Hughes.

Many of you will have witnessed a Steve Hughes presentation in person – as part of his “Hit Your Stride” programming, as a speaker at your CLE events, or at ACLEA (including the recent Seattle meeting). Now there is a helpful and easy-to-read book length companion ­— Captivate: Presentations that Engage and Inspire.

Captivate has 4 main parts: Crafting Your Talk, Making it Engaging, Delivering Your Speech, and Polishing Your Skills. Each is divided into 5-7 distinct (but well cross-referenced) chapters on discrete topics. You can read the whole book to see the process/flow of crafting and delivering a talk, or you can access specific topics as needed.

One fun — and helpful — feature is that the book is written as a presentation and applies many of the recommended strategies. For example, storytelling is a powerful tool used in presentations. Chapters 7 and 12 recommend leading with a story (or another attention grabber) and coming back to more administrative matters and introductions. And, you guessed it, Chapter 1 is a story about the big Memphis speech while Chapter 2 is “How to Use this Book’”

Some of my key practical takeaways include:

  • SPARQ – Grabbing Their Attention from Word One (Ch. 7) – puts the current focus on storytelling in a broader context and gives you additional tools for opening.
  • Content trumps delivery; the best delivery is authentic.
  • Use eye contact with the audience, enough time to deliver a single thought (probably a sentence or two).
  • Do not end your presentation with a Q&A. It can be near the end, but not the very end — you want to control the final message to the audience.

As an added bonus, ACLEA has previously commissioned 4 Steve Hughes “Train the Trainer Videos” which are available on the website: www.aclea.org/?page=train_the_trainer. I found the “Using PowerPoint Effectively” video especially compelling as it addressed how to better present the type of detailed technical information that is often at the core of CLE sessions.

So, my call to action: read the book, watch the videos, and feel more confident about your next presentation!

Tags:  book review  captivate  presentation  Steve Hughes 

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