Book review: Stellar Presentations

Stellar Presentations by Shel IsraelShel Israel, the co-author of Naked Conversations and author of Twitterville, recently self-published his new book Stellar Presentations: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Giving Great Talks.

Unlike his previous books, this one is not about social media, but instead about speaking in public with a special focus on how startups should present their products at conferences.

Steve Jobs wannabees and lessons learned

One of the lessons in the book is that you should consider your audience. This is demonstrated admirably by the book itself, as one of the first stories is about Steve Jobs, with many more to come. When addressing technology startups, talking about Steve Jobs is a sure way to get their attention!

There are multiple lessons learned from the stories on Steve Jobs, with one of the most important ones being that no one should attempt to simply copy his style: it is important to see what others are doing and apply those lessons while remaining yourself.

Storytelling versus Powerpoints

The book advocates a storytelling-based approach to presentations as contrasted with a Powerpoint-based approach. This is not much of a surprise, as Shel Israel is one of the most captivating storytellers there is. It is important to note, though, that he does use Powerpoint, just not as an all-encompassing solution.

Storytelling is an integral part of the entire book. Stories about Steve Jobs’ successful (and failed!) presentations, Kennedy vs Nixon, Jerry Kaplan, Robert Carr, Munjal Shah, and many others form the bulk of the book. The stories are interesting, captivating, and fun.

There are also a couple of stories about Shel Israel’s own experiences, and I would have liked to hear more of them, because they are truly unique to this book, and deeply enlightening because they let you peek inside the speaker’s head in a way that third-person stories do not.

Speaking coach

In addition to the stories and the insights drawn from them, the book includes advice on considering your audience and goals, structuring your speech, resolving common problems while giving a speech, and, importantly, having fun when giving a speech.

Short book

Stellar Presentations is a short book. It took me less than two hours to read it, and that left me craving for more. On the other hand, even the busiest entrepreneur should be able to find the time to read it.

Mediocre editing and layout

Shel Israel has always advocated the stance that message is the key and grammar and spelling are of minor importance, but still my over-pedantic mind was not satisfied with the quality of editing and layout in this book.

There are typos, grammatical errors, varying spacing between paragraphs, chapters starting from the middle of the screen, and even varying font sizes. The errors are frequent enough to catch the eye, although there are not errors on every page.

There is also a mystery chapter on lethal generosity, which is itself an interesting concept, but I do not see how it is connected to speaking in public. A careful editor might have ditched the entire chapter from the book.

Overall, the book would have been better if the final touch had been more careful and thorough.

Conclusions

Shel Israel is a great storyteller. His writing is always a pleasure to read and the stories he tells are always intriguing and fun.

Stellar Presentations is a good book. However, it is not quite at the same level as Twitterville. With more careful editing, it could have been a great short book. With more careful editing and a bit more length, it could have been a superb book. As it is, it is just good.

If you speak in public, it is worth reading, because it offers a fair amount of practical advice from an experienced speaker. The price is a bit steep, especially for countries other than the US that use Amazon.com, where it costs $13.79, but the advice contained within is nonetheless worth it.

Photo: My personal copies of Stellar Presentations, Twitterville, and Naked Conversations.

Author: Ville Kilkku

I run my own consultancy business, so if you find the ideas on this blog intriguing, contact me at consulting@kilkku.com or call me at +358 50 588 5043 and we can discuss how I can help you solve your business problems. I am currently based in Tornio, Finland, but work globally. Google+

  • Thank you for this favorable, but constructively critical first review of this book. The typos will be fixed. The spacing has to do with Kindle formatting and are beyond my control. The thought behind lethal generosity is to give everything you can to your audience your competitors will never get between you. I’ll try to make it clearer. The nice think about self e-publishing is that I will update the book regularly.

    • Good to hear that you’re looking into the typos, and, I must admit, regularly updating the book sounds like a very interesting concept, I had not considered that.

      I suppose people who see the glass as half full will rejoice, while people who see the glass as half empty will consider the book market to be the next field where paying customers are the last beta testers (think software industry).

      One think that concerns me a little is notes. What will happen to notes and highlights when a book is updated? I tried to Google it a bit and came across this blog post: http://mjtsai.com/blog/2011/11/21/kindle-annotations-lost-in-book-update/

      Basically, Amazon is working on it, but notes may get (at least temporarily) lost or move around a bit after updates. Hopefully they will be able to make it work perfectly in the near future.