Friday, March 7, 2014

Review of The Essentials of Persuasive Public Speaking by Sims Wyeth

In January, Sims Wyeth’s book The Essentials of Persuasive Public Speaking was published. I’ve enjoyed reading his blog, so when I saw that little book on the new books shelves at the Boise Public Library I grabbed it.You can read a preview of the first fifty pages at I enjoyed reading this book, and think many would learn from savoring it.

His text is organized into seven sections: Introduction, The Power of Speech, Preparation, Delivery, Design and Use of Visual Aids, Special Occasions, and Epilogue. The Introduction is just two pages long, and the Epilogue is three. Otherwise each page covers a topic briefly via a few very carefully chosen words.

This book can best be enjoyed a page at a time, like unwrapping and eating a piece of good chocolate candy. Don’t try to gobble it down like a foot-long Quizmos or Subway sandwich. Two examples included in the Amazon preview are:


When I was a child in Katonah, New York, I had a recurring dream that I stood atop the Cross River Dam and said powerful and eloquent things to people off in the distance.

The dream foretold my future. I became an actor and spoke the poetry of Shakespeare before becoming a professor of theater and then a consultant to business leaders.

Thaeter and business have something in common. In both, you get paid for for your performance. And those who get paid the most are endowed, or acquire through study and experience, the ability to create in others the willing suspension of disbelief.

That, in a nutshell, is the job of the actor and the business speaker.


Were I to add an ‘&’ between my mifddle and last names, I would become Marion, Sims & Wyeth, a tripod of a person, more stable and formidable, like a corporation.

The artist Alighiero Boetti did this in 1968 to indicate that he (and you and I) are not single, but multiple selves. He became Alighiro e Boetti (‘e’ is ‘and’ in Italian).

I have terrible stage fright, and it’s probably because I have three selves. My Chicken Little self is terrified of failure and humiliation, my bulldog self believes rehearsal pays off, and my aspirational self yearns to be a spell-binding dynamo.

I get my three selves to talk to one another, so I show up sufficiently scared, well-rehearsed, and aspiring to be great, which generally gets the job done.”

The copyright page says that a previous (and briefer) version of this book had appeared in 2011 with a longer title: A Zen Monk Had Sweaty Palms: Pointers on the Path to Better Public Speaking. The shorter title is more descriptive. (The story about  sweaty palms appears on page 9 of the current book).

When you look up Marion Sims Wyeth on Wikipedia, you’ll find an entry for his architect grandfather. A 2012 memorial tribute for his father “Buz” notes that as a book editor at HarperCollins he once changed the title of a book by Fred Gipson from the prosaic Big Yellow Dog to Old Yeller. I’m old enough to remember that well-known 1956 book and 1957 Disney movie.    

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