What I talk about when I talk about running

ImagesHaruki Murakami is best known as the author of “Norwegian Wood”, and the “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” – and many other books. If you haven’t read his books I highly recommend you check them out. But recently I discovered that he is a long-distance runner as well and has written about his running.

I have just finished “What I talk about when I talk about running”, and It is excellent. As a runner I related completely to his journey, his challenges and successes, his apprehension and self-doubt before races, and the acceptance of the unpredictability of marathon-length races.

The philosophy he bring to running – that you need to be as healthy as possible to be effective at what you do, and how maintaining health (in his case by running and doing triathlons), needs to be balanced with what you do. To be mentally sharp and focused requires a healthy body.

He says:

To deal with something unhealthy, a person needs to be as healthy as possible. That’s my motto. In other words, an unhealthy soul requires a healthy body. This might sound paradoxical, but it’s something I’ve felt very keenly ever since I became a professional writer. The healthy and the unhealthy are not necessarily at opposite ends of the spectrum. They don’t stand in opposition to each other, but rather complement each other, and in some cases even band together. Sure, many people who are on a healthy track in life think only of good health, while those who are getting unhealthy think only of that. But if you follow this sort of one-sided view, your life won’t be fruitful.
Almost everything he had to share could have been written by me, or for me. Although I am convinced that any long-distance runner would feel exactly the same.

It is a short and easy read, but a book to be dipped into, reread and digested over time. To get full enjoyment from the book you probably have to enjoy running, but there is plenty to learn regardless of what get you up in the morning.

Confessions of a Public Speaker – review

Confessions of a Public Speaker, by Scott Burken

When I received a copy, my initial reaction was that it was yet another publich speaking guide. Paging the book, I quickly realized that I was wrong. This books provides a very different perspective on public speaking, Written by somebody that clearly has experienced many hours on the stage, he not only gives the usual information that you would expect from such a book (how to structure your speech, using PowerPoint, body language etc), he also gives a huge amount of guidance on things that you only learn from experience, such as the easiest way to hook up a lapel microphone (unplug it, drop the cable through the inside of your shirt, and then reconnect it), how to full the front row (give stuff away), and how to use silence to make a point.

This book will help anybody interested in become a better public speaker, as well as those who are starting to do more than just the occasional presentation at work. It is loaded with tips and tricks that you only gain from experience on the road. It is written in a lighthearted manner, and is incredibly easy to read, the author has a quirky sense of humour, and he is happy to poke fun at himself. Chapter titles include “do not eat the microphone”, “the science of not boring people”, and “what to do if your talk sucks”. Even if you have been around for a while, you will still learn a trick or two from the book.

While there are many photos in the book, they are black and white, and are generally not very clear. However, you are not buying the book to look at the photos.

The book is easy reading, full of tips, and provides valuable advice to both the beginner and more experienced speaker; well worth reading.

You can buy the book from Amazon.com ($16.49), or find out more about Scott on his website

Thanks to the Folks at O’Reilly for the review copy.

Book Review – Speak Up!

Speak Up!  A woman’s guide to presenting like a pro. By Cyndi Maxey (CSP) and Kevin O’Connor (CSP).

Speak upThe folks at St Martin’s Publishing kindly send me a review copy of the book. so here are my thoughts.

When I started reading it, I quickly realised that it is not just a book on presentation skills for women, but it is also on how to present yourself as a women. So, in addition to learning how to speak with credibility, be memorable, use PowerPoint, know your audience and speak with conviction, you will also learn how to make connections, network with colleagues, and communicate with executives.

Speak Up! address three areas, namely preparation, presentation and professionalism. It is made up of 40 short chapters, each of which ends with a brief summary of the key points in the chapter. This makes it easy to delve into a particular chapter, and in a few minutes find solutions to a particular problem. Alternatively, since it is an easy read, you can simply read it from beginning to end, and then keep it as a reference.

The authors,  Cyndi Maxey and Kevin O’Connor are both Certified Speaking Professionals, which means that they have plenty of experience on the platform. This comes through in the practical advise and tips in the book.

Speak Up! mentions some of the natural of advantages of being a women, and discusses how to take advantage of them. For example, women are (typically) more emphatic listeners than men, which can help you to have a deep understanding of the needs of your clients.

There are two underlying themes in the book. The first that a person that has strong presentation skills will stand hand and shoulders above the crowd. This rings true to me, since I believe that you cannot get ahead in life without effective communication skills. The second theme is that a woman can operate in a (still) largely male business world, and yet still be authentic to herself.

While the book focuses on the issues that a woman typically faces when giving presentations, most of the lessons are equally relevant to both women and men. So, for the guys reading this review, read the book. It will help you to become a better presenter, and it will help you to help women that you work with to become better presenters as well!

Do I recommend the book? Yes most definitely.

The book is available at most book retailers, including Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble, or from Cyndi’s website. The cost is $14.95.

Finally, watch out for an interview with the author on my blog. It should be published in the next few days.