"All too often, the best intentions and most innovative ideas get lost in a poorly executed presentation."

Calkins has a knack for making presentations. He believes successful presenting requires disciplined, methodical preparation that begins with a story. He also believes most presenters need help, and most audiences, who have endured their share of boring, uninspired, unfocused, information-overloading presentations, would likely agree. Calkins’ book is an accessible primer for anyone called upon to stand before an audience and present a body of information. Whether they seek to persuade, inform, or help drive a decision, presenters can learn much from the author's sensible and sequential process of presentation development. His writing is pleasant and conversational, and his approach to developing a presentation is consistent with leading business and project management processes that recommend planning and analysis phases prior to execution to ensure a logical, comprehensive approach that doesn’t require extensive iterative rework.

For many professionals, presentations are synonymous with slideshow software like PowerPoint or Keynote. Who in the business world hasn’t been on one side or the other of a stew of words on PowerPoint slides that received the title “presentation” simply because the content was in presentation software? Not so fast, says Calkins, who reminds readers that the planning and execution of an informative, persuasive presentation can certainly use modern slideshow tools, but the fundamental steps toward building and delivering a quality presentation are tool agnostic. His methods predate and sidestep any specific tools or apps; Calkins’ point is process and message.

For the less diligent reader, or rather for a less linear and more abstract and creative thinker, the steps Calkins presents could potentially offer a challenge. The crawl-walk-run sequence of think before you leap may best serve a certain kind of mind, one accustomed to or comfortable with following a process and steps. But how does the author’s teaching apply to the presenter bursting with a brainstorm or the reader who visualizes a story to map or slide titles to ink in a sequence that differs from Calkins’ recommendations? The comprehensive nature of this book provides all the steps; hopefully, an out-of-the-box professional can take the guidance provided and adapt it to work with their individual style.

One element that works for all is indeed the very first thing Calkins recommends and on which he bases his book title: storytelling. Calkins encourages presenters to incorporate narrative and anecdotes into their presentations. His book launches with one great story but probably could have benefitted by including many more relatable, entertaining, and cautionary stories of presentations gone right and wrong. Such real-life examples and contrasts would help a reader contextualize the guidance provided while enjoying the natural human experience of storytelling. Calkins knows this better than anyone, and could probably tell more than a few stories to illustrate the point.

Can a poor presenter become great by following Calkins’s steps? This pesky question often arises when an expert writes a book that essentially says, “Hey, I’m good at this; do it like me.” For sure, Calkins is a natural-born storyteller and presenter with a keen sense of how to organize and deliver information. His extemporaneous thoughts and impromptu comments probably have a natural arc and instinctive anecdotal framework that less skilled presenters admire. Certainly, not everyone possesses such oratory or narrative gifts, and those without his innate knack may never rise to his level. However, the steps in his book make sense; he conveys them clearly and persuasively, and it seems likely that the diligent professional who follows them is certain to improve, if not shine, at presenting.

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