Book By: Kline, John A
Review By: Moira Fracassa
Academic Services Officer
College of Nursing
Wayne State University

Kline is a motivational speaker and, therefore, meets one of the requirements he outlines in the book: “Choose the right subject” (p. 7). He brings over 30 years of his own experiences as a researcher, speaker, and instructor to the table in a book he promises to be “as short as possible yet cover what’s really important about preparing and presenting different kinds of talks” (p. xi).

The book certainly appears and reads like a textbook, but do not let that scare you off. For any professional in higher education (or in almost any field, for that matter), being able to prepare and conduct better-than-adequate speeches and presentations is a critical skill that, when mastered, promises success and advancement. I find that, in the organized textbook-style approach, Kline has made the material most manageable and I believe that NACADA members will find it of great value, both those who are seasoned presenters and those who are drafting their first conference proposal.

Each chapter provides an objective and tasks at the beginning, insights and exercises within, and a summary of key points at the end. That all provides a nice summary of what a student using the book might need to study to pass an exam. What I found most useful for the professional are the examples, concrete instructions, and guidelines provided to help speakers carefully think about their words and to deliver engaging presentations.

One such simple instruction is a mnemonic Kline created, TOOTSIFELT: “The Objective Of This Speech Is For Each Listener To…” Completing that statement before beginning the nitty-gritty work on a presentation forces the speaker to focus on the audience and establish concrete objectives. That is the kind of usable tip found throughout the book. An area of great practical value is his chapter on visual support. Kline doles out detailed advice about using various visuals, including white boards, flip charts, props, and the ubiquitous PowerPoint.

Examples provide a solid foundation for the book. In the chapter about using humor, he breaks down types of humorous support: definitions, comparisons, testimony, etc. While readers may not need to know or remember the types in order to use humor in a presentation, the examples and insights he includes can help one decide when and how to use humor (a challenge in any context!).

Despite the book’s presentation as a textbook, I ultimately came to see it as a well-organized guide from which professionals can glean useful tips. A message that Kline returns to thematically throughout is putting yourself in the seat of the listener. Even if you lose sight of that, his concrete lessons will force you to prepare with that in mind. The book provides the basic structure needed to improve presentations and gives readers the opportunity to consider not only what they want to accomplish, but why and how to best do it.

Speaking Effectively: Achieving Excellence in Presentations. (2004). Book by Kline, John A.  Review by Moira Fracassa. Prentice Hall. 108 pp., $20.67. ISBN 0-13-112833-7.

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