Book by Kendall Zoller & Claudette Landry
Review by Deborah Mayhew
Assistant Director, Engineering Student Affairs
University of Florida

You can find the answer here. In The Choreography of Presenting: The 7 Essential Abilities of Effective Presenters, Kendall Zoller and Claudette Landry deliver a crash course in mastering the skills that can turn average folk into high impact presenters. This book is not about creating nice PowerPoint presentations; it is an instructional guide to managing audiences and the presentation environment. Comparing effective presentations to well executed dance routines, the authors teach presenters how to achieve the rhythm and flow that will lead the audience to achieve the goals of any presentation and what to do when things go wrong. 

Through the well choreographed use of verbal and nonverbal communication skills, effective presenters guide their audiences, carefully crafting a collaborative learning environment that makes participants want to be actively involved. We are reminded that effective presentations are for the audience, not the presenter. By focusing on the audience’s experience, the presenter becomes able to fine tune behavioral aspects of the presentation in order to keep it moving smoothly forward. The book clearly outlines the skills and moves that define influential presenters. Readers quickly learn how to establish credibility, build rapport, and read the audience for signs that suggest on-the-fly adjustments to maintain interest and participation. With practice, knowledgeable presenters can manage almost any situation.

The beauty of this book is that it quickly teaches the practical applications of presentation psychology without making readers take a cognitive psychology course. The authors have distilled the resource material into a well-organized, 123 page instructional manual that outlines the seven essential abilities that effective presenters must master. Clear examples of each ability and its specific moves and skills are illustrated through cases drawn from the authors’ diverse personal experiences as professional presenters and trainers.  Practice exercises are included at the end of each section allowing readers to anticipate situations and prepare responses that will keep the presentation moving in a positive direction. 

The book’s brief, straightforward format is a major strength; it is also the book’s only noticeable weakness. In focusing on the how-to aspects of effective presenting, the reader is sometimes left craving a bit more information in order to develop an understanding of why something works or what a particular phrase means. Providing insight into the theoretical framework supporting each skill or move would promote learning by allowing readers to make connections to their existing knowledge. For example, the “eye pattern and thinking modality” chart in Chapter 2 is intriguing, but is not discussed at all; and I am still unclear about the “exit” in  “exit directions”, despite reading Chapter  4 three times and corresponding with one of the authors. Still, the appendix is jam packed with more than fifty-five references for those who want to pursue more theoretical foundation. So the short format is not a significant drawback.

This book is a highly recommended addition to any advisor’s bookshelf. Whether the audience is students, administrators, parents, or colleagues, the reader is challenged to think: How do I sound? How do I appear?  What is my audience taking away from this? As academic advisors work to elevate their profession, delivering dynamic, effective presentations will help them gain altitude.

And if you are still wondering, those speakers who demand a “Good Morning” and set your teeth on edge have not yet established rapport with you. They are focused on themselves. If they were focused on you, the audience, they would realize that this all-too-common presentation stunt alienates the people they are trying to inspire.

The choreography of presenting: The 7 essentials abilities of effective presenters. (2010). Book by Kendall Zoller & Claudette Landry. Review by Deborah Mayhew. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press (SAGE Publications). 140 pp  $31.95. ISBN 978-1-412-97692-3
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