Article Category: Book Reviews

Book Review: You’ve Got to Be Believed to Be Heard (Bert Decker)


You've Got to Be Believed to Be Heard

Bert Decker’s revised edition of  You’ve Got to Be Believed to Be Heard was one of many books recommended by Six Minutes readers last year.

Now I know why.

Decker’s public speaking classic is a comprehensive book which deserves to be on your public speaking bookshelf.

This article is the latest of a series of public speaking book reviews here on Six Minutes.

There is much to like in Decker’s book. To keep this review shorter than the book itself, I’ll focus on the three parts of the book that stand out the most for me.

1. Emotion and the First Brain

The first half of the book establishes the case that effective communicators (Decker describes these as New Communicators) understand the importance of emotion in the communications process. That is, communication is more than logical arguments. More than facts and figures. More than metaphors and triads.

It’s the listener’s First Brain that makes the decision whether or not to trust and believe the speaker.

-- Bert Decker

Decker explains the importance of emotion by reasoning that our brains are composed of two parts:

  • The New Brain – the intellectual part of the human brain which reasons and processes at a conscious level, and
  • The First Brain – the nonreasoning, nonrational, subconscious, primitive part of the brain.

The First Brain, he argues, acts as a powerful filter. Before your message can even get to the New Brain, it must first pass by the First Brain. For that to happen, you must connect emotionally.

2. Communication = Leadership ?

When people have confidence in someone as a communicator, they have confidence in that person, period.

-- Bert Decker

Decker asserts that communication and leadership are intimately linked. He clearly reasons that to effectively communicate is to be a leader; to be a leader is to effectively communicate.

Decker is not unique here. I, too, hold the belief that communication and leadership are joined at the hip. However, Decker is so persuasive on this point that, as I was reading, I began to wonder whether leadership and communication are actually the same thing. Are they really separate concepts at all?

3. Speechwriting and Delivery Tips Abound!

While the first half of the book is somewhat theoretical, the second half is packed with practical tips for speechwriting and delivery.

Here are just a few of the public speaking issues addressed by Decker in You’ve Got to Be Believed to Be Heard:

  • Eye contact,
  • Posture and movement,
  • Dress and appearance,
  • Gestures,
  • Vocal variety,
  • Word selection,
  • Pauses,
  • Fear of speaking,
  • SHARPs (Stories and examples, Humor, Analogies, References and quotations, Pictures and visual aids), and
  • A comprehensive speech organization method he names The Decker Grid System.

These tips can be found in other books or blogs, in one form or another. The great value here is descriptions offered by Decker, and the relationships he makes between them and the concepts introduced earlier in the book. For example, Decker offers insights into public speaking fear drawn from the First Brain concepts.

What Could be Improved?

I loved this book, but it’s not perfect.

The profound role of the First Brain in the communications process has been virtually ignored by communications experts and theorists until now.

-- Bert Decker
  • Is emotion ignored in traditional communications training?
    Decker claims that the role of the First Brain (that is, the importance of emotion in communication) has been “virtually ignored by communications experts”. While I concede that many traditional public speaking books underestimate the importance of emotion, I think “virtually ignored” is overstating it. For example, one of the oldest books on the topic of public speaking — Aristotle’s On Rhetoric —  recognizes emotional appeals as one of the three primary forms of persuasion. Aristotle’s lessons have may have been skewed a bit, but they are not ignored.
  • Slow start
    When I read a book for review, I mark the page whenever there’s a key insight or a golden quote. In the first 75 pages of this book, I only marked two pages. By contrast, I marked 15 in the final 150 pages. Those first 75 pages ran through a large number of politicians, business leaders, and celebrities, and labelled them as either old (bad) or new (good) communicators. The analysis isn’t superficial, but I still would have liked to see deeper analysis here to demonstrate the positive and negative communication traits. It’s difficult to do this, however, in print… perhaps this book needs a companion DVD?

About the Author – Bert Decker

Bert Decker is the CEO of Decker Communications, a communications training company that has worked with hundreds of thousands of executives, managers, and salespeople in the past 30 years.

Bert is the author of several books, including Creating Messages that Motivate and You’ve Got to Be Believed to Be Heard.

And he writes a public speaking blog too.

What Others are Saying about You’ve Got to Be Believed to Be Heard

Nancy Duarte:

This updated version of Bert’s book is fantastic.

Mark Sanborn:

This book is a classic bestseller that has been revised and updated … I recommend it.

Trent Hamm:

You’ve Got to Be Believed to Be Heard is brilliant at helping you to become a better speaker mechanically by breaking down speaking into lots of little, practicable pieces.

If you’re involved with public speaking – or would like to be – You’ve Got to Be Believed to Be Heard is a very worthwhile read.

Chris Spagnuolo:

The book concludes with a section on organizing your content to create a focused message… Bert’s proven Decker Grid System. … It’s a simple method, but one that I find to be extremely powerful in helping deliver targeted messages to the needs and wants of your audience. I’ve been using it for about three months now and I am amazed at the results.

Jeff Bailey:

This is THE book on presentation that you have been looking for: If you learn the contents it will literally improve your life. I don’t say that lightly and I am not exaggerating — I mean it!

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for review.

You've Got to Be Believed to Be Heard by Bert Decker Andrew Dlugan 2.5 May 20, 2009 A comprehensive, general-purpose, introductory public speaking guide.

This article is one of a series of public speaking book reviews featured on Six Minutes.
Subscribe to Six Minutes for free to receive future book reviews.

Comments icon2 Comments

  1. Jeff says:

    I enjoyed your review of the book. Thanks for linking to the review I wrote.

    The big take away that I got from the first 75 pages of “You’ve Got to Be Believed to Be Heard” is just how effective Mr. Decker is at giving negative feedback. I mean, he is awesome at it. It never ceases to amaze me just how willing he is to teach.

    I believe that many of the folks buying Presentation Zen and Slide:ology would be better served with this book. The showy stuff (slides) only help if the fundamentals are solid. This book will help those of us who work at it gain those fundamentals.

    I HIGHLY recommend this book. Nick Morgan’s books are excellent as well.

  2. kevin Joachim says:

    I have read you article, it was awesome.

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