Article Category: Book Reviews

Book Review:
Boring to Bravo


A few weeks ago, we examined 27 Hot Summer Reads — popular books being read by the Six Minutes community.

On my recent vacation, I took a copy of Boring to Bravo. It’s a perfect summer read. Not only is it organized into easily digestible chunks (read a section or two while sipping lemonade on the deck), it is also packed with techniques which will energize your presentations.

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

What’s Inside?

Boring to Bravo is the latest book from Kristin Arnold, current President of the National Speakers Association. Among the dozens of techniques in the book, you’ll find advice such as:

  • Why you should move with purpose
  • The value of choosing vivid words
  • How to make the room more engaging
  • Effectively breaking your audience into groups
  • Facilitating a discussion

Every speaker is guaranteed to find new techniques here. I certainly did.

Don’t Believe Me? See For Yourself!

You can browse through the opening pages of Boring to Bravo with these PDF downloads:

Every speaker is guaranteed to find new techniques here. I certainly did.

The Price

At the time of writing this review, you can get this book for only $14.93 from amazon.com. This is 32% off the list price.

3 Things I Love about Boring to Bravo

The three things I liked most about Boring to Bravo are:

1. Breadth of Techniques Covered

This book casts a wide net, covering topics such as delivery techniques, visual aids, storytelling, asking engaging questions, facilitating discussion, and critiquing yourself. Gaining mastery over every technique described will help you become a very well-rounded presenter.

2. Emphasis on Techniques Beyond “Just Speaking”

This book stands out on my speaking bookshelf in large part to the tips and techniques that go beyond “just speaking.”

When delivering five, ten, or even 15 minute speeches, you can probably speak from start to finish and keep the audience engaged and entertained. But if you find yourself delivering lunch-hour seminars, or 3 to 4-hour courses, you quickly discover that your audience’s attention is not so easily sustained. It’s necessary to change the pace and introduce short (relevant!) activities.

Ideas for these short activities is where Boring to Bravo excels. For example, there’s an entire chapter on organizing effective group breakout sessions.

3. Risk Ratings

You may wish to master low-risk activities first, and carefully experiment with higher risk activities as your skills and confidence grows.

Within every chapter, each section is accompanied by a “risk rating,” which aims to distinguish between low-risk activities (score 1) and high-risk activities (score 5).

For example:

  • “Choose Vivid Words” has a risk rating of 1 (low-risk)
  • “Borrowed Stories” has a risk rating of 2
  • “Dress the Part” (in costume) has a risk rating of 3
  • “Interview a Participant” has a risk rating of 4

I could quibble about a few of the individual ratings, but the concept is useful. You may wish to master low-risk activities first, and carefully experiment with higher risk activities as your skills and confidence grows.

How could it be better?

1. More Aggressive Editing

I think the book would benefit from one last critical edit.

  • On several occasions, it seemed like the same tip was being duplicated in different words, just a page or two apart. I don’t think the repetition was intentional, but…?
  • There are numerous “guest tips” offered (from highlighted professional speakers) in sidebars throughout the book. These sidebars are valuable as they offer new perspectives. However, the sidebars usually weren’t introduced or placed in context by the main body text. Also, the tips were occasionally duplicates of ones offered in nearby body text.

2. Crosslink the Glossary/Index

There is a healthy 12-page glossary at the end of the book, which offers short descriptions of many of the terms discussed in the book (e.g. Audience Response System). However, there’s a wasted opportunity here to link those glossary definitions back to the location(s) in the book where that concept is discussed. For example, the book would be more useful as reference material if the Audience Response System entry told you that it is discussed on page 89 (the “Using Technology” section of the “Ask Engaging Questions” chapter).

Update: According to the author’s comment below, the glossary is cross-linked as an index in the publicly released version of the book. My review is based upon an advance copy.

3. More Practical Examples

I’d like to see practical examples added more consistently to accompany the tips. There are numerous examples throughout, but they are occasionally missing.

For example, in Chapter 9 (Use Descriptive Words), the author encourages cadence variation (page 130) and parallel construction (page 131), but doesn’t accompany either tip with a short speech example. [Note: It does point to "the many bulleted lists in this book for examples of parallel construction", but many of the bulleted lists in the book are not, in fact, parallel construction.]

What Others Think

Ian Griffin, Professional Speaking blog:

This is not a basic presentation skills book. Arnold encourages readers to step outside the role of the speaker as an authority figure who controls the audience from the front of the room, to someone who passionately participates in an event that is enjoyed by the audience as a collaborative experience.

Stephen Forte:

I have been a public speaker for 15 years, a professional one for over 13, and found this book very useful. I learned several things while reading it, including many things I am doing wrong! [...]

[...] If you want to be a more engaging, dynamic speaker, read this book!

Verdict

Boring to Bravo will help you become a more complete speaker and will improve your ability to handle a diverse set of speaking situations. I recommend you get yourself a copy today.

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

Boring to Bravo: Proven Presentation Techniques to Engage, Involve, and Inspire Your Audience to Action by Kristin Arnold Andrew Dlugan 3.5 August 5, 2010 Non-stop gems for engaging your audience and keeping your presentations alive.

This article is one of a series of public speaking book reviews featured on Six Minutes.
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Comments icon3 Comments

  1. Andrew- thanks for the great review! And, just to set the record straight, your advanced reader copy did NOT have the cross-references between the glossary and the index. For those of you who purchase the book, you’ll see a great cross-index. Great minds think alike! :-)

  2. Thanks for the book review! I liked the article’s section where you gave your 2 cents on how to make it better. The risk rating for her techniques are great – that way a new speaker can test the waters first.

    Thanks!

  3. Joe Sharp says:

    Boringtobravo is an invaluable find. Thanks for it, and your very helpful blog.
    Joe Sharp

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Katie Brandt @0nlinetraining — Aug 6th, 2010

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