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I Have Something to Say: Mastering the Art of Public Speaking in an Age of Disconnection

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A veteran journalist demonstrates how learning a few simple, ancient techniques can help us overcome our fears of public speaking and profoundly change our lives. The average American speaks 16,000 to 20,000 words every day. From the age of five through our late teens and beyond, our education system teaches us how to read and write. Why is it that we're never taught to A veteran journalist demonstrates how learning a few simple, ancient techniques can help us overcome our fears of public speaking and profoundly change our lives. The average American speaks 16,000 to 20,000 words every day. From the age of five through our late teens and beyond, our education system teaches us how to read and write. Why is it that we're never taught to speak? In 2010, while interviewing hundreds of Americans about their experiences with love, award-winning journalist John Bowe unearthed the story of his cousin Bill, a recluse who lived in his parents' basement until the age of fifty-nine. After a lifetime of being the family oddball, Bill surprised everyone around him by breaking out of his isolation--and getting happily married. He credited his turnaround to a nonprofit club called Toastmasters, the world's largest organization devoted to teaching the art of public speaking. Fascinated by the possibility that speech training could foster the kind of psychological well-being more commonly sought through expensive psychiatric treatment, and intrigued by the notion that words might serve as medicine, Bowe researched the discipline of public speaking back to the teachings of the Ancient Greeks, who invented the subject 2,300 years ago. From the birth of democracy until two or three centuries ago, education meant reading and writing, as it does today; but it also meant learning how to speak and interact with others. Public speaking was, in fact, the most highly stressed of all liberal arts. Today, absent such education, 74% of Americans suffer from speech anxiety. As social scientists chart record levels of loneliness, social isolation, and political divisiveness, Bowe muses upon the power of speech education to mend a nation no longer skilled at speaking to itself. Setting out to learn for himself what he'd gathered from so many others, Bowe discovers that learning to speak in public means more than simply overcoming nervousness while standing at a podium. Acquiring the basic, old-school artistic techniques for connecting with others bestows us with an enhanced sense of freedom, power, and belonging--while teaching us to give a decent speech. In an age of disconnect and fraying public discourse, anyone (well, almost anyone) can learn to become eloquent.


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A veteran journalist demonstrates how learning a few simple, ancient techniques can help us overcome our fears of public speaking and profoundly change our lives. The average American speaks 16,000 to 20,000 words every day. From the age of five through our late teens and beyond, our education system teaches us how to read and write. Why is it that we're never taught to A veteran journalist demonstrates how learning a few simple, ancient techniques can help us overcome our fears of public speaking and profoundly change our lives. The average American speaks 16,000 to 20,000 words every day. From the age of five through our late teens and beyond, our education system teaches us how to read and write. Why is it that we're never taught to speak? In 2010, while interviewing hundreds of Americans about their experiences with love, award-winning journalist John Bowe unearthed the story of his cousin Bill, a recluse who lived in his parents' basement until the age of fifty-nine. After a lifetime of being the family oddball, Bill surprised everyone around him by breaking out of his isolation--and getting happily married. He credited his turnaround to a nonprofit club called Toastmasters, the world's largest organization devoted to teaching the art of public speaking. Fascinated by the possibility that speech training could foster the kind of psychological well-being more commonly sought through expensive psychiatric treatment, and intrigued by the notion that words might serve as medicine, Bowe researched the discipline of public speaking back to the teachings of the Ancient Greeks, who invented the subject 2,300 years ago. From the birth of democracy until two or three centuries ago, education meant reading and writing, as it does today; but it also meant learning how to speak and interact with others. Public speaking was, in fact, the most highly stressed of all liberal arts. Today, absent such education, 74% of Americans suffer from speech anxiety. As social scientists chart record levels of loneliness, social isolation, and political divisiveness, Bowe muses upon the power of speech education to mend a nation no longer skilled at speaking to itself. Setting out to learn for himself what he'd gathered from so many others, Bowe discovers that learning to speak in public means more than simply overcoming nervousness while standing at a podium. Acquiring the basic, old-school artistic techniques for connecting with others bestows us with an enhanced sense of freedom, power, and belonging--while teaching us to give a decent speech. In an age of disconnect and fraying public discourse, anyone (well, almost anyone) can learn to become eloquent.

30 review for I Have Something to Say: Mastering the Art of Public Speaking in an Age of Disconnection

  1. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    This book caught me off guard. I heard Bowe interviewed and liked him, so I picked this up. But I still assumed this was going to be a self-help book about public speaking with some anecdotes thrown in. It's less about self help though, and in fact has only minimal content in the way of tips to help you improve your public speaking, and more about the lost art of speaking (and teaching speaking) and why losing that art matters. Bowe's journey through Toastmasters is fun and well done, but I got This book caught me off guard. I heard Bowe interviewed and liked him, so I picked this up. But I still assumed this was going to be a self-help book about public speaking with some anecdotes thrown in. It's less about self help though, and in fact has only minimal content in the way of tips to help you improve your public speaking, and more about the lost art of speaking (and teaching speaking) and why losing that art matters. Bowe's journey through Toastmasters is fun and well done, but I got more from his reflections on how giving up rhetoric as a subject has affected individuals (who want to express who they are but can't) and society (that loses the ability to join together, lead, and follow). A short and excellent work. I look forward to attending a Toastmasters meeting. PS. I wish I’d heard his speech on the scourge that is the word “like” in modern usage.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Nicole Chuw León

    No es un manual, colección de consejos ni mucho menos de auto-ayuda. Es la historia de la curiosidad de un hombre por aprender el arte de la oratoria, su dedicación a investigar sus inicios e impacto actual en la sociedad; así como descubrir sus claves y recalcar su necesidad. Tiene éxito al unirse a Toastmasters International, una ONG cuyo objetivo es promover la comunicación, el discurso público y el liderazgo. El autor nos lleva de la mano a través de todo el programa que debe completar por par No es un manual, colección de consejos ni mucho menos de auto-ayuda. Es la historia de la curiosidad de un hombre por aprender el arte de la oratoria, su dedicación a investigar sus inicios e impacto actual en la sociedad; así como descubrir sus claves y recalcar su necesidad. Tiene éxito al unirse a Toastmasters International, una ONG cuyo objetivo es promover la comunicación, el discurso público y el liderazgo. El autor nos lleva de la mano a través de todo el programa que debe completar por parte de la organización, que realmente no es necesario conocerla; se hace un gran trabajo explicándola y el foco es más que nada en el desarrollo personal del autor. Me gustó mucho todas las experiencias y conocimiento que incluye: pasajes de las obras iniciales de la retórica, entrevistas con ex-miembros famosos, estudios y artículos científicos, historias increíbles de éxito y sobre todo, rompe ideas falsas acerca del tema y lo descompone; demostrando que puede ser aprendido por todxs.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Both helpful and entertaining. John Bowe draws on his own experiences to explain his points. A relatively short read, I recommend this to anyone who has anxiety over public speaking, and believe anyone who can benefit from the advice of this book. I received an Advanced Review Copy through Goodreads giveaways.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Erika Kraus

    I won this book in the giveaway! I learned a few more skills than I already had from my speech classes. John Bowe is very knowledgeable and explains his concepts and tips in a simple way everyone can understand and implement.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Meredith

    One of 2020's most important books. We need John Bowe more than ever. One of 2020's most important books. We need John Bowe more than ever.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Beth May

    A quick and enjoyable read, especially for fans of Toastmasters (including current Toastmasters like me). John Bowe chronicles his journey from discovering Toastmasters to joining, and through each of the ten projects as he completes the "Competent Communicator" program. Interwoven with his personal story are interesting facts about the origination of rhetoric, its value, its use in Ancient Greece and Rome, and its users, including Cicero and Isocrates. More contemporary authorities are also cit A quick and enjoyable read, especially for fans of Toastmasters (including current Toastmasters like me). John Bowe chronicles his journey from discovering Toastmasters to joining, and through each of the ten projects as he completes the "Competent Communicator" program. Interwoven with his personal story are interesting facts about the origination of rhetoric, its value, its use in Ancient Greece and Rome, and its users, including Cicero and Isocrates. More contemporary authorities are also cited, adding interest. At the heart of John's storytelling is a message about the power of communication - not just for personal and professional growth, but for peace.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jim Brown

    While this book is essentially a pitch for Toastmasters, I must say John does a great job of breaking down the structure and need for public speaking. It goes beyond that though, using the art of rhetoric to connect with an audience and persuade them as opposed to the seemingly diabolical attack speech we're seeing all around us today. While this book is essentially a pitch for Toastmasters, I must say John does a great job of breaking down the structure and need for public speaking. It goes beyond that though, using the art of rhetoric to connect with an audience and persuade them as opposed to the seemingly diabolical attack speech we're seeing all around us today.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lorilin

    A short little book that probably should have been an even shorter article. It’s fine. It’s about the author going to Toastmasters to get better at public speaking. I wanted more advice and tips that I could put in to practice for myself. There’s a very good appendix at the end that finally delivers just that, but I hate that I had to wait that long to get to it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jorge DeFlon

    A light but entertaining introduction to the art of public speaking. certainly whets your appetite to delve into this important topic for society. Recommended for reading while practicing during several months.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Diana Briggs Peake

    Very cool book. I'd noticed that a lot of my friends were joining improv clubs (or were, before COVID). I think the reason why is related to what Bowe talks about: we need help learning to connect to each other in person and not just passively on social media. Very cool book. I'd noticed that a lot of my friends were joining improv clubs (or were, before COVID). I think the reason why is related to what Bowe talks about: we need help learning to connect to each other in person and not just passively on social media.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Nick Salenga

    This is a great book about power of words & strength we gain from learning how to use them better to show that we do not suffer from speech anxiety because we are anxious because we have not learn to use word to connect with everyone around us.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    Mr. Bowe tells quite a tale about his Toastmasters experiences. I especially liked the part about encouraging people to talk to strangers. I once did a Toastmasters speech on that topic!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Renee

    Excellent book I bought it because I was drawn to the story of this man's s cousin but I learned so so much more. I highly recommend this book. Excellent read!!! Excellent book I bought it because I was drawn to the story of this man's s cousin but I learned so so much more. I highly recommend this book. Excellent read!!!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Craig

    Loved this read on the history of public speaking and the author's journey to becoming a better speaker himself. Loved this read on the history of public speaking and the author's journey to becoming a better speaker himself.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Hindol Adhya

    Read this book if you want to get a "feel" of Toastmasters before joining Toastmasters. John's writing style is excellent and this book is a narrative of the author's personal transformation. If you just wanted a manual, there is a two pager appendix with some tips on how to write better speeches. But that's not the focus of this book. Read this book if you want to get a "feel" of Toastmasters before joining Toastmasters. John's writing style is excellent and this book is a narrative of the author's personal transformation. If you just wanted a manual, there is a two pager appendix with some tips on how to write better speeches. But that's not the focus of this book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kenneth Griswold

    This book is a good introduction to rhetoric. He repeats multiple times the main point of his book: when you give a speech, put your audience at the forefront of your mind, not yourself and not your ideas. He says this in multiple ways from multiple angles... so you better not miss it! One glaring historical error takes place on pg. 146 where he talkes about the demise of rhetoric as a topic of study and blames, among other things, Christianity. Why? Because we insist 1. "the Bible is the only so This book is a good introduction to rhetoric. He repeats multiple times the main point of his book: when you give a speech, put your audience at the forefront of your mind, not yourself and not your ideas. He says this in multiple ways from multiple angles... so you better not miss it! One glaring historical error takes place on pg. 146 where he talkes about the demise of rhetoric as a topic of study and blames, among other things, Christianity. Why? Because we insist 1. "the Bible is the only source of truth" (only true of one section of Christianity that didn't exist until the 16th century) and 2. "its tendency to disfavor the free flow of debate." Obviously Mr. Bowe has no idea about the history of medeival Christianity and is speaking about things he doesn't know. Rhetoric, as he pointed out, was common in education going into the beginning of the 20th century, so how can you blame the religion that had been around for 1850 years at that point? Sounds like Mr. Bowe is just spouting things without any real facts based on his own bias... something he warns about in his book! Physician, heal thyself!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Orit

  18. 5 out of 5

    Daniele Riccardelli

  19. 5 out of 5

    Christine

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dirk van der Walt

  21. 5 out of 5

    Meghan Hollis

  22. 4 out of 5

    Julia

  23. 4 out of 5

    Gary S.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Wallis Chan

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jon

  26. 4 out of 5

    MS

  27. 4 out of 5

    Borort Sort

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jen

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

  30. 4 out of 5

    Øyvind

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