November 2, 2017

Books for Speakers: Made to Stick

Speaker's Bookshelf , Instruction , Seen|Read|Heard , Storytelling

A favorite question in every class we lead is this: What public speaking books do you suggest we read? Our shelves are loaded with choices. Every month we'll be featuring a pick from new books we've come across and old favorites we go back to again and again.


Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

"The curse of knowledge." That might be the nugget we use most when we work on speeches and presentations, though the entire book is full of good stuff, presented in a fun-to-read style.

Made to Stick has been around for a while and if you've already discovered it, you know it starts by considering the question:

Why do urban legends capture our attention and stick in our memories, yet important information barely registers?

Then the Heath brothers examine the qualities that make a message engaging, or what they call "sticky" (which, ick, sounds like the floor in a movie theater to us, but you have to admit that's some jargon that does stick whether you like it or not).

They look at word choice, storytelling, and write about the concept we keep going back to time and again:

The curse of knowledge.

That's when you have trouble making something clear for an audience, because you know the material too well. Your expertise, it turns out, is getting in the way of making your message connect with others. You can't remember what it was like not to know this topic so well.

If you're not up for tackling the whole book, this article gives their take on the curse of knowledge and how it applies to broad statements about qualities such as integrity or cutting edge technology. We couldn't agree more.

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