Book Reviews: Communication

Artful Persuasion: How to Command Attention, Change Minds, and Influence People, by Harry A. Mills. AMACOM.
Beginning with a 60 question self-assessment of your persuasion skills, the book covers an enormous range of subjects and techniques for mastering the art. Included are: the four patterns of influence; the three types of influencers; building trust and selling your expertise; image management; using personality types to persuade (applies the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator); giving words added impact; the power of metaphors, analogies, and stories; structuring and packaging your message; persuading with graphs, charts and videos; art of self-persuasion; targeting different groups; out-thinking opponents; seven persuasion triggers of automatic influence; using a benchmark; influence of position; law of give and take; and getting one foot in the door. Every chapter ends with a few highlights. Numerous checklists, tables and diagrams, add to the book's value. Very highly recommended. 300 pp. 2000.

The Associated Press Guide to Punctuation, by Rene J.Cappon. Perseus Books.
This authoritative guide is written by the editors of the Associated Press. It is everything you can wish for in a reference work on punctuation include use of the: ampersand; apostrophe; brackets; capitalization; colon; comma; dash; hyphen; and more. A must for anyone who wants to write well. Terrific. 96 pp. 2003

Business Writing: The Essential Guide to Thinking and Working Smarter (Self-Development for Success), by Midge Gillies. AMACOM.
One of a series of self-development books. A short, fast-paced, easy-to-read, and to-the-point course on how to solve common people problems at work. Short one or two page sections drive home a key point, such as know your reader, grammar, punctuation, style, and using e-mail. The organization, layout and graphics are excellent. Highlights and exercises make this volume applied and useful. Highly recommended for training purposes. 96 pp. 2000.

Effective Communication Skills for Scientific and Technical Professionals, by Harry E. Chambers, Perseus Books.
An excellent how-to manual filled with guidelines for communicating in a variety of situations. Its content is useful to anyone in business. Includes many self-assessment questionnaires and explicit how-to guidelines. An extremely practical book. Recommended. 321 pp. 2001.

Improv Yourself: Business Spontaneity at the Speed of Thought, by Joseph A. Keefe. John Wiley & Sons.
The author presents the art of improv and shows how to use humor and spontaneity to improve business performance. The book is an introductory course improvisation, emphasizing exercises and games. An entertaining, lively and very practical work. 205 pp. 2002.

Khrushchev's Shoe: And Other Ways to Captivate an Audience of 1 to 1000, by Roy Underhill. Perseus Books.
This book instructs you in how to connect with small and large groups. It is filled with solid information. Underhill knows his subject and presents an a very readable book rich in guidelines, insights, and thoughtful commentary. 229 pp. 2002.

The Leadership Solution, by Jim Shaffer. McGraw-Hill, Inc.
The central theme is the linking of people and what they do to the strategy and vision of the business. To achieve this connection requires communication, the subject of the book. Communication covers all ways people send, receive, and process information. The sharing of information becomes the basis for empowering people and making the entire organization more effective. Other key aspects of the information process, as defined by Shaffer, are: employee involvement; every employee achieving a clear line of sight between what they do and strategic aims; and rewards and recognition. This is an interesting perspective which forms the basis for the views and ideas of the book. Among many points, the author believes that companies that do the best job of linking people to strategy: value their people; the CEO is the communication champion; and communication is managed as a business process. Viewing leadership in this way is highly informative and leads to productive ideas and insights. This work is reasonably detailed but fast reading. Top notch work. 307 pp. 2000.

Life is a Series of Presentations: 8 Ways to Punch Up Your People Skills At Work, At Home, Anywhere, Anytime, by Tony Jeary. Simon & Schuster/A Fireside Book.
Offers guidelines and insightful thoughts about how to developing excellent people and presentation skills. Each chapter highlights key points and provides thoughtful discussion. Engaging, informative and filled with anecdotes. 270 pp. 2004.

Lifescripts: What to Say to Get What You Want in 101 of Life's Toughest Situations, by Stephen M. Pollan and Mark Levine. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Covering over 100 tough issues and questions, the book provides verbatim scripts as a guide to enable you to most effectively deal with a broad range of issues such as: communicating bad news, dealing with problem people, mending damaged relationships, negotiating your wants and needs, and asserting yourself. Situations are broken down into four categories: dealing with superiors, subordinates, office politics, and with clients, customers and vendors. Each chapter presents a strategy, tactics, a flow of the script, ways to modify the script, and key points. A gem of a resource. Never be at a loss for words again. 464 pp.

Making Meetings Work: Achieving High-Quality Group Decisions, by John E. Tropeman. Sage Publications, Inc.
Offers tools and techniques for making meetings productive and reaching decisions expeditiously. A few of the included topics are: agenda design; participant trust; emotional elements of meetings; decision rules and decision making; conflicting values; strategies and tactics of meeting masters; negative culture of meetings; why things go wrong; and leadership. This is a terrific book that treats the subject in great depth. 192 pp. 2003.

On the Art of Writing Copy: The Best of * Print * Broadcast * Internet * Direct Mail, by Herschell Gordon Lewis, AMACOM.
This content-rich manual shows how to write effective, powerful copy for every major medium of marketing or advertising a product or service: broadcast, print, Internet, catalogs and direct mail. Lewis delves into the details of creating effective copy. Of special value is a compendium of 225 quick reference rules for specific copywriting situations. This book is filled with examples and gobs of good advice. It is beautifully written and sprinkled with lots of wit and amusing observations. This book is a gem! Highly recommended 410 pp. 2000.

The PR Crisis Bible: How to Take Charge of the Media When All Hell Break Loose, by Robin Cohen. St. Martin's Press.
With a liberal use of examples, shows how to respond effectively in a crisis, planning and executing a crisis response. Introduces the concept of crisis mastering, the successful conclusion to crisis management, and presents ten key questions that this book addresses. Effective preparation backed by credibility is one of the central messages. Filled with lots of good advice, such as: victims (consumers) have to be the top priority regardless of the problem's sizełanger turns victims into powerful enemies. Well written, meaty, and to-the-point. Recommended for purchase before your next crisis! 304 pp. 2000.

A Safe Place for Dangerous Truths: Using Dialogue to Overcome Fear & Distrust at Work, by Annette Simmons. AMACOM.
Dialogue is a group facilitation process through which people learn, exchange ideas, explore ideas, be curious, open, tolerant, and shift their thinking. The book provides insights and numerous guidelines about how to facilitate this process and use it in group and organizational contexts. Bibliography. 250 pp. 1999.

Sticky Knowledge: Barriers to Knowing in the Firm, by Gabriel Szulanski. Sage Publications, Inc.
Examines the difficulty in communicating or transferring knowledge within an organization. The book focuses on the transfer of best practices (complex technical knowledge). Szulanski elaborates on how stickiness (the degree of effort needed to transfer knowledge) affects firm performance and, using field studies, examines four types of stickiness. The book shows that barriers to the transfer of best practice within the firm are more related to knowledge and communication than to motivation or incentives. Highly informative. Includes a copy of the research questionnaire and extensive technical appendices. 139 pp. 2003.

The Story Factor: Inspiration, Influence, and Persuasion Through the Art of Storytelling, by Annette Simmons. Perseus Books.
Provides an understanding of how stories can be used to motivate and improve communication. Includes over one hundred examples of effective storytelling, as well as myths, fables, and parables. Extremely well-written. Recommended. 224 pp. 2001. Defines "dialogue" as a group process characterized as: a connected state; an exploration; a learning process; a set of communication norms; a transformation of minds. Provides practical guidance for: improving openness and sharing of information and knowledge, inspiring people to think and learn, building trust, opening up thinking to new ideas, confronting tough issues, energizing people to collaborative action, and binding a group to take collective responsibility for their decisions. Examines seven facilitator skills including taking the pulse of the group, the socratic method, and storytelling. Interesting insights. Bibliography. 250 pp. 2000.

Understanding Body Language: A Collection of 20 Training Activities (Barron's Business Success Guides). Gower Publishing Limited.
This manual brings together exercises that use NLP, observation, mime, coaching, feedback, and a number of other techniques that allow a person to create a very powerful body language training course. All activities are appropriate for general interpersonal skills training. Some are useful for particular contexts too, such as interviewing, coaching, or negotiating. Each exercise has a one page introduction to give a quick guide to applications and the process it follows. Very highly recommended. 164 pp. 2004.

Working the Room: How to Move People to Action through Audience-Centered Speaking, by Nick Morgan , Harvard Business School Press.
The author introduces the idea of developing a kinesthetic connection with the audience by using opportunities for making intellectual, emotional, and even physical contact. The book provides specific strategies to help presenters prepare, rehearse, and master the art of giving speeches that challenge thinking and spark action. A stimulating, insightful and valuable work. 240 pp. 2003.