Having Something Worth Saying, and Saying It Well: a book review

I like comedian and motivational speaker Ken Davis. I have several video tapes of him delivering inspirational messages and he never fails to make you laugh and think. There are a couple of his messages which I can still remember near verbatim years later.  One of the things that impresses me about him is his ability to use humor in a way that re-enforces his overall message. I know from experience that humor sometimes can undermine your message and make it difficult for people to take you seriously, but Davis is a master of moving you from laughter to tears while proclaiming truth and moving you to a response.

In the Secrets of Dynamic Communication,  Davis reveals the secrets of dynamic communication (not just another clever title).  This is a book about public speaking written for anyone with something worth saying. The most important component of  an effective speech is focus. Davis argues that pinpointing the purpose of your talk, will give you greater clarity and make you easier to listen to.  He advocates what he calls the SCORRE process.

When I first saw the acronym SCORRE, I figured that Davis is primarily a speaker and so not a great speller. But each letter represents one aspect of his system for preparing a talk, described in part one of this book the letters are:

  • S–Establishing the Subject
  • C– Choosing a Central Theme
  • O– Focusing on the Objective
  • R– Developing a solid Rationale (i.e. outline, organization).
  • R– Gathering Resources (i.e. illustrations, quotes, etc). 
  • E– Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate

Davis describes  ‘presenting’ in part two. He talks about involving the audience, using effective and non-distracting body language and controlling the speaking environment (i.e. lighting, sound, minimizing distractions, etc).

Part three imparts wisdom about thriving as a speaker. After a chapter on time management, Davis has a chapter on the use of humor in speeches.  He makes a distinction between high-risk humor (jokes that could bomb) and low-risk humor (funny stories which illustrate the point).  As I said above, Davis is masterful at using humor to illustrate his points, and his advice to other speakers is to not use humor that detracts from your overall message, or does not fit the context you are speaking in. His closing chapter describes the blend of logos, ethos, and pathos for dynamic communication. These are terms that come straight from Aristotle, but also describe (in the language of Christian spirituality) how our message and our lives should speak to head, heart and hands. I couldn’t agree more.

As I read through this book, I was able to assess where some of my own sermons have been most successful (and why a few bombed!).  I think I already implement aspects of the SCORRE process whenever I prepare a sermon or talk. What I haven’t really done is develop an objective statement the Davis way: wedding a proposition to an interrogative response.   His way of articulating an objective is very particular (i.e. he instructs us to always use keywords, stating that keywords are always plural nouns).  I am not sure that I will ever write an objective statement like the one he calls for, but his purpose is sound.  We’ve all watched speakers flounder and run down rabbit tails and wondered what they were trying to say. Having an objective disciplines a speaker to stay on task which helps everyone in the room!

If you engage in any sort of public speaking (which you will), this will be a helpful book. Davis is a seasoned speaker and has got a lot of wisdom to share.  Experienced speakers may regard some of this as basic, but it is worthwhile to review the basics and to evaluate your own process. I give this book five stars!

Thank you to Thomas Nelson and Booksneeze for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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