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Friday, January 22, 2016


5 stars out of 5

By the author's own admission, this book is both a memoir and a how-to. Now that I've finished it, I figure the actual book leans heavily toward the memoir side (a very entertaining one, I hasten to add). Some how-tos are here, though, and there are plenty more to be downloaded for free online.

The focus, as the title suggests, is on why and how the author became a keynote speaker - and why and how readers can do the same. Not by accident, that's a targeted audience, which begs the question of why a mid-70s, mostly retired, grandmother of four would have the slightest interest in reading it.

It should go without saying that at this stage of the game, I have no desire to shift gears and head off to foreign lands, as the very accomplished author has done, to earn a living by sharing expertise with audiences willing to pay me. That said, public speaking has played a role at just about every stage of my life - in fact, I just signed on again to help recruit volunteers for Ohio's long-term care ombudsman program, taking my presentation on the road to area clubs and organizations. Beyond that, I was privileged to have a father who, in addition to having a full-time job and penning several self-published books of down-home country poetry (mostly under the pen name of Slim Acres), spent close to 30 years as an "after-dinner" speaker. Many evenings after work, he'd take off to get behind the podium at a club meeting, alumni banquet or commencement ceremony. 

Neither of us ever made it beyond what the author calls the "cheap" circuit - more on that later - but I know I speak for him when I say we both had a heck of a good time. And that, in large part, is what attracted me to this book - and I certainly wasn't disappointed. The author doesn't pull any punches, laying out in interesting and sometimes humorous fashion his personal trials, tribulations and, of course, successes (right down to revealing his credit card balances at various points along the way). Topics, presented in relatively short chapters, range from charging fees to website deign to book marketing (and the need for aspiring speakers to write one in the first place).

Also explained is the difference between podium, motivational and keynote speakers, as well as the aforementioned "circuits" that are defined by income (the first, "free," describes most of my efforts). My dad fell more into the "cheap" category, and it's for sure neither of us ever dreamed of achieving "professional" status (keynoters who earn $5,000 and up per presentation). At the top of the heap is the "celebrity" circuit, but that one is reserved for folks like best-selling authors, movie stars, ex-politicians (whether in or out of favor) and and thus out of reach for most of us mortals.

Successful speaking requires repetition, hard work and unflagging determination ("Success is the accumulation of 10,000 tiny victories and 100,000 tiny failures," the author writes) and, I'll add, little or no fear of standing in front of hundreds of people and talking loudly enough that most of them can hear you. If you're among the latter group, this book won't do much to steady your knees; but if you've got those first three and a desire to earn money, it's worth your while to take a look. Be sure to check out the online worksheets as well; there are 12 at the website ( on such topics as Identifying Content Opportunities, Structure of a Keynote and Starting a Video Blog. Sign up at the site, as I did, to download any or all.

And that brings me to another purpose of this book: Self-promotion. Throughout, the author never misses a chance to get in plugs for his books, videos, training programs and the like. Should you think that's not a Martha Stewart good thing, think again; in fact, it demonstrates that he's walking his talk and putting into practice exactly the principles he's advising readers to follow if they want to achieve similar success. If that includes you, run, do not walk, to get a copy of this book today.

My thanks to the author, via NetGalley, for approving my request for a free copy in exchange for a review.

Keynote Mastery: The Personal Journey of a Professional Speaker by Patrick Schwerdtfeger (Amazon Digital Services Inc., January 2016); 284 pp.

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