Jack’s top 7 books on communication for 2020

A year’s reading journey through books on communication
Jack Irwin, VP PR of Hamwic Speakers


Crucial conversations by Kerry Patterson and Joseph Grenny.

Jack’s rating: 4.5/5

I read this book because I wanted to improve my communication under pressure. Crucial conversations defines a crucial conversation as being when 1) opinions differ 2) the stakes are high and 3) emotions are high. It provides us with a tool kit to handle such situations. The most revolutionary discovery I found from this book is that when someone says something negative towards you, you do not need to listen to the content of this message but actually the tone of it. It is likely they are feeling toxic because there is no safety in the communication and therefore your priority needs to be create safety. Methods such as stepping out of the conversation, using contrasting and creating a mutual purpose will help to move you forward. I used the techniques in this book this year to great success.



TED talks storytelling by Akash Karia

Jack’s rating: 4.5/5

In 2019 Paul Summerfield delivered his “fishing” speech at a Hamwic Toastmasters meeting in the Atherly Bowling club. I loved it, he built up a great picture and I was hooked by the storyline. I wanted to know how to take people on a journey like that. Paul said he read TED storytelling. I don’t know if it was this book but I can promise you this book is worth the read, although I got it on Audible. The author has reviewed all the best TED talks and found that story telling is the element which has the greatest impact. This book tells you the most important parts of storytelling in a very concise manner. The main parts of story telling is the opening, conflict, dialogue, using senses to describe things and the spark/conclusion.



The definitive book of body language by Alan and Barbara Pease

Jack’s rating: 4.4/5

Most experts agree that 70 to 93% of communication is nonverbal. When I discovered this I decided to read this book. It’s well worth the read in my opinion. If you want to be a good listener it’s not just about the actual content of the message, it’s everything else that comes with it, the tone and the body language. It’s also much harder to fib with body language. When delivering speeches you can therefore understand the power of intonation, pauses, body language etc. I often analyse my own body langue to see how I react in some situations. Often I close myself off when fearful/negative which just creates more negativity and distancing rather than being open, accepting, confronting and overcoming the fear.



Communicate or Die by Thomas D. Zweifel

Jack’s rating: 4.3/5

Recommended to me by seasoned Hamwic Toastmaster and experienced public speaker Alexandra Gillies. Thank you! This book really woke me up to listening and how it’s a skill. The matterhorn of listening and the 4 deadly sins of speaking are interesting. This book on communication is not going to help with your public speaking but will with everyday life.



Confident public speaking by Christian and Stephanie Godefroy

Jack’s rating: 4.2/5

This book starts by addressing the emotional challenges in public speaking as public speaking books do. We know the best solution for that is to join a Toastmasters! However, what I took from this book is the technical aspect to public speaking and in particular the different structures of speeches, 12 structures are listed, albeit they overlap a little. Have you every delivered a thesis, antithesis, synthesis speech? And when would this be best used? Admittedly I later came to realise that structure isn’t everything and that over structuring can cause a creative paralysis. P.S Also I liked the ego counter (a count of “I’s” minus the “you’s”).



Resonate by Nancy Duarte

Jack’s rating: 4.1/5

Not the most conventionally written book, with some excellent illustrations. The first chapter is similar to an executive summary and so it condenses all her research in the book into the first douzen pages. This book really highlights the power of a story with a technical/academic slant. Duarte proves her theory using case studies on powerful speeches. I feel that her research on moving emotional states is very interesting however, I feel when using these techniques there is a fine line between captivating your audience and being manipulative and non-authentic. Great for writing scripts however when choreographing speeches it may cause creative conflicts within and ultimately confuse audiences.



Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss

Jack’s rating: 4/5

Ex-FBI negotiator Chris Voss shares the techniques he uses in negotiating with the world’s most prolific terrorists and with success. The techniques are very eye opening. Voss can go into a negotiation with an end goal in mind and will get exactly what he wants. This mind-set it absolutely necessary for negotiating with terrorists however feel that in the business world it may come across as manipulative and in the long run will come back to haunt you. With great power comes great responsibility and persuasion like this has a specific time and place. This book does highlight the importance of listening, labelling emotions and respect/empathy and for that reason I recommend it.
That’s all folks. Thanks for reading and if you have read any of these books I would love to hear your thoughts on them. Also let me know if you have any recommendations.


Blog written by Jack Irwin, VPPR of Hamwic Speakers. For more blogs from Jack click here:

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