John-Paul Flintoff offers advice to creatives on how to tackle public speaking

Researching for the book saw Flintoff interview people who struggle with presenting, and is therefore written with these people in mind, aimed at anyone who’s felt the fear of taking from a podium. It takes an informal, tongue-in-cheek and friendly tone of voice, opposing the stereotypes of self-improvement publications. It also has a more relatable approach, avoiding a list of rules and instead offering anecdotes and personal advice, hoping to show that “making speeches doesn’t need to be petrifying”.
Sitting alongside are Flintoff’s line-drawn illustrations, which convey the “creative, ie. non-corporate” feel of the book. These depict subjects such as George Bernard Shaw, the playwright who overcame shyness by forcing himself to speak publicly; Edward Tufte, whose official report to Nasa showed that the Space Shuttle might have been saved if technicians had used visuals better than PowerPoint; and Rachel Ison “who raised £2000 with her first ever speech to a smallish room”.
“Creatives (including me) often hate talking about our work because it’s so closely related to ourselves,” says John-Paul Flintoff, an artist, author, journalist and experienced public speaker. Generally, he says, books about speaking that are directed at mainstream business audiences “tend to advocate a slick, ‘masterful’ approach that really doesn’t help.” So his new book, wryly titled A Modest Book About How to Make an Adequate Speech promises an alternative approach. He wrote it, he tells It’s Nice That, “to show that there’s another way to do it,” combining stories about “ordinary” and well-known people, my own mishaps / modest successes, accompanied by the artist’s own illustrations.
The book is broken down into five parts, the first is: “work out what you’re doing: who exactly is your audience, and what do you want to achieve by talking,” which Flintoff says is more important to consider than “what’s your subject?” Secondly, what material can you use, and how will you arrange it? The next section explores style, “ideas to help make the telling more effective, from overall structure to individual phrasing,” then the following chapter goes on to share top tips for memorising your content. Finally, it’s the all-important delivery. This section looks at what to do when you stand up / approach the mic / arrive in Zoom / go live on Insta, ranging from prepared content to going “off-piste” with advice from Flintoff’s training in improvisational theatre. He also brings experience in teaching networking to RCA students and his work with London-based charity Creative Conscious, as well as podcasting and performing.
A Modest Book About How to Make an Adequate Speech is published by Short Books, out today.
In its humble way, Flintoff intends to use this as “a guide to finding your voice, even if it’s a bit croaky at first, and a reassuring affirmation that we all have something to say”.