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Fascinating insights on political communications

Political Columns: Behind the Scenes with Powerful People
Dr. Allan Bonner
Sextant Publishing
Edmonton, 186pp, $29.95, ISBN 978-0-9731134-4-0

Reviewed by Kevin Gallagher

Recently, I sat in the Member's Gallery at Queen's Park and watched Ontario Finance Minister Greg Sorbara deliver his budget speech. As the speech reached the ten minute point, I felt myself drifting as I heard only a consistent speech rhythm over and over. I realized that it was not just the constant pattern of speech that was making it so hard to pay attention. His hand gestures were also a repetitive pattern – one thumb up, both thumbs up, one fist clenched, both fists clenched, hands apart, hands joining at the finger tips. Repeat. The hand gestures were completely unconnected to the content of the speech.

I had only recently readPolitical Columns: Behind the Scenes With Powerful People written by Dr. Allan Bonner and he mentions the use of hand gestures in public speaking. Having worked on numerous occasions with Bonner while delivering speech training to some well known Canadian politicians, I was wishing that he was there to give me the play by play on this speech.

A reader of his book will get Bonner's insight on everyone from Winston Churchill to Belinda Stronach. It is a series of columns, many of which were written for the US magazineWinning Campaigns. Bonner is clearly one of the best in the business of public communication and the book is sprinkled with Bonner's musings while looking back at the fascinating situations he has found himself in and the people he has found himself working with or commenting on.

Bonner approaches each subject, some as a scientist, as he does when examining the first televised debate between Nixon and Kennedy, but ultimately as an artist who knows that there is much more to communication than the mechanics. He knows how to deliver a clear message and to make it believable. While reading the columns, the reader will find himself or herself being drawn in by the simple concise sentence structure, few words beyond three syllables, a rhythm, even while reading, that breaks the flow ever so perfectly so that you retain the whole message. It is this style that Bonner teaches his clients. It is incredibly effective and enjoyable reading.

The book is also a reminder to those in the public eye that they are always communicating from the moment they enter a room until he or she is safely back home. This book is a must read, not only for political junkies who want to see what Bonner has to say about many current political characters, but for anyone who is in the communications business and want to deliver the goods for their clients.

Kevin Gallagher is Principal of Link Strategies in Toronto and a veteran of dozens of political campaigns for the Conservative Party of Canada and provincial Progressive Conservative parties.

See Allan Bonner's Sources listing on page 151 of Sources #60, or online at