Casting Call book by Barry Shapiro

Book Reviews For

Casting Call in the Theatre of Corporate America
(The Role of the Extraordinary Facilitator)

Dr. Zinta Byrne

This book is an absolute MUST BUY. I recently used Barry's book in a graduate course for masters and doctoral level students, to teach them presentation skills. They learned so much more than that. The book is not an academic book, yet it is an excellent teaching tool for how to present because it conveys (in an easy to read format) how to be an outstanding (extraordinary) facilitator.

The way Barry shares learning experiences, skills, and insights is easy to read, fun, and allows you to feel like you're watching the play behind the scenes - behind the props. His chapter on Generating Energy and Improvisation flow naturally from Know Yourself and Know Your Audience. You not only get a sense of what it looks like from the audience's perspective (very valuable so you can decide what you want to do, when, and what your goals are), but also from the view of the actor - the facilitator.

What I really liked was that the book is not written like a textbook or an overly simplified "how to" book with numbered steps, as if all you need to do is follow the recipe. It's not that simple and Barry doesn't try to simplify something that requires practice and integration of dynamic energy. Instead, Barry shares the challenges, what and how to master the components of excellent facilitation, and gives you insight into how to integrate them smoothly while being your authentic self (you're not a fake actor when facilitating). The book is just remarkable, brilliant, and truly impactful. As I said, it's an absolute MUST BUY, MUST HAVE!!

H. Wayne Smith, PhD

If you facilitate learning events for a living, you need to read this book.
Written by one of the best in the business, Casting Call gives you all the tips and techniques you’ll need to be at the top of your game when you take the stage in the learning theatre of Corporate America. More than that, this book vividly captures the life of the professional facilitator – the challenges, frustrations and everyday grind, as well as the gratification of helping your audience improve their lives in the working environment.

Facilitation excellence is a rare combination of science and art. Barry Shapiro explores both in Casting Call. As a performing artist, he breathes life into the sterile reaches of science; and while his science is sound, his artistry is superb.
Shapiro approaches facilitation with the insight of a master practitioner and the sensitivity of a stage actor. His approach could be called “edutainment.” It’s a masterful blend of learning and audience involvement that instructs, inspires, equips and enables training participants to become the best they can be.

Casting Call is no ordinary instruction manual for trainers. It’s written as a stage play and, as such, captures the essence of the nomadic and sometimes lonely life of the facilitator and what it takes to achieve excellence. The play takes place in the Lakeside Conference Room of the Chicago Sheraton Hotel at a three-day training program. Anyone who has facilitated for a living will recognize what happens during the course of the program. They will have lived it themselves and will learn from the experiences and reflections of Barry and his co-facilitator, Amy.

The cast of characters is familiar. Among a host of others, you’ll recognize Bill, the Stealth Bomber who can’t wait to sneak in a devastating comment; the Lemon Faces who appear to swallow something sour at each learning point; and the Bobbsey Twins who annoy the rest of the class with their private side-conversations.

Shapiro’s path to excellence requires the development of three primary facilitator competencies: Learning, Content and Facilitation. Each is further defined by a series of traits, or behaviors (“chops,” in the vernacular of the theatre). He includes an Extraordinary Facilitator Toolkit for easy reference and detailed self-assessments for each competency.

The stage play format is easy to navigate. Each scene begins with an introduction that outlines the premise and facilitator traits to be explored. At the end of the scene are summary notes, a synopsis of the story line and a series of questions to help the reader develop and expand the relevant “chops” (i.e., Detail Orientation, Thinking, etc.).

It’s possible to dip into this book and merely skim the professional tips; but if you do, you’ll miss the real essence of Shapiro’s writing. Casting Call goes well beyond facilitation skills. It’s a journey of heart and soul. It’s the story of one man’s progress on the conjoined paths of life and professional excellence. And of course, you’ll want to keep turning the pages to see what happens in the relationship between Barry and Amy.