Five Great Books on Public Speaking to Help You Rock the Podium

Want to supercharge your career, build your business, or develop and delight a following?

These books will show you how. They’re written by acclaimed public speaking coaches, and it shows; experience and wisdom flow through each one. Choose your favorite, or buy all five and get ready to rock the podium.

hbr-guide-to-persuasive-presentations1. HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations, by Nancy Duarte

Nancy Duarte is one of the best thinkers about public speaking today, and this concise, elegantly-written book is solid gold for business speakers.

Spanning the process from “Know your audience and build empathy” (Section 1) to “Measure—and increase—your presentation’s impact on your audience” (Section 7), Duarte shows you how to develop a message, tell a story, utilize media including PowerPoint, and deliver authentically. She also shares invaluable insights on speechmaking in the corporate environment.

Sample Tip: “There are two basic classes of emotion: pain and pleasure. Determine how you’d like people to feel at various points in your presentation. Where would you like them to feel happy? To cringe? To be inspired?” (p. 52)

Nancy Duarte on Changing the World with Stories:

Knockout Presentations Cover2. Knockout Presentations: How to Deliver Your Message with Power, Punch, and Pizzazz, by Diane DiResta

DiResta, a New York City coach who works with large corporations and A-list clients, has crafted a beautifully-written and -organized guide.

The book is comprehensive, and includes checklists, tips, and other solutions for readers. DiResta’s chapter on “Listening” alone is worth the price of admission, and her discussion of how to research, analyze, and persuade audiences has unusual resonance and depth.

Sample Tip: “Don’t be afraid of silence. If you lose your place, a long pause can add drama. Change what you were going to say. As long as the concept is the same, the audience will never know the difference.” (p. 82)

Diane DiResta on Naming the Elephant in the Room:

Available in paperback or Kindle.

Available in paperback or Kindle.

3. Speak Like Yourself… No, Really! Follow Your Strengths and Skills to Great Public Speaking, by Jezra Kaye

Yes, this is my book.

Written for a general, as well as a business, audience, Speak Like Yourself… No, Really! is a complete workbook on public speaking, filled with exercises, examples, and illustrations.

People find this book warm, empowering, yet no-nonsense — just like a one-on-one speaker coaching session, which was exactly my goal! It shows you, in small and manageable steps, how to understand and build your own public speaking style, and how to master everything from small talk to keynote speeches, from pitches to job interviews, and more.

Sample Tip: “Just as with most other forms of communication, the underlying secret for making successful Small Talk is to show the other person that you like them and appreciate spending a few minutes in their company.” (p. 136)

Jezra Kaye on asking for what you want:  This video, addressed to fundraisers, is actually for all of us; just substitute the word “audience” for “donor.” And by the way, you’ll notice that at one point I stumble. Does that ruin the video for you? Do I lose credibility in your eyes? I’m guessing not — and if you stumble, you won’t lose credibility either, as long as you just keep going and keep delivering value to your listeners!

Buy Speak Like Yourself…No, Really! 

Make Your Point

4. Make Your Point! Speak Clearly and Concisely Anyplace, Anytime, by Bob Elliott and Kevin Carroll

The best brief intro to public speaking I’ve ever read, this book is a gem that you’ll return to time and again for advice on everything from WIIFM (“What’s in it for me?” your audience is thinking), to the Diamond structure of a speech, to the Top 10 Communication Roadblocks.

Elliott and Carroll write in a clear and focused tone that rightly inspires confidence. I learned a ton from this book, and I wish I’d written it!

Sample Tip (for Q&A): Anticipate 10 to 20 questions you’re likely to be asked and anticipate 10 to 20 questions you hope you’re never asked. And if worse comes to worst, it is okay to say: “I don’t have that information, but I’ll get back to you with it.” (p.93)

Kevin Carroll talks about “Don’t Be Boring”

Howt to Get Your Point Across5. How to Get Your Point Across in 30 Seconds or Less, by Milo O. Frank

This 1986 book was light years ahead of its time! Frank anticipated today’s short attention spans, and wrote a guide for people who want to make 30 seconds count.

He walks you through how to pick your objective, pick your approach, pick your hook, even how to organize your speaker’s notes so that what you have to say flows and has authority.

Frank, who was a talent agent (with William Morris), head of Talent And Casting for CBS Television, and an independent movie producer, writes like a businessman — and in this case, that’s a good thing.

Sample Tip: “A message without a specific request is a wasted opportunity. He who don’t ask, don’t get.” (p.59)

Want more great public speaking tips?

Follow these public speaking masters on Twitter:
Nancy Duarte - @nancyduarte
Diane DiResta - @speakingpro
Jezra Kaye - @jezrakaye

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