As a professional public speaking and presentations coach, I’ve got to be working to keep what I do fresh. Stale material doesn’t fly. I keep swapping and changing resources in my communications trainings, presentation workshops, and in coaching sessions. Lots of these pieces are drawn from my years of experience as a performer and event host. And a surprising amount is transferable from my work as a writer.
Some are drawn from workshops that I’ve attended. And of course, as a fan of lifelong learning, lots of fresh insights and new discoveries come from books I’ve read. Every day can be a school day if do it right.
People often ask me about resources for further study. High up on that list of questions is: “What are some good books to read on becoming a better public speaker?”
So, I thought I’d share a few of my faves.
Present like a TED speaker
“Talk like TED” by Carmine Gallo is an engaging book that breaks down public speaking into thematic sections. There are parts about storytelling, creating big moments, engaging the senses, and even using humor. The examples are drawn, quite naturally, from highly influential TED talks. It also holds up on repeated visits. I often find myself dipping back in to get some advice or a particularly salient example to illustrate a point.
All in all, there’s lots of good theory, mixed with practical advice and illustrated with impactful TED talks, which you can then watch on YouTube or TED.com to get the complete lesson.
The science of engagement
“How to stand out: Proven tactics for getting noticed” by Dr. Rob Yeung is an eye-catching bright orange book. But far from just being a cover gimmick, it contains all sorts of psychological insights n the subject. And everything is backed up by studies and research. From body language to persuasive language and imposter syndrome to harnessing your passion.
I love the way Dr. Yeung references academic studies and then synthesizes the findings into actionable learnings that you can apply to your own life. And the book uses quite a few charts and graphs. I don’t always love charts and graphs, but in this case, I find them really useful. Also of note is that while lots of stuff here is directly applicable to making presentations, the book is dedicated to “getting noticed”. So making an impact, thus not strictly confined to the presenter’s stage. I find this to be an advantage, but worth it’s mentioning.
Free your voice and inspire the room
“Own It: How to boss your fears, free your voice and inspire the room” by Liz Peters is a dynamite handbook that’s all focused on the individual and how to develop the attitudes and behaviors that will make you more confident, comfortable, and impactful in social settings and pitches. It has a delightfully personable style and is full of exercises and inserts that keep the pace quick and lively.
Peters also uses her improv training and skills to great effect, and I can feel the improv workshop vibes in places: supportive, easygoing, and with a strong sense of fun.
And of course, she includes a number of exercises, many sourced from the world of improvisation, all of which give this book the positive energy and bias to action that many readers (including me) appreciate.
Reading on public speaking
There’s a ton of literature out there on public speaking, and I’ve got more recommendations, but these are three books that collectively or individually will help anyone up their confidence and strengthen their game.
Besides, but lots of times it’s not really about how many books you read, but just making sure you engage with some new ideas, reflect on your own practice and try some new techniques.