Whether you're presenting to an audience of one, a small boardroom, or find yourself invited to speak onstage at a national conference, reading regularly can nurture your confidence and grow your skills.
Present Yourself (Michael J. Gelb)
An introductory “field guide” that touches on the philosophy, psychology, and physiology involved throughout any public speaking experience – in it are high-performance hacks including simple but effective visualization and relaxation techniques.
TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking (Chris Anderson)
A comprehensive overview of what goes into preparing a speech and delivering it. It doesn’t go deep, but it touches on just about every aspect of the field, from structuring remarks to preparing yourself mentally and physically.
Better Beginnings: How to capture your audience in 30 seconds (Carmen Taran)
Ten lessons to help you make a strong start. Well-illustrated with both pictures and language, it’s great food for thought and a nice review of why people pay attention.
101 Ways to Open a Speech: How to Hook Your Audience From the Start With an Engaging and Effective Beginning (Brad Phillips)
Short and sweet. A fast (2-3 pages each) review of many different rhetorical devices to use to open a speech. Many of them overlap or are variations on a theme, but regardless of that you won’t page through this without coming up with several good ideas for your next presentation.
Your Attention, Please. (Brown & Davis)
What does it take to break through all the noise and clutter, the click bait? How can you make yourself heard? This is a great guide for thinking about how to set your (self, brand, product, company) apart.
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (Heath & Heath)
Want to know how to develop a story, whether about a brand, a concept, or an example you can build into a speech? A great read on what makes things stick in a person’s head and what leads to viral ideas.
Say It with Presentations, Say It With Charts (Gene Zelazny)
Zelazny’s works are excellent deep-dives into presentation graphics – slide-ware and charts and graphs. The books may feel a bit dated but the information is timeless.
Story First Marketing (Brad Cochrane)
The author explores how to recognize and develop a great story and how to tell one as he guides his reader through the process. Full disclosure: he is also a dear friend and colleague.
Speaking PowerPoint (Bruce Gabrielle)
His blog and the library of downloadable resources he curates are very helpful. He frequently uses current affairs as the spur to teach his lessons, making them interesting and timely. I have not read his book yet, but will at some point.
The Minto Pyramid Principle: Logic in Writing, Thinking and Problem Solving (Barbara Minto)
Minto’s approach makes poor writers tolerable and good writers even better, and her approach to clear narrative and logical persuasive flows will change not only the way you write but how you think. When a client asks how I can structure a speech so that A leads to B and leads to C, I am thankful for my Minto.
Save the Cat! – The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need (Blake Snyder)
The go-to book for my movie and TV industry friends. You or I will probably never write a screenplay but understanding how to tell a story the way a script-writer does, with its turns and twists, character development, introduction of conflict, side- and secondary-plots, and so on.
Teacher (Mark Edmundson)
Not about speaking or writing at all, just a marvelous “Exhibit A” in the art of great story-telling. Chapters begin and end at the same place, but to get from one end to another you take a river of words that wanders around, back and forth, tells supporting stories, and then pulls your heart out of your chest before putting tears in your eyes. Read this to learn what true story-telling is about.