12 public speaking books you need to read

Introduction

Starting a speaking business is exhilarating and rewarding… and very stressful. Being a public speaker isn’t easy, and if you’re like most people you’ve probably looked for public speaking tips to help you become a better speaker.

These 12 public speaking books listed below can help you learn how to become a public speaker, how to improve your public speaking skills, and how to develop a talk for an audience. Books on public speaking are plentiful, but these ones have stood out, some over decades, as great guides and resources for your public speaking career.

12 public speaking books you need to read

Want to learn how to become a better public speaker? Read on for 12 public speaking books that you need to read. (Book descriptions from Amazon)

1. The Successful Speaker by Grant Baldwin (2020)

We’d be remiss not to mention this one! Do you have a message you want to get out into the world? Have you ever dreamed of speaking for a living? Is there something you have to say, but you just aren’t sure what to do next? The Successful Speaker is a proven, easy-to-follow guide to helping you do just that.

Whether you want to speak at your next board meeting or community gathering, start making some extra money on the side, or become a full-time professional speaker, Grant Baldwin knows how to get you from here to there. Why? Because he’s done it himself and has coached over 2,000 speakers.

In The Successful Speaker, you will learn the five-step road map to start and scale a speaking business from the ground up, including

– how to hone your message and know exactly who it’s for
– the preparation process to help your next speech move an audience to action
– what it takes to establish yourself as an in-demand expert
– practical steps to finding and booking paid speaking gigs
– how to know when it’s time to grow your impact and income

In each chapter, you will get specific action steps and case studies from professional speakers to put you on the fast track to booking gigs, getting paid, and building your speaking platform.

2. How to Develop Self-Confidence and Influence People by Public Speaking by Dale Carnegie (1976)

Drawing on Dale Carnegie’s years of experience as a business trainer, this book will show you how to overcome the natural fear of public speaking, to become a successful speaker, and even learn to enjoy it.

His invaluable advice includes ways to:

-Develop poise
-Gain self-confidence
-Improve your memory
-Make your meaning clear
-Begin and end a presentation effectively

Interested in going deeper in the mechanics of how to give a talk? Here are 25 tips to help you become a better speaker.

3. Ted Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking by Chris Anderson (2017)

Since taking over leadership of TED in 2001, Chris Anderson has worked with all the TED speakers who have inspired us the most. In this book, he shares insights from such favorites as Sir Ken Robinson, Salman Khan, Monica Lewinsky, and more— everything from how to craft your talk’s content to how you can be most effective on stage.

Want to learn more about TED Talks? Check out our blog post on how to get and give a TED Talk here!

4. How to Tell a Story: The Essential Guide to Memorable Storytelling (2022)

Over the past twenty-five years, the directors of The Moth have worked with people from all walks of life—including astronauts, hairdressers, rock stars, a retired pickpocket, high school students, and Nobel Prize winners—to develop true personal stories that have moved and delighted live audiences and listeners of The Moth’s Peabody Award–winning radio hour and podcast. A leader in the modern storytelling movement, The Moth inspires thousands of people around the globe to share their stories each year.

Now, with How to Tell a Story, The Moth will help you learn how to uncover and craft your own unique stories, like Moth storytellers Mike Birbiglia, Rosanne Cash, Hasan Minhaj, Betty Reid Soskin, John Turturro, and more.

Whether your goal is to make it to the Moth stage, deliver the perfect wedding toast, wow clients at a business dinner, give a moving eulogy, ace a job interview, be a hit at parties, change the world, or simply connect more deeply to those around you, stories are essential.

Wondering how do you tell stories that stick long after you’ve finished speaking? Have a listen to our podcast on how to tell stories that stick with Kindra Hall.

5. How to Win an Argument: An Ancient Guide to the Art of Persuasion by James May (2016)

James May is professor of classics at St. Olaf College. An expert on Cicero and classical rhetoric, May has written a book for contemporary readers to glean ancient wisdom. How to Win an Argument gathers the rhetorical wisdom of Cicero, ancient Rome’s greatest orator, from across his works and combines it with passages from his legal and political speeches to show his powerful techniques in action. The result is an enlightening and entertaining practical introduction to the secrets of persuasive speaking and writing―including strategies that are just as effective in today’s offices, schools, courts, and political debates as they were in the Roman forum.

6. Speak With No Fear by Mike Acker (2019)

It can easily seem like everyone is a gifted speaker when you watch TED talks or compare yourself to skilled co-workers giving presentations. But you don’t have to get caught up in the costly comparison trap. Instead, you can take action to improve your ability and to overcome your fear.

Through this book you will learn 7 strategies you can begin today. These strategies will give you a new perspective, they will prepare you, and they will give you actions to practice. As you implement these strategies, your fear will begin to fade.

THE SEVEN STRATEGIES
1. Uncover & Clean the Wound
2. Imagine the Worst
3. You Be You
4. Speak to One
5. It’s Not About You
6. Channel The Power
7. Be in the Moment

Are you struggling to develop a stage presence? Check out this article on how to overcome fear of public speaking.

7. How to Speak, How to Listen by Mortimer J. Adler (1983)

With over half a million copies in print of his classic How to Read a Book in print, intellectual, philosopher, and academic Mortimer J. Adler set out to write an accompanying volume on speaking and listening, offering the impressive depth of knowledge and accessible panache that distinguished his first book.

In How to Speak, How to Listen, Adler explains the fundamental principles of communicating through speech, with sections on such specialized presentations as the sales talk, the lecture, and question-and-answer sessions and advice on effective listening and learning by discussion.

8. Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences by Nancy Duarte (2010)

Presentations are meant to inform, inspire, and persuade audiences. So why then do so many audiences leave feeling like they’ve wasted their time? All too often, presentations don’t resonate with the audience and move them to transformative action.

Nancy Duarte created the slides in Al Gore’s Oscar winning An Inconvenient Truth. In this book, she unpacks how to apply visual media to your talk. Her book Resonate helps you make a strong connection with your audience and lead them to purposeful action. The author’s approach is simple: building a presentation today is a bit like writing a documentary. Using this approach, you’ll convey your content with passion, persuasion, and impact.

9. Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun (2009)

In this hilarious and highly practical book, author and professional speaker Scott Berkun reveals the techniques behind what great communicators do, and shows how anyone can learn to use them well. For managers and teachers — and anyone else who talks and expects someone to listen — Confessions of a Public Speaker provides an insider’s perspective on how to effectively present ideas to anyone. It’s a unique, entertaining, and instructional romp through the embarrassments and triumphs Scott has experienced over 15 years of speaking to crowds of all sizes.

With lively lessons and surprising confessions, you’ll get new insights into the art of persuasion — as well as teaching, learning, and performance — directly from a master of the trade.

Highlights include:

  • Berkun’s hard-won and simple philosophy, culled from years of lectures, teaching courses, and hours of appearances on NPR, MSNBC, and CNBC
  • Practical advice, including how to work a tough room, the science of not boring people, how to survive the attack of the butterflies, and what to do when things go wrong
  • The inside scoop on who earns $30,000 for a one-hour lecture and why
  • The worst — and funniest — disaster stories you’ve ever heard (plus countermoves you can use)

Filled with humorous and illuminating stories of thrilling performances and real-life disasters, Confessions of a Public Speaker is inspirational, devastatingly honest, and a blast to read.

10. Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds by Carmine Gallo (2015)

Public speaking coach and bestselling author Carmine Gallo has broken down hundreds of TED talks and interviewed the most popular TED presenters to reveal the nine secrets of all successful TED presentations. Gallo’s step-by-step method makes it possible for anyone to deliver a presentation that is engaging, persuasive, and memorable.

Many people have a fear of public speaking or are insecure about their ability to give a TED-worthy presentation. Carmine Gallo’s top 10 Wall Street Journal Bestseller Talk Like TED will give them the tools to communicate the ideas that matter most to them, the skill to win over hearts and minds, and the confidence to deliver the talk of their lives.

11. Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln by James Hume (2002)

Ever wish you could captivate your boardroom with the opening line of your presentation, like Winston Churchill in his most memorable speeches? Or want to command attention by looming larger than life before your audience, much like Abraham Lincoln when, standing erect and wearing a top hat, he towered over seven feet? Now, you can master presentation skills, wow your audience, and shoot up the corporate ladder by unlocking the secrets of history’s greatest speakers.

Author, historian, and world-renowned speaker James C. Humes—who wrote speeches for five American presidents—shows you how great leaders through the ages used simple yet incredibly effective tricks to speak, persuade, and win throngs of fans and followers. Inside, you’ll discover how Napoleon Bonaparte mastered the use of the pregnant pause to grab attention, how Lady Margaret Thatcher punctuated her most serious speeches with the use of subtle props, how Ronald Reagan could win even the most hostile crowd with carefully timed wit, and much, much more.

12. Unleash the Power of Storytelling: Win Hearts, Change Minds, Get Results by Rob Biesenbach (2018)

Unleash the Power of Storytelling offers a practical roadmap to crafting and delivering more powerful, persuasive stories that you can use to get more of what you want out of your career and your life.

Taking a fun, no-nonsense approach, Unleash the Power of Storytelling will teach you:

•The hard science behind why stories work
•A simple three-part structure for telling any story
•The role of emotion in fueling great stories
•How to cut the clutter and focus your story on the essentials
•How and where to find great stories
•Tips for delivering your stories in the most effective way possible

Want to learn how to create your own underdog Rocky story? Have a listen to our podcast with Clint Pulver, who used his story to build powerful relationships with speakers he admires and respects, and how he created his own board of directors as a result.

Conclusion

Are 12 books not enough for you? Check out our podcast archive for more tips and lessons on public speaking. Still want more? Satiate your desire to learn more about public speaking by checking out The Speaker Lab blog here. Happy reading!

Get a Free Copy of The Successful Speaker!

Learn the exact system TSL founder Grant Baldwin used to build a 7-figure speaking career and help THOUSANDS of other speakers Get Booked and Paid to Speak™ on a consistent basis.

The Successful Speaker will show you how thousands of speakers in every industry are using the SPEAK Framework™ to build thriving speaking businesses and get paid to share their message with the world.

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