There are a lot of books on the subject of public speaking. A lot. But are they all equal? I don’t think so.
I've decided to put together a list of ones I feel worthy. The books that made this list offer fundamentals, yes, but they offer much more—a new perspective on speaking.
We’re sitting in 2016 and the world is unresponsive to boring. They want authenticity. They want practical information that goes above the average motivational “ra ra.” And dammit, they want to be entertained!
The world is skeptical of a suit and tie (or Hillary Clinton’s pant suits). They’re tired of canned stories drenched in excessive descriptive phrases like this one, “the breeze swooshed and swirled in the dark and dreary night sky as the lightning thundered down to the ice-cold concrete which rumbled and shocked my toes, and the noise was so loud that the children on Jupiter awoke to its shrill.”
We got it already, your night was more exciting than ours.
Can we just have real? Please. Well, that’s what these authors all have in common: they’re real.
So, first off, it’s only right to say THANKS to the featured authors.
One other important point that I feel the need to mention: These authors did NOT pay, nudge, threaten with brutal murder, or in any way persuade me to put their book on this list. It's entirely based on my opinion after having read numerous books on the subject, and that includes each book on the list.
Alright, let’s get to it. In no particular order of awesomeness, here are the top 10 public speaking books you should own:
1. Do You Talk Funny? by David Nihill
The book title says it all. David, who sports an Irish accent, went from stand-up comedy to public speaking, and I gotta say, it’s a great cross-over. All speakers can benefit from humor and that’s exactly what David’s book teaches. I first came across David listening to a podcast and from there I took his Udemy course, and that led me to his book. I'm glad it did.
Included in the book is an entire process to create humor and add it to your presentation. Particularly, I love the chapter on "writing funny" because it gives a checklist to reference your writing against.
Examples being the "Rule of 3," using words that are inherently funny, setting the scene and a ton more. It's well worth the read.
2. How To Be Brilliant At Public Speaking by Sarah Lloyd-Hughes
Funny, classy, entertaining, knowledgeable, you name it. Sarah is a public speaking trainer and is passionate about public speaking; her book is no exception.
Her book is "brilliantly" in-depth, funny, and offers excellent examples for how you can improve your public speaking skills. She understands the importance of communication skills and her book shows you the way.
3. The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking by Dale Carnegie
In case you aren't familiar with who Dale Carnegie is, he is the author of the famous self-help book How To Win Friends & Influence People. Yeah, Carnegie is long gone (he definitely didn't ask me to plug his book!) and some of this book's content may be old-school, but it is truly impressive and should be in every speaker’s library.
From tips to becoming more confident, to developing your speech, use of props, all the way to the call to action, it's all in this binded flap of pages.
4. Confessions Of A Public Speaker by Scott Berkun
This book is fun, packed with seriously good information (backed by stats), and full of images that help keep you smirking all the way to the end.
There's even a chapter called The science of not boring people. If someone is bold enough to have a chapter with that title, they'd better practice what they preach. This book did.
Not only that, it's packed with stories and examples. When you finish reading it you feel as if you've absorbed a ridiculous amount of Scott's experience. Well worth the read.
5. Speak Up For Your Business by Michelle Mazur
I like this book a lot. Michelle calls herself the Communication Rebel which right away caught my attention, mainly because status quo—rules forged in a cave thousands of years ago—don’t sit well with me. She recognizes this and is making strides to changing it.
Secondly, it’s geared towards entrepreneurs and business owners who must sell. Sell is a “bad” word and is sometimes looked down upon, but it’s non-sense. Everyone sells something. An idea, the reason why your opinion is right as opposed to someone else’s, etc. I mean look at the election. Are they not selling us on why we should vote for them and not the other?
The point is, her book is PRACTICAL. It deals with real-life. Apart from that, if you care not about business, the other MAJOR reason to get this book is Michelle's in-depth portion dedicated to crafting your message. That alone makes it worth it.
6. Be The Best Bad Presenter by Karen Hough
The premise of this book is excellent. It’s about not following the “rules” laid out for public speaking. Personally, what I took from this book was, apart from the tips on becoming a better speaker, was that it’s okay to make mistakes.
One thing I really enjoyed was at the beginning of each chapter there was a "Break this rule" heading (along with a funny illustration) which then proceeds to give a common misconception about public speaking. It makes the book easy to follow along with and then easy to reference again in the future.
It’s okay if your speech doesn’t follow the “rules” and it’s okay if you screw up. You’ll survive. Break some rules already!
7. Speaking Up without Freaking Out by Matt Abrahams
This is an excellent resource guide for techniques to help you overcome the fear of public speaking. Matt includes 50 detailed techniques you can use to alleviate your fear of public speaking. Why 50? Because we're all different, and one technique might work well for one person, but not another.
What's really cool about this book is that after each technique that gets explained, there's a "Try" section that includes a specific example of how and what you can implement in order to experiment. Then, at the end of each chapter there is a recap of all the points covered in the chapter, which is what makes this book a master reference guide that should be referenced over and over.
I am a serious fan of this subject, and I appreciate what Matt has put together. Get it.
8. How to Deliver a Great TED Talk by Akash Karia
This was one of the very first books I read on public speaking, and I'm glad it was. It's clearly written, simple to understand, and it covers the essentials.
What I like about this book is that Akash gives simple examples and backs them up with contemporary examples from popular TED Talk speakers, Hollywood movies, celebrities, politicians, etc. After reading this book, you will be able to construct your own presentation from the ground up.
Plain and simple, this is an easy-to-read primer, or Speaking 101. And it's a quick read!
9. Give Your Speech, Change the World by Nick Morgan
Nick's a professional. He writes articles regularly for Forbes.com (and his blog) on every aspect of public speaking.
He's very serious about public speaking and the title of his book happens to be Nick's mantra. It's Change Your Speech, Change The World and he insists that the only reason to speak, is to change the world. That's deep.
This book covers what you can do to make that message effective enough to reach the goal of changing the world. From beginning to end you'll find that this book focuses on an AUDIENCE FIRST approach, which is exactly right.
10. How to Win the World Championship of Public Speaking by Jeremey Donovan
Jeremey Donovan interviewed a variety of competitive speakers and past champions of the Toastmasters International Speech Contest...the result is this book.
This book goes through how to develop a speech that will have universal audience appeal and then explains how to deliver it for full effect in order to give you the best chance of becoming the World Champion of Public Speaking. And if that fails you'll just have a pretty damn good speech.
The knowledge packed in this book will help ANY level speaker.
BONUS BOOK! The Perfectionist’s Guide To Public Speaking by Matt Kramer
This one is a personal favorite of mine!! When I read it for the first time, it felt like it was reading my mind; it was as if thoughts were gushing out of my head and onto the pages.
Okay, okay, you got me. FULL DISCLOSURE...I wrote this book.
And I believe in it. It documents my public speaking journey, laying out what I learned the hard way, and what I wished I knew before ever giving public speaking a try.
If you have a dreadful fear of making mistakes or simply terrified of public speaking, I wrote it for you.
Wrap it up...
At any rate, if you want to improve as a speaker, you need experience. No doubt about it. But, you’ve also got to keep on learning! Experience alone won’t do; nor will learning all by its lonesome. It’s a killer combo—these books are an excellent start.
What’s your favorite public speaking book or one that has helped you? Put it in the comments below!
About this guy...
Howdy! My name is Matt Kramer and I used to suffer excruciating death when speaking in front of a group, now I LOVE it. Overcoming this fear has changed my life and it can change yours, too. My focus is to help you overcome the fear of public speaking so you can build the confidence to go after what you want in life.