Article Category: Resources for Speakers

Public Speaking Books: Six Minutes Reader Recommendations


Last week, we asked readers to recommend their favorite books in public speaking, presentation skills, or related fields.

Thank you! Six Minutes readers answered the call with 16 book recommendations. Some books have been reviewed on Six Minutes. Some are on my wish list. And some were brand new to me.

How about you? Which of these appeal to you? Have a comment to share?

Recommended Communication, Speechwriting, and Public Speaking Books

You’ve Got to be Believed to be Heard: The Complete Book of Speaking… in Business and in Life

[S]omeone reminded me that Bert Decker’s classic has just been reissued. Even though the original is on my bookshelf, I’ve put the revised and updated release at the top of my Christmas reading list. Bert has a very practical approach to connecting with the audience, and I strongly recommend his book.

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

  • Authors: Chip Heath and Dan Heath
  • Published: 2007 (2nd bestselling business book on amazon.com in 2007)
  • Recommended by: TJ

Made to Stick is not technically a speaking skills book but it is full of great insights into how we can get and maintain attention, make our messages memorable, and avoid overwhelming the audience with detail and jargon (the Curse of Knowledge).

Presenting to Win: The Art of Telling Your Story

  • Author: Jerry Weissman
  • Published: 2008 (2nd edition)
  • Recommended by: TJ

Presenting to Win Is very good at supporting the creation of sales presentations and the like. I particularly like the coverage of different organizational flows.

Also recommended by Art Johnson:

I noticed another favorite of mine recommended that deserves support. I love Jerry Weissman’s “Presenting to Win“. In addition to being a fine book on presenting, the book has an excellent section on cataloging different ways to organize a presentation.

How to Write and Give a Speech: A Practical Guide for Executives, PR People, the Military, Fund-raisers, Politicians, Educators, and Anyone Who Has to Make Every Word Count

  • Author: Joan Detz
  • Published: 2002 (2nd Edition)

On Speaking Well

  • Author: Peggy Noonan
  • Published: 1999

Both recommended by Maggie Shriver:

[These] are [both] great speechwriting books.

Communicating for a Change: Seven Keys to Irresistible Communication

  • Authors: Andy Stanley and Lane Jones
  • Published: 2006
  • Recommended by: Malcolm Lanham

This book helps to take the challenge that pastors/ preachers have with communicating their message in today’s society and context. This book gives pastors/ preachers/ and speakers a way to make their talks simplistic in how to get their message across.

Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln

Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln: 21 Powerful Secrets of History’s Greatest Speakers

Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln is a great little book filled with pithy advice on various presentation techniques. Humes draws on his experiences as a presidential speech writer to share amusing and useful anecdotes about the presentation styles of famous political figures from Napoleon to Ronald Reagan. Great book to grab as a quick refresher or to get new ideas.

  • Also recommended by: Munish

I liked this book by James Humes, because of details there are in the book: about Power Word, Power Quote, and how Churchill used to read and made it look like it is just a glance.

It also tells about humor and poetry license.

Also how a story can be used effectively in a speech.
Many techniques of Martin Luther King and Lincoln are also explained.

If you want to read only one book about public speaking, this is the one.

The Elements of Speechwriting and Public Speaking

  • Author: Jeff Scott Cook
  • Published: 1996
  • Recommended by: Irv

I still go back to a classic […] Some parts might be dated, but the range of topics (audience analysis, effective use of notes, etc.) serves both beginners and experienced speakers and speechwriters.

Moving Mountains: Or the Art and Craft of Letting Others See Things Your Way

  • Author: Henry M. Boettinger
  • Published: 1989
  • Recommended by: TJ

[W]as originally published in 1969, but don’t dismiss it because of its age. Many recent books draw heavily of Boettinger’s lessons.

Life’s a Pitch

  • Authors: Stephen Bayley and Roger Mavity
  • Published: 2007
  • Recommended by: Christophe Harrer

The main argument is that every opportunity involves pitching and that you have to present to get what you want.

The book gives a lot of tips and techniques for doing it better and get ahead in life.

The Nuts and Bolts of Public Speaking – Practical Tools for Powerful Presentations

  • Author: Craig Valentine
  • Recommended by: Sherri Raftery

Craig knows how to create simple formulas and this book is an easy “know how” guide to help you with public speaking skills and success.

Recommended Visual Presentation Skills Books

The Non-Designer’s Design Book

  • Author: Robin Williams
  • Published: 2007

The Visual Story: Creating the Visual Structure of Film, TV, and Digital Media

  • Author: Bruce Block
  • Published: 2007 (2nd edition)

Both recommended by Jackson Muñoz

The first book teaches us basic elements of typographic design and the second one teaches us concepts about the creation of visual stories. Both book are easy to read for beginners.

The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures

  • Author: Dan Roam
  • Published: 2008
  • Recommended by: Bob Swill

It is simple, and advocates a type of visual communication that even I (a non-artist) can master.

Presentation Zen book

Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery

This book is great because to me it shows the way to communicate your message simplistically. And really challenges the way presentations have always been done.

Slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Good Presentations

I recommend this book because it is the nuts and bolts of how to put Presentation Zen into practice.

And the Winner Is…

Maggie Shriver, a Six Minutes subscriber from New York, was selected randomly from all those who submitted public speaking book recommendations.

Maggie has chosen to receive a brand new copy of Slide:ology by Nancy Duarte. Congratulations, Maggie.

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Comments icon3 Comments

  1. Derrick says:

    Are there any speaking audiobooks or podcasts that stand out? Talking Toastmasters & Communication Steriods are outstanding podcasts that come to mind.

  2. I am an English Teacher and offer a course in Speech and Public Speaking. As a teacher, I appreciate your recommendations.

  3. David says:

    Just happened upon this topic. I’d like to put in a plug for the book TJ recommended, Made to Stick. It’s an excellent guide for speakers in the process of editing. Another recommendation is “Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins” by Annettte Simmons. I have seen the book reviewed on this site, “The Story Factor,” also by Annette Simmons. I think her material is good for both a business audience and the broader audience you may want to reach.

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