Article Category: Resources for Speakers

Top 35 Presentation Books:
Expert Ratings


Hundreds of presentation books are published each year.

Some are bad. Some are good. And some are outstanding!

We want to help you find the outstanding books — books which truly help you build your presentation skills. That’s why we publish book reviews on Six Minutes.

So, when Gonzalo Álvarez invited me to join in a survey of experts to rate a collection of the best presentation books, I was happy to participate.

This article reports the results of this survey: the top 35 books on presentations.

Analysis and Participants

From the analysis summary:

We wondered:

“What do the top presentation experts in the world read?”

They told us. We asked 7 of the top presentation experts in the world to tell us what books most inspired them to be better presenters. Seven judges, including four published authors, provided feedback to a list of books. We present, for your consideration, their ranked list of the top 35 presentation books.

Summary of the Results

  • A word of caution about the full ratings:
    • It’s very difficult to quantitatively compare speaking books, particularly when those books excel in very different ways.
    • Books were scored according to their presentation focus along several criteria (content, structure, visual design, delivery). The total of the individual scores was used to rank the books overall.
    • These totals can be misleading as they reward books with a very broad focus (books that touch on many speaking skills), and penalize books with a narrow focus. As an example, books like Made to Stick or The Story Factor (which are both excellent books which focus almost entirely on storytelling) receive low overall scores.
  • 21 books have a content/delivery focus; 14 focus on visuals.
    • Each of these two groups are listed in the tables below.
  • Most books (31 out of 35) are rated 4 out of 5 stars or higher by amazon.com readers.
    • The “Amazon Rating” column in the tables below gives the “stars” ranking and the number of reader reviews.
  • Most books (27 out of 35) are priced between $14 and $28. Four books are less than $14, and one book is over $28. Three books are no longer carried by amazon, so no price is given.
  • 14 have been reviewed on Six Minutes — more to come.
    • Links to these reviews are given in the tables below.
    • Most of the remaining 21 books are on my personal wishlist, so it’s quite likely you’ll be seeing reviews for some of them in the future.

Books with a Content/Delivery Focus

AuthorTitleAmazon RatingAmazon PriceSix
Minutes
Review
Jerry WeissmanPresenting to Win4.5 (23)$16.33
Henry BoettengerMoving Mountains5.0 (8)n/a
Nick MorganGive your speech, change the world4.8 (30)$18.00
Carmine GalloThe Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs4.4 (92)$14.74
Christopher WittReal Leaders Don’t Do PowerPoint4.8 (18)$14.98
Nancy DuarteResonate4.6 (85)$19.34Review
Robert R. H. AnholtDazzle ‘Em With Style4.3 (6)$26.37
Michael AlleyThe Craft of Scientific Presentations4.3 (19)$24.41
Garr ReynoldsThe Naked Presenter4.3 (77)$16.49Review
Andrew AbelaAdvanced Presentations by Design4.8 (12)$40.63Review
Kristin ArnoldBoring to Bravo4.9 (14)$16.46Review
Bert DeckerYou’ve Got to Be Believed to Be Heard4.6 (19)n/aReview
John MedinaBrain Rules4.5 (276)$10.20
John C. MaxwellEveryone Communicates, Few Connect4.2 (170)$15.28
Chip & Dan HeathMade to Stick4.6 (455)$17.16Review
Dale CarnegieThe Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking4.3 (38)$7.99Review
Annette SimmonsThe Story Factor4.1 (89)$11.32Review
Scott BerkunConfessions of a Public Speaker4.8 (164)$11.55Review
Cliff AtkinsonThe Backchannel4.6 (11)$26.59
Barbara MintoThe Pyramid Principle4.5 (2)n/a
Peter GuberTell to Win4.1 (100)$16.75

Books with a Focus on Visuals

AuthorTitleAmazon RatingAmazon PriceSix
Minutes
Review
Bruce GabrielleSpeaking PowerPoint4.9 (20)$26.95
Garr ReynoldsPresentation Zen4.5 (26)$19.79Review
Nancy DuarteSlide:ology4.4 (130)$19.52Review
Cliff AtkinsonBeyond Bullet Points3.7 (11)$16.74
Paul J. Kelly7-Slide Solution3.7 (12)$14.50
Garr ReynoldsPresentation Zen Design4.6 (34)$20.50
Rick AltmanWhy Most PowerPoint Presentations Suck4.7 (6)$15.69
Stephen M. KosslynClear and to the Point3.8 (19)$18.21Review
Gene ZelaznySay It With Charts3.8 (20)$25.84
Dave ParadiVisual Slide Revolutionn/a$22.76
Dan RoamThe Back of the Napkin4.1 (33)$19.77Review
Lidwell, Holden, & ButlerUniversal Principles of Design4.7 (33)$18.77Review
Robin WilliamsThe Non-Designer’s Design Book4.6 (82)$15.39
Stephen FewShow me the numbers5.0 (1)$27.62

The Full Ratings Data

If you do not see the embedded document below, please visit the web version of this article.

How about you? Which are your favorites?

How many of these 35 have you read? Which ones do you like most? Why? Which book(s) would you add to the list?

Please share in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.

This is one of many public speaking articles featured on Six Minutes.
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Comments icon14 Comments

  1. The Art of the Explanation is my favorite. It’s written by Lee LeFever. He’s got steps on how to explain complicated things and ideas so NO ONE in the audience gets left behind.

    1. Andrew Dlugan says:

      Thanks Jaime.

      I love Lee LeFever’s video explanations, and am curious to read his book.

  2. VSP says:

    2 Done; 33 to go. Wonderful timing. I was just looking for books to improve on my presentation skills. Andrew, you just handed over me the magic wand. :)

    1. VSP says:

      Thanks Andrew. Look forward to completing these.

  3. Oh wow, that’s quite the list. I’ll be going over this and determining which ones I need to read NOW and which ones I’ll save for later. Thanks for taking the time to put together such a great list.

  4. Russ S. says:

    The one book I have never seen written is how to develop presentations for others to give. Many times I am faced with developing a corporate or sales presentation for the sales team to give to prospects – what are the best practices for this kind of presentation?

  5. Andrew:

    Thank you for providing an extremely useful list. However, it’s hard for anyone to keep up with what else those authors have been doing since the listed books were published. Check before you buy.
    For example, Stephen M. Kosslyn’s 2010 book Better PowerPoint: Quick Fixes Based on How Your Audience Thinks might be a better choice than the 2007 Clear and to the Point. Also, this year Dave Paradi published Present It So They Get It. I liked his The Visual Slide Revolution enough to post a review of it.

    I’d add Dona M. Wong’s The Wall Street Journal Guide to Information Graphics to the list of books about visuals. I reviewed it briefly here.

    Richard

    1. Andrew Dlugan says:

      Thanks for the detailed comments, Richard. I’ll have to check out those books.

  6. lorenzo says:

    considero una parte esencial de la vida el leer y leer pero el decidir cual o cuales libros son los mejores es dificil. por lo que agradezco esta presentacion seis minutos un momento de informacion que engrandece nuestro pensamiento. gracias

  7. I mostly like the Advanced Presentations by Design book by Andrew Abela, he writes from the perspective of a marketer and business manager, offering practical, evidence-based advice about how to focus on a problem the audience has.

  8. andi says:

    Since i am a scientist, my favorite is the craft of scientific presentation. I guess this one was intended for presenting scientific data and conference. For design, I prefer The non designer design book. For story telling, confessions of a public speaker is excellence. I read several other book, like the zen etc, but in my opinion they are for business-type presentation

  9. Linda Ford says:

    a great list, but you left out a GEM.
    Gail Larsen’s Transformational Speaking. Truly, the best speaking book I’ve read.

  10. MUST- ADD ALERT! Transformational Speaking, by Gail Larsen. This book is a comprehensive and unique guide to speaking with the most authentic voice we can bring forth. Gail’s teachings have not only helped me to become a better speaker, but have also helped me name and claim personal attributes that make me a better artist, workshop leader, friend, and mother. As former leader of the National Speaker’s Association, Gail knows the speaking world well. She can give a great speech any day at any time; but what interests her is the special ability we each possess to connect with people on a deeper level, through storytelling. In her book, Gail makes the case that if we don’t honor our unique offerings by sharing them, they will be lost to the world forever. She goes on to explain that this is a critical time in our world, a time we need everyone. Calling all voices! Please add this truly transformational gift to the world to your list of bests. I have never read a book that has changed my life more!

  11. I think this is a great list you and your team have compliled. One I would add would be Jeremy Donovon’s How To Deliver A TED Talk which is a easy read that takes the best Ted Talks and dissects them.

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Nithin Thompson @nithin81 — Jan 27th, 2013

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Happy to have Real Leaders Don’t Do PowerPoint listed in the “Top 35 Presentation Books: Expert Ratings” http://t.co/fAGhncKSFH

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