Four books to improve your public speaking skills

Recently I was asked by another emerging speaker for my recommendations for good books to improve speaking skills. I realized in the past 5 years, I must have read close to fifty books about the topic.

Narrowing it down was difficult, but I thought about which books had been most beneficial for me, and helped me moved forward as a speaker.

If you are an aspiring public speaker or are starting to grow into an emerging professional speaker, here are four books to help you:

TED Talks by Chris Anderson

Chris Anderson is the owner and curator of TED, an annual conference bringing together the best ideas in Technology, Entertainment, and Design. If you are an aspiring speaker, you should seriously be considering delivering a TEDx talk at some stage.

His book is both a story about the history and growth of TED, and also how the best TED speakers make an impact on their audience. It is probably the most technical guide I’ve read about speaking in a few years, but has some real gems that will move your skills forward.

Worth a read if: you are interested in becoming a TEDx speaker, or learning how the world of speaking is evolving and changing.

World Class Speaking by Craig Valentine

Any Toastmaster who follows the speech contest knows about Craig Valentine’s amazing 1999 World Championship winning speech. He is not only a master storyteller but one of the most insightful speaking coaches I’ve ever heard.

His book is split into two sections: the first is a how-to guide to create compelling stories and engage your audience. The second half is more about the business of speaking: how to market yourself and grow your success.

Worth a read if: you want the basics of good speech mechanics and a how-to guide to start growing your speaking brand.

Steal The Show by Michael Port

I’ve always been interested in how acting and speaking skills converge, and I believe that Michael Port really does an excellent job explaining the links.

He is a showman, and unashamed in promoting his own brand, but his ideas are sound. HIs breakdown of the different types of speaking, as well how to put ideas together are very useful. Perhaps the biggest idea I took away was about taking risks in your speaking and knowing your motivation as a speaker.

Worth a read if: you need to make more impact with your speeches and presentations.

Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun

I included this book because I think it is a unique title on public speaking. While he is not a household name as a speaker, Scott Berkun spent years on the road delivering  talks to small-to-medium sized audiences.

In his book, he shares some excellent real-world suggestions and perspectives on what makes a speaker relatable, engaging and memorable. He also has good ideas about managing your lifestyle as a speaker.

Worth a read if: you want a real world guide to being a paid speaker, and what is involved.

Of course, there are hundreds of titles available on public speaking, and I could list many more. But I believe these four titles will give you a well-rounded perspective on what you need to get started, and grow as a speaker.

Finally, let me add: if you don’t use the ideas and test them out, then they aren’t going to benefit you. You can have all the theory you want, but it requires implementation to really grow your skills as a speaker.

- Daniel Midson-Short


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