The best books on public speaking

A feature of some of my books is a ranked bibliography. I rank books in order of their usefulness in writing the book. Below is the ranked bibliography from Confessions of a Public Speaker, which suggests which books are the most valuable to read.

Of course reading about doing something is never as valuable as doing the thing itself. Putting in the time to speak in front of people and getting good feedback is far more efficient and valuable than reading alone. Even posting a 5 minute web video of you practicing giving a talk and asking friends for feedback is a great investment of time.

Popular recent books like Reynold’s Presentation Zen and Duarte’s Slideology didn’t rank high on this list even though I recommend those books often. The reason is both books focus on slide design which in my experience isn’t the primary place to start in helping speakers improve, which explains why I only spend a few pages in Confessions with advice on slides. I needed to cover a range of subjects including history, anxiety, business, performance, neuroscience and teaching – and books on my list scored better when I learned the most.

The best books on public speaking, ranked in order of number of notes I made while reading them:

40: What’s the Use of Lectures?, Donald A. Bligh

31: Speak Like Churchill, Stand like Lincoln, James C. Humes

28: Public Speaking for Success, Dale Carnegie

28: Lend me your ears: All you need to know about making speeches, Max Atkinson

26: Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving, John Medina

26: History of Public Speaking in America, Robert T. Oliver

25: Money Talks: How to Make a Million As a Speaker, Alan Weiss

23: Um: Slips, Stumbles and Verbal Blunders, Michael Erard

22: Conquer Your Speech Anxiety, Karen Kangas Dwyer

22: The Francis Effect: The Real Reason You Hate Public Speaking (Oakmont Press)

20: What the Best College Teachers Do, Ken Bain

15: The Lost Art of The Great Speech, Richard Dowis

14: Speak for a Living, Anne Bruce

13: How People Learn, National Research Council

12: Secrets of Successful Speakers, Lilly White

(The list goes on for another 25 books – but the value of a ranked bibliography is you’ve now seen the highest ranked ones!)

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2 Responses to “The best books on public speaking”

  1. Christopher Aquilino

    Hey Scott,
    I want to speak for a living. But most speakers write too. How do you start in that situation? What places do you speak at when starting out? I’m looking for a book that covers that.

    Reply

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