8 public speaking books every professional should read

Whether you need advice for speaking up in meetings or giving a TED Talk, this list has you covered.


You can find plenty of books on public speaking, but this group features unusual takes on the topic.

These books feature challenges large and small, focused looks at important tactics, and underlying ideas about speaking. Books that focus on women and speaking also find a place on this list.

I hope you’ll find some inspiration and ideas in this pile:

1. Vital Voices: The Power of Women Leading Change Around the World” isn’t just about public speaking, but the larger issue of giving a voice to women and women’s issues. You’ll find plenty of inspiring examples and learn how women around the are building platforms for themselves.

2. Women Speaking Up: Getting and Using Turns in Workplace Meetingsis not the least expensive book on the list, but it is certainly the most focused. Since we do most of our public speaking in meetings, this book is useful for all professionals. Women: It uses research to show how people view you in meetings, why they talk over you, and much more. This is a must-read for women professionals.

3. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” is important for introverts and extroverts to read. Much of the book focuses on the author’s struggles with public speaking. It’s a powerful book that can help all of us better understand how we handle speaking up.

4. The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human” probes the reasons for and roots of public speaking through storytelling, and puts it in a wider context. Speakers should keep these words from the book in mind: “Human minds yield helplessly to the suction of story. No matter how hard we concentrate, no matter how deep we dig in our heels, we just can’t resist the gravity of alternate worlds.”

5.The Backchannel: How Audiences are Using Twitter and Social Media and Changing Presentations Forever” takes what you thought you knew about presenting and adds Twitter and other forms of social media. It’s a step-by-step, thoughtful approach to a new reality.

6. How To Deliver A TED Talk: Secrets Of The World’s Most Inspiring Presentations” focuses on the talks that fascinate, and have become every speaker’s secret dream or dread. Some call TED Talks the new standard for public speaking. Here’s one look at how to translate that standard into your own speaking style.

7. Barbara Jordan: Speaking the Truth with Eloquent Thunder” is an unusual biography that focuses on Jordan’s public speaking. Many consider Jordan one of the greatest speakers of the 20th century; she broke ground as a woman and an African-American. This is a worthy read.

8. What’s The Use of Lectures?doesn’t just echo the feelings of undergraduates—it takes a close look at how and whether lectures work, and how to do them well. It covers everything from attention spans to delivery tactics. It’s a must-read for those who teach and train.

Denise Graveline is the president of don’t get caught, a communications consultancy. She also writes The Eloquent Woman blog, where a version of this article originally ran.

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