Business management

A way with words

Enhance your eloquence with the aid of these five books aimed at transforming nervous speakers into confident orators.

Here’s our roundup of the best five books about public speaking based on the reviews and endorsements from the authors, entrepreneurs and experts who’ve been there, done that and bathed in the applause.

1. TED Talks:

The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking – Chris Anderson

TED talks have become the gold standard for public speaking around the world. Viewed more than 1.5 million times a day online and seen live by thousands more each year, these global events bring together experts of all kinds to share their knowledge.

In 2016, TED curator Chris Anderson published his guide to public speaking. The book, a New York Times bestseller, covers five key techniques for successful presentations – connection, narration, explanation, persuasion and revelation – as well as a few that are worth avoiding.

The book also presents tips from notable past TED speakers, such as Bill Gates, singer Amanda Palmer, actor Salman Khan and author Elizabeth Gilbert.

What the fan said...

Elizabeth Gilbert – “Nobody in the world better understands the art and science of public speaking than Chris Anderson. He is the absolutely perfect person to have written this book, and it will be a gift to many.”

2. How to Own the Room:

Women and the Art of Brilliant Speaking – Viv Groskop

Approaching the subject from a slightly different angle is author and stand-up comedian Viv Groskop.

In this book she talks explicitly about the anxiety that most people feel around public speaking and offers tips for overcoming it.

More specifically, Groskop is talking directly to women, who, as research shows, are often forced to overcome extra hurdles when addressing live audiences.

What the author said...

Viv Groskop – “Most books about public speaking don’t tell you what to do when you open your mouth and nothing comes out. And they don’t tell you how to get over the anxiety about performance that most people naturally have. They don’t tell you what to do in the moments when you are made, as a woman, to feel small. They don’t tell you how to own the room. This book does.”

3. Goodbye Glossophobia:

Banish your Fear of Public Speaking – Esther Stanhope

Named after the term to describe the fear of public speaking, this book couldn’t be presented any more directly.

In it, speaker and former BBC producer Esther Stanhope helps readers first to identify their speaking fears and then conquer them in 29 chapters full of useful tips and techniques.

According to Stanhope, her book, which has been shortlisted for a prize by the Business Book Awards 2020, is ideal for anyone who “would rather stick pins in their eyes than speak in public” – and, more specifically, for those who feel like this but need to be more visible to build their careers and businesses.

What the author said...

Esther Stanhope – “So many business owners – especially women – hold themselves back when pitching for funds or speaking at conferences. I used to have the same fears but overcoming them changed my life. Now, public speaking helps me attract new businesses every day.”

4. Born Standing Up – Steve Martin

Who could be better positioned to provide public speaking advice than someone who has spent 17 years of their career on stage? In his 2007 autobiography, comedian, actor and writer Steve Martin uses relatable detail and first-hand insight to talk about the unique experience of presenting to a live audience.

Amid the entertaining tales of life in the entertainment sphere, Martin offers useful takes on dealing with nerves, maintaining self-confidence and building audience relationships. All of which can be usefully applied to the types of public speaking that don’t happen in comedy clubs.

If you’re looking for something that’s a little different from the usual self-improvement format but still very relatable, this could be one to consider.

What the author said...

Steve Martin – “My most persistent memory of stand-up is of my mouth being in the present and my mind being in the future: the mouth speaking in line, the body delivering the gesture, while the mind looks back, observing, analysing, judging, worrying and then deciding what to say next.”

5. Talk Like TED:

The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds – Carmine Gallo

Continue your TED-related reading with this public speaking guide from communications coach Carmine Gallo.

In it, Gallo explores what he claims to be the “nine secrets of all successful TED talks”, with insights provided by a hand-picked collection of past speakers and communication experts.

The book’s step-by-step guide to delivering an engaging TED-standard presentation covers everything from delivering memorable moments to timing.

What the author said...

Carmine Gallo – “Ideas are the currency of the 21st century. Your ability to persuasively champion your ideas is the single greatest skill that will give you a competitive edge.”

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