Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Not the usual suspects: 8 books that make me think differently about public speaking

You'll find plenty of books on public speaking, but this group features unusual takes on the topic. Challenges large and small, focused looks at important tactics, and big underlying ideas about speaking all find a place on this list--as do some books that focus on women and speaking. 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 about the larger issue of giving women and women's issues a voice. You'll find plenty of inspiring examples and learn more about how women around the world are building platforms for themselves.
  2. Women Speaking Up: Getting and Using Turns in Workplace Meetings is not the least expensive book on the list, and is certainly the most focused. But since we do most of our public speaking in meetings, the book is useful for all professionals--and for women, it uses research to show why you get talked over in meetings and how women in meetings are viewed, and much more. 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, and much of the book focuses on the author's own struggles with public speaking. It's a powerful book that helps all of us understand better 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 in Twitter and other forms of social media, step by step. A 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 that 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 focusing on the public speaking of a woman--but what a woman speaker. Jordan is considered one of the greatest speakers of the 20th century, and broke ground as a woman and as an African-American. A worthy read.
  8. What's The Use of Lectures? doesn't just echo the feeling of many an undergraduate, but takes a close look at how and whether lectures work, and how to do them well. Everything from attention spans to delivery tactics is covered. A must-read for those of you who teach and train.
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