21 presentation tips from 7 of my favourite public speaking books

Maurice DeCastro
7 min readDec 28, 2023

Having written hundreds of helpful articles on public speaking and presenting myself, I thought I’d share some very powerful presentation tips from a few of my favourite public speaking books. As a public speaking coach I am always on the look out for presentation tips to help our clients. Every year, as well as attending a great number of conferences and seminars I always have a voracious appetite for reading.

“In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” Eric Hoffer

Today is time of change, and the following public speaking books and selected tips will equip you to ‘inherit the earth’ of public speaking and presenting.

The quick and easy way to effective public speaking. Dale Carnegie

  1. Limit Your Subject

‘Once you have selected your topic, the first step is to stake out the area you want to cover and stay strictly within those limits. Don’t make the mistake of trying to cover the open range.’

2. Act in Earnest

‘When you walk before your audience to speak, do so with an air of anticipation, not like a man who is ascending the gallows. The spring in your walk may be largely put on, but it will do wonders for you and it gives the audience the feeling that you have something you are eager to talk about. Just before you begin, take a deep breath.’

3. Humanize your talk

‘The average speech would be far more appealing if it were rich with human interest stories. The speaker should attempt to make only a few points and to illustrate them with concrete cases. Such a method of speech building can hardly fail to get and hold attention. Of course, the richest source of such human interest material is your own background. Don’t hesitate to tell us about your experiences because of some feeling that you should not talk about yourself.’

Gravitas: Communicate with confidence, influence and authority. Caroline Goyder

4. The Facts Don’t Speak for Themselves

‘There are some big dangers when clever people don’t deliver their ideas with the emotional power that persuades others to listen.’

‘People only listen if you grab their attention. Data doesn’t grab their attention, you have to do that. You have to set them alight with the spark of your energy.’

5. Whatever You Feel, They Feel

‘The Roman poet and satirist Horace said, ‘Whatever I feel they feel.’ Modern science backs this up. Emotions are contagious. If a speaker is engaged and enthusiastic about their content an audience picks up that excitement. If the speaker is analytical and disconnected then that is what the audience will feel about the content.’

6. Take the Audience on a Journey

‘The word emotion comes from the Latin movere, to move. If you can take your audience on a journey with you in the service of a purpose greater than you then you are on the path to powerful communication. It’s the change in emotions that grips us.’

Tell to Win: Connect, persuade and triumph with the hidden power of story. Peter Guber

7. What fuels emotional transformation

What do I mean by “emotional transportation”? I’m talking about the complex system of action and reaction that operates within stories to move listeners. Stories that “work” transport audiences emotionally. They move us to laugh, cry, gasp, sigh, or yell in sympathetic rage, and every listener intuitively demands this emotional propulsion. It’s important to remember that this is true even in a business context. Businesspeople are human beings who grew up listening to stories, just like everybody else. So in any business, as in show business, if you fail to transport your listener emotionally, you will lose your audience.

8. Demonstrate vulnerability

‘Vulnerability is one of the most underappreciated assets in business today. Everyone has something in common with every other person. And you won’t find those similarities if you don’t open up and expose your interests and concerns, allowing others to do likewise.’

9. Surrender control

‘The hardest truth in the art of the tell is a simple human fact: You cannot control other people. What’s more, no one likes to be commanded or bullied or manipulated. You’ll face ferocious resistance each and every time you try. All you can control is your preparation, setting, and telling. What your listener does in response will depend on a multitude of factors, which may have nothing to do with you. However, the more your audience feels as if they own your story, the more likely they are to act on it. So once you’ve told your story, you need to intentionally surrender control of it to them.’

Speaking as a leader: How to lead every time you speak. Judith Humphrey

10. Move from Information to Inspiration

‘Why do some people bore their audiences, while others turn their listeners into believers? One key difference is that poor speakers are stuck in an informational mode, while more compelling speakers command an inspirational style. The informational mode emphasizes content, while the inspirational mode reflects a commitment to an idea or vision.’

11. Be Passionate

‘To begin with, conviction involves speaking with passion. Audiences know when a speaker lacks passion. The delivery is lifeless and monotone. No wonder listeners tune out, play with their smartphones, or simply doze. To speak with passion, you must think about every word you’re delivering, and convey its importance.’

12. Be Authentic

Speaking with conviction also means being authentic. When you convey your authenticity to your listeners, you’re telling them, “These ideas are a good fit for me. They emerge from my experience and my deep beliefs.” Your audience wants to know that there’s a person leading them, not a talking head brought in to repeat a few pat phrases.

Presenting to Win: The art of telling your story. Jerry Weissman

13. Data Dump

‘The secret: The Data Dump must be part of your preparation, not the presentation.’

‘All too many businesspeople labor under the mistaken assumption that, for their audience to understand anything, they have to be told everything. As a result, they give extensive presentations that amount to nothing more than Data Dumps: “Let’s show them the statistics about the growth of the market. Then we’ve got the results of the last two customer satisfaction surveys. Throw in some excerpts from the press coverage we got after our product launch. Give them the highlights of our executive team’s resumes. And don’t forget the financial figures . . . the more, the better.” This is known as the Frankenstein approach: assembling disparate body parts.’

14. 90 Seconds to Launch

‘Always remember the importance of the start of your presentation. If you lose your audience within that first 90 seconds, chances are they will be lost forever. Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.’

15. Practice, Practice, Practice

‘Your sense of self-confidence and your ability to persuade will be even further enhanced if you devote sufficient time to polishing and practicing your presentation after you’ve done your basic preparation. This means Verbalization, one of the essential keys to making your presentation truly effective.’

The presentation secrets of Steve Jobs. Carmine Gallo

16. Answer the One Question That Matters Most

‘Your audience wants to be informed, educated, and entertained: informed about your product, educated on how it works, and entertained while learning about it. Above all, people want to know the answer to one question: Why should I care?’

17. Have fun

‘Jobs has fun, and it shows. Despite relentless planning and preparation, hours and hours of rehearsal, and near-fanatical devotion to getting every slide and every demo just right, sometimes things go wrong, but Jobs doesn’t let the small stuff get to him. He’s going to have fun, whether a demo works or not.’

18. Reveal a “Holy Shit” Moment

‘Every office worker has seen a manila envelope. But where most people see a manila envelope as a means of distributing documents, Steve Jobs sees a memorable moment that will leave his audience in awe. “This is the MacBook Air,” he said in January 2008, “so thin it even fits inside one of those envelopes you see floating around the office.”’

Do/Present: How to give a talk and be heard — Mark Shayler

19. Spend more time with yourself

‘The single best way to improve confidence is to work out who you are. What do I mean by this? You need to learn to like yourself, to know yourself, to love yourself. To be able to look in the mirror and like the person you see is what I’m talking about. We need to spend time with ourselves to get to this point. I don’t mind how you do this. Gardening, running, swimming, walking, meditating, I really don’t care — but spending time alone and undistracted is the key.’

20. Be thankful that you’ve been given the opportunity

‘Not everyone gets asked to do this. Just you. That means you are valued and trusted, that means someone thinks you have an interesting point of view or fresh ideas. So don’t disappoint, don’t play safe. It’s time to stand up and show up.’

21. Meditate

When we meditate our brainwaves change. We are at our most creative/inventive when we are in a ‘theta brainwave’ state.

These are just a few of my favourite presentation tips from some of the countless public speaking books I have read and valued over the years.

If you have a favourite tip or book that could be helpful to readers please do take a moment to share it in the comments.

If you’d like to learn a lot more presentation tips

– Book yourself onto a powerful public speaking course.

– Invest in some really good one to one public speaking coaching.

– Get yourself some excellent presentation training

Image courtesy of Canva.com

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Maurice DeCastro

Author, speaker, trainer, presenter - former corporate executive passionate about personal leadership, people and results.