Public speaking wisdom from 10 of my favourite non-public speaking books

Maurice DeCastro
8 min readDec 20, 2023

If you’re interested in developing your communication skills, you’ll notice that public speaking wisdom isn’t isolated to the experts and content focused on the topic.

Public speaking wisdom is everywhere.

Here are 10 examples from some of my favourite non-public speaking books I’ve read this year.

  1. ‘A simple way to make a good first impression is to smile’

How to win friends and influence people — Dale Carnegie

‘AT A DINNER party in New York, one of the guests, a woman who had inherited money, was eager to make a pleasing impression on everyone. She had squandered a modest fortune on sables, diamonds and pearls. But she hadn’t done anything whatever about her face. It radiated sourness and selfishness.

She didn’t realise what everyone knows: namely, that the expression one wears on one’s face is far more important than the clothes one wears on one’s back. Charles Schwab told me his smile had been worth a million dollars. And he was probably understating the truth.

For Schwab’s personality, his charm, his ability to make people like him, were almost wholly responsible for his extraordinary success; and one of the most delightful factors in his personality was his captivating smile.

Actions speak louder than words, and a smile says, ‘I like you. You make me happy. I am glad to see you.’

Public speaking wisdom — smile before you utter a word

2. ‘Release the concern for looking good’

Being of Power — Baptiste Baron

‘Imagine right now if you were to be open, undefended, and fully transparent in every part of your life. Can you picture how freeing it would be to give up all the pretending and just be out there, exactly as you are, without any masks?

That might seem scary, but you’re here to transform, so game on! The greatest source of natural power we have available to us is being ourselves. Our lives are transformed when we bring that organic way of self-expression to all of our relationships and experiences.’

Public speaking wisdom — don’t focus on impressing your audience, focus on connecting with them

3. ‘Good wolf, bad wolf’

Hear yourself; how to find peace in a noisy world — Prem Rawat

In every moment we have a choice and it is this: Do we give attention to the good in us or the bad in us? To the positive or the negative? There was a group of Native American Indians, and one day a little boy from the tribe came to the Chief and said: “Chief, I have a question: Why are some people good some of the time but bad at other times?”

The Chief said: “That’s because we have two wolves inside us, fighting each other. There’s a good wolf and a bad wolf.”

So the boy thought about this for a little while, then he said: “Chief, which wolf wins?” The Chief replied: “The one you feed.”

There’s no need to keep punishing our bad wolf — that doesn’t help the good in us. Nourish the good wolf instead: give it time, awareness, understanding, care, love. What happens then? The good wolf gets stronger.

Public speaking wisdom — Speak nicely to yourself — don’t feed the negative voice

4. ‘Build confidence and destroy fear’

The magic of thinking big — David J. Schwartz Ph.D

‘No one is born with confidence. Those people you know who radiate confidence, who have conquered worry, who are at ease everywhere and all the time, acquired their confidence, every bit of it. You can, too.’

Public speaking wisdom — Be kind to yourself, everyone feels some level of public speaking nerves

5. ‘Cultivate silence’

Stillness is the key — Ryan Holiday

‘Too much of our lives is defined by noise. Headphones go in (noise-canceling headphones so that we can better hear . . . noise). Screens on. Phones ringing. The quiet metal womb of a jumbo jet, traveling at 600 miles per hour, is filled with nothing but people trying to avoid silence.

They’d rather watch the same bad movies again and again, or listen to some inane interview with an annoying celebrity, than stop and absorb what’s happening around them. They’d rather close their mind than sit there and have to use it.

“Thought will not work except in silence,” Thomas Carlyle said. If we want to think better, we need to seize these moments of quiet. If we want more revelations — more insights or breakthroughs or new, big ideas — we have to create more room for them.

We have to step away from the comfort of noisy distractions and stimulations. We have to start listening.’

Public speaking wisdom — Embrace silence and the power of the pause

6. ‘The ancient art of self-leadership’

The Monk who sold his Ferrari — Robin Sharma

“When I speak of improving your inner world, I am simply speaking of self-improvement and personal expansion and it is the best thing you can do for yourself. You might think that you are too busy to spend time working on yourself. This would be a very big mistake.

You see, when you have taken the time to build a strong character full of discipline, energy, power and optimism, you can have anything and do anything you want in your outer world. When you have cultivated a deep sense of faith in your abilities and an indomitable spirit, nothing can stop you from succeeding in all your pursuits and living with great rewards.

Taking the time to master your mind, to care for the body and to nourish your soul will put you in a position to develop more richness and vitality in your life.

It is as Epictetus said so many years ago: ‘No man is free who is not a master of himself.” ’

Public speaking wisdom — Everyone can develop their public speaking skills

7. ‘Focus on Others’

Awaken to your true self — Andrew Daniel

When we are stuck in our problems, we are making everything about us. We think being more in our heads to solve a problem (caused by being in our head) will resolve it, but it won’t.

We think that making it even more about ourselves will somehow get others to help us, but it won’t. What does work is getting out from under our own problems and starting to be of service to others.

What does work is seeing what we can bring to the table, rather than worrying about what everyone else is bringing us. Shifting the focus of our resources and energy to solve another’s problem can be a rewarding change of direction.

I invite you to discover what happens when you start seeing how you can serve the space instead of how the space can serve you.

Public speaking wisdom — Focus on how you can help your audience and how you want them to feel

8. ‘Your real self’

The power of awakening — Wayne Dyer

‘Your ego tells you that you have to compete and consume. In order to prove yourself, you must have more toys. You need to accumulate more. You must achieve more. Your ego tells you that how good your body looks and how you smell and how much jewelry you have is important.

There is a whole world of egos dealing with egos out there, everybody telling everybody how important they are. But you don’t have to give in to that! You don’t have to say, “Yes, but you should have heard what I did! Let me tell you.” Know that this self-importance has nothing to do with self-esteem. Self-esteem is a given.

You don’t have to question your esteem, your value, your confidence in who you are. The less self-absorbed you are, the more freedom you have. When you’re so hung up on everything having to be a certain way, your freedom is taken away from you. The ego promotes that sort of attachment, while the higher self is unattached to it.

Public speaking wisdom — Leave your ego at your desk and keep it real

9. ‘How to Get People to Like You’

The power of positive thinking — Norman Vincent Peale

‘ We might as well admit it, we want people to like us. You may hear someone say: “I don’t care whether people like me or not.” But whenever you hear anyone say that, just put it down as a fact that he is not really telling the truth. The psychologist, William James, said: “One of the deepest drives of human nature is the desire to be appreciated.” The longing to be liked, to be held in esteem, to be a sought-after person, is fundamental in us.

‘The fact is that popularity can be attained by a few simple, natural, normal, and easily mastered techniques.

Practice them diligently and you can become a well-liked person. First, become a comfortable person, that is, one with whom people can associate without a sense of strain. Of some persons it is said: ‘You can never quite get next to him’. There is always a barrier that you can’t get over.

A comfortable person is easy-going and natural. He has a pleasant, kindly, genial way about him. Being with him is not unlike wearing an old hat or an old pair of shoes, or an easy old coat. A stiff, reserved, unresponsive individual never meshes into the group. He is always just a bit out of it. You never quite know how to take him or how he will react. You just aren’t easy-like with him.’

Public speaking wisdom — Lighten up and play nicely

10. ‘The hamster never gets a change of scenery…you can!’

Hamster to Harmony– Maurice DeCastro

‘You are not a hamster! The hamster may have to live in a cage eating exactly the same food day in day out every day for the whole of his miserable existence. The hamster never ever has a change of scenery.

The hamster may run endlessly on his wheel, always arriving back exactly where he started with nothing to show for the energy and effort expended, but that’s not you.

YOU ARE NOT A HAMSTER. The difference between you and the hamster, apart from the obvious physical distinctions, is CONSCIOUSNESS. You see, whilst a hamster will know he is in a cage, he doesn’t really know that he knows he is in a cage.

I’m sure a hamster must have thoughts, although I am pretty certain he is not conscious of his thoughts and his ability to think. You see, it’s all about awareness and we have an unlimited potential and capacity to be aware of ourselves and the entire world around us, yet many of us still choose to live unconsciously.

What I mean by this is we wander around the planet doing the same things, thinking the same things and feeling the same way over and over and over again, just like the hamster running on the treadmill. We can change our lives in a heartbeat, in an absolute instant, but we don’t.’

Public speaking wisdom — It’s within your gift!

If you’d like more public speaking wisdom:

– 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.