Book Recommendations for Presenters

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Instead of giving out blanket recommendations for books about presenting, I thought I'd package them up so that you can pick the best ones for your level of experience.

The "Basics" Package

If you're only going to buy one book about presentations in your life, then I recommend Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds. It explains the principles of a "new", less text-heavy, more visual and more engaging presentation style. You will be referring back to this book a lot over the next years.

The "Getting Things Done" Package

In most cases, I'd say you need two books: One that explains the principles and one about slide design. For the latter, there's nothing better than Nancy Duarte's Slide:ology. Nancy is the authority for slide design and this book covers every aspect and every problem you will ever encounter.

While Nancy also covers some of the basic principles for "better" presentations, I'd suggest you read up on this aspect in more detail. Presentation Zen would be an obvious companion book. Alternatively, especially if you're more the impatient type of person, have a look at Nancy's HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentation - or maybe even (warning - shameless plug ahead) my own ebook, Presenting for Geeks.

The "Next Level" Package

Once you've got the basics down pat, you may want to learn more about how to improve your actual performance as a presenter. Garr Reynold's Naked Presenter will help you here and will also make you think about whether you really need to use slides all the time. A good companion book at this level is Nancy Duarte's Resonate, which looks into storytelling and how to craft compelling stories in detail.

Regarding storytelling, we seem to be missing a book with a more hands-on, down-to-earth approach. Resonate is great, but it's a bit abstract and hard to digest in places.

People on Twitter seem to agree. Do you have a recommendation for a book about "storytelling for presenters"? If so, please leave a comment below.

The "Bonus" Package

These books are not about presenting, but they always end up on my desk again when I'm working on a presentation:

Brain Rules by Dr. John Medina is an invaluable resource if you want to understand how the human brain really works - yours and that of your audience. Make sure you've read at least chapters 4, 5 and 6, on attention, short-term and long-term memory. Chapter 10 also provides background on how and why a more visual approach to slide design works.

Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. An explanation of their SUCCESs principles can also be found in other books (e.g. Presentation Zen), but reading the book will help you better understand why it works. It also contains many examples for each principle, which will make it easier for you to find your own and to apply them to your presentation.

More?

These books have served me well over the years. I'm always looking for new books but there are so many books on presenting and related fields coming out all the time that I may easily have missed a few gems. Got a book that you think is missing here? Leave a comment below. Thanks!

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Creative Commons Licence "Book Recommendations for Presenters" by Dirk Haun is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.