I highly, highly recommend Scott Berkun’s book on public speaking. It’s the most accessible and commonsense book I’ve read on this difficult art.

Book Cover

Even if you aren’t really interested in public speaking, you’ll enjoy Scott’s entertaining and conversational narrative. The first few chapters go into the mind of the speaker, as he/she prepares to stand naked (as it were) in front of a crowd and talk. He gently but expertly debunks the fears we’ve all experienced before presenting to a group.

The following chapters contain simple but powerful ideas on making good presentations. I can take any one of them and start applying them immediately to my presentations… really useful stuff.

My personal favorite was the tip on choosing a title. Don’t have something generic like “Agile Project Management”, which sounds like a boring lecture. Pick an angle on the topic and present that - like “10 reasons Agile Project Management kicks Waterfall’s butt”. You’re now presenting an opinion - something that people can bite into, can digest and take away. It helps you focus your preparations - since you now know what information to add and what to throw away. By polarizing the topic in this way, you’re also encouraging people with differing opinions to get involved early.

I’m already on my second reading of the book. If you care about being a good public speaker, please, please do yourself this favor and read this book.