35 Best Books on Presentations

I’m really proud to announce that, based on a recent survey of presentation experts, Speaking PowerPoint was rated the #3 presentation book overall. See the full list of 35 books, according to presentation experts, in the SlideShare below.

The expert judges included Nancy Duarte, Bruce Gabrielle, Dr. Michael Alley, Gonzalo Alvarez, Andrew Dlugan, Nolan Haimes and Al Bonner. (And, no, I wasn’t allowed to vote on my own book 🙂 )

The judges rated books in several categories, and then overall. Top books, in their opinion, were:

 

Top 3 books OVERALL

  1. Presenting to Win, Jerry Weissman
  2. Moving Mountains, Henry M. Boettinger
  3. Speaking PowerPoint, Bruce R. Gabrielle

 

Top 3 books on PLANNING your presentation

  1. Moving Mountains, Henry M. Boettinger
  2. Give Your Speech, Change the World, Dr. Nick Morgan
  3. Presenting to Win, Jerry Weissman

 

Top 3 books on DESIGNING PowerPoint visuals

  1. slide:ology, Nancy Duarte
  2. Presentation Zen, Garr Reynolds
  3. Presentation Zen Design, Garr Reynolds

 

Top 3 books on DELIVERING your presentation

  1. Give Your Speech, Change the World, Dr. Nick Morgan
  2. You’ve Got to Be Believed to Be Heard, Bert Decker
  3. Real Leaders Don’t Do PowerPoint, Christopher Witt

 

Thanks to Gonzalo Álvarez Marañón, author of El Arte de Presentar, the driving force behind this study and who helped round up some impressive judges. I helped by analyzing the data and presenting it visually. I hope this turns you onto some books you hadn’t gotten around to yet.

By the way, El Arte de Presentar (the Art of Presentations) is also a pretty amazing book. It’s written in Spanish, but my daughter has been translating the book to me and I highly recommend it if you read Spanish.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

 

Strategic Sales Presentations (Jack Malcolm) Book Review

Strategic Sales Presentations takes you inside the mind of an executive and gives you all the tools you need to speak their language and come out with a signed contract.

I evaluate a book based on how many notes I take while I’m reading it.  Based on how my pen was flying when I read this book, I’d have to place Strategic Sales Presentations in my top 5 presentation books. It provides a complete system for planning, building and delivering a successful sales presentation.

First, you need to PLAN your presentation. Malcolm stresses that you win or lose based on what you do BEFORE you enter the room. You need different approaches early versus later in the sales cycle. You need to understand your audience’s current mindset so you know who you need to move, and how. And you need to arm people for the conversation that will happen after you leave the room – where the real “selling” takes place.

Second, you need to CRAFT your presentation. Malcolm draws on rhetoric, persuasion and cognitive science to show you how to develop a convincing sales message and assemble the right business case to move the sales process forward. Malcolm gives you specific phrases you can use to open a presentation and shares what appeals really work with an executive audience.

Finally, you need to DELIVER your presentation. Malcolm provides practical advice for how to manage your nerves, how to sound like an executive and reasons audience interaction will increase your chances of closing the sale.

Malcolm is clearly well-read, drawing on research data and expert advice in fields as diverse as cognitive science, rhetoric, sales, organizational behavior and stand-up presentation skills. And all sharpened against the flint of Malcolm’s own extensive experience in sales. This book is bubbling over with ideas you can use today.

If your paycheck depends on complex B2B sales presentations to executive audiences, Strategic Sales Presentations simply must be on your bookshelf.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

Say It With Charts (Gene Zelazny) Book Review

The ideas in Say It With Charts are simple. So simple, in fact, you’ll actually end up using them. And they will make a huge impact on how to choose which charts you use.

Zelazny introduces you to five different kinds of charts (column chart, line chart, bar chart, pie chart and scatterplot). Then he shows you how to choose the right chart

  1. What is the main message in your chart?
  2. What are the keywords in that message?
  3. Which chart matches those keywords? For instance, if sales are “rising” then that indicates a line chart or column chart. If students is the largest “percentage” of your sales, that suggests a pie chart. Here’s Zelazny’s chart chooser.

There are different variations on each chart. For instance, a bar chart could be a deviation bar chart, a paired bar chart, a sliding bar chart, and so on. Zelazny covers practical issues like data labels, bar colors and when to use dotted lines or arrows to reinforce the graph’s message.

The book includes practice activities and the hand-drawn graphs are a treat to look at.

The second half of the book is less valuable. It includes page after page of concept diagrams and visual metaphors that range from useful (flow charts) to pointless (drawings of office machinery?). The book was originally published in 1985, so perhaps the images are meant to be photocopied and were more relevant before the age of SmartArt. Or perhaps these are simply intended to provide inspiration.

The book actually stumbles badly in the final chapter on PowerPoint slide design, showing some of the worst-looking slides you’ll ever see (yellow text on black background!). To be fair, we’ve learned a lot about slide design since 1985 and PowerPoint’s design tools have gotten better. Perhaps it’s time to refresh this section completely.

Despite the book’s questionable second half, I strongly recommend Say It With Charts. The ideas are simple and it will drastically improve your graphing skills. Ignore the last half of the book. If you like, tear the book in half and throw the second half away. The first half of the book is worth the full price.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

Tell to Win (Peter Guber) Book Review

Tell to Win illustrates the powerful way stories can catapult your message over the walls of indifference and resistance. But if you are looking for a how-to manual on how to craft your own stories, this is not the book.

Guber has lived an interesting life as head honcho at entertainment giants like Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures and Mandalay Entertainment. And so, he is full of stories from famous names like Michael Jackson, Bill Clinton, Sidney Poitier, Muhammad Ali, Frank Sinatra, Nelson Mandela and others. These are first-hand accounts, not things he’s heard through the grapevine. If you could claim you were involved in a single one of these stories, you would use it to open a talk on storytelling. Guber has been involved in dozens of these stories.

An example: Bill Clinton called Guber in a bit of a panic. He needed $90,000 by the end of that day to keep his presidential campaign alive. How did he convince Guber to help? By asking him if he’s ever seen High Noon, the movie about a sheriff who faces four bad guys while the rest of the town cowers in fear, except for one brave girl who makes the difference. Guber says he’s seen the movie. “Well,” says Clinton, “It’s high noon.”

What a powerful example. And it’s one of many.

Tell to Win sets a new bar for books on storytelling in business. Where it misses the mark is on defining a story, how to craft a story and when to not use stories. In this regard, the book is a bit like a coffee table book, heavy on beautiful examples but light on practical advice.

Nevertheless, if the book makes you rethink how you use storytelling to sell your most important ideas, the time and money you invest in Tell to Win will pay you back with interest.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the new language of business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

Real Leaders Don’t Do PowerPoint (Chris Witt) Book Review

Even though I wrote a book on how to use PowerPoint more effectively in business, the truth is there are different kinds of presentations. PowerPoint is great for informing and driving decisions, especially when the content is complex.

But there are other presentations that are better when you put the slides away and just talk. Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream Speech” would not be improved with PowerPoint slides.

Chris Witt’s Real Leaders Don’t Do PowerPoint, covers these kinds of presentations. More than just a how-to book for speakers, it’s an earnest manifesto for leaders to come out from behind their slides and do what only they can uniquely do – build an organization’s confidence, rally their emotions and galvanize them for action.

And that’s best done without PowerPoint slides.

Witt’s principles are a modern-day telling of the four principles of Demosthenes, the father of Greek oratory, and so Witt’s book is divided into four sections.

Part 1: A Great Person. The way you are perceived is a critical element of your message. A real leader is authentic and doesn’t try to act like leaders are “supposed” to act. Leaders take a stand on issues. Leaders have a clear identity. The best way to be mediocre – and so ignored – is to imitate others, avoid saying anything controversial and hide the things about you that make you unique.

Part 2: A Noteworthy Event. Be picky about which events you will speak at. Choose the events where you can do the most good and avoid events that cheapen your image.

Part 3: A Compelling Message. The leader’s most important job is to motivate and inspire an audience toward a grand mission or vision, not to transfer facts and data. This important responsibility involves best practices like focusing on one big idea, opening and closing strong, using storytelling, using plain language and repeating key points.

Part 4: A Masterful Delivery. The most important idea in this section is to let your passion shine through. Timid speakers need not apply. The rest of this section covers familiar territory like how to prepare a speech, how to address questions and how to connect with an audience.

The book succeeds as a manifesto in part because of Witt’s brisk but friendly writing style. You feel like you’re being coached through the materials, not lectured.

Although the book’s title seems like an anti-PowerPoint rant, you will find no cheap shots at PowerPoint in this fine book. Chris Witt’s goal is simply to prepare you to be better leader. And in the most critical speeches, that requires a passionate speaker who can connect with an audience emotionally, not PowerPoint slides. In this video, Chris describes the book in his own words. You can really see his passion and authentic personality on display!

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the new language of business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.