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Resources for public speakers

This is an excerpt from a draft of my next book, Unmistakeable Impact, which describes what we can do to have excellent instruction for every student, in every classroom, every day.  While writing about workshops, one of six parts of an Impact School, it occurred to me that someone else might want to use some of these resources now, so I'm posting this excerpt.


Whatever success I’ve had as a presenter and workshop leader I give credit to the authors of the many books I’ve read. I’ve included a little information about some of the most useful books here:

Design: Garr Reynolds and Nancy Duarte have started a revolution in the way people use PowerPoint, Keynote or other slide software.  Reynold’s Presentation Zen: Simple ideas on presentation design and delivery and Presentation Design: Simple design principles and techniques to enhance your presentations and Nancy Duarte’s  slide:ology: The Art and Science of Great Presentations are beautiful, practical books that illustrate by their design as much as by their words why design-thinking is an important part of creating a workshop or presentation.  Reynolds’ books make the case for better design in the use of PowerPoint, and Duarte, who collaborated with Al Gore to develop the slides for his presentation An Inconvenient Truth, provides multiple design suggestions that can help anyone improve the look of their slides.  Their work is very important because three years from now, I expect, a poorly designed slide presentation will be create as negative an impression as a grammatically incorrect piece of writing does today.

Reynold’s blog is and you can follow him on Twitter: @PresentationZen.  Duarte’s design company is at, her blog is and you can follow her on Twitter: @nancyduarte.

Delivery: Bert Decker is internationally recognized as an expert in presenting and in You’ve got to be Believed to be Heard he provides outstanding advice on important topics like maintaining energy, eye contact, being persuasive and making an emotional connection.  He also has a great approach to planning a presentation, and he talks about the power of video as a learning tool for presenters. 

Carmine Gallo has two books that I’ve learned a lot from.  His book The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs holds a magnifying glass up to Steve Jobs and describes how he meticulously prepares for presentations, the zen-like simplicity of Job’s slides, his posture, verbal delivery, use of video, props, and guest speakers, and his “twitter-ready” simple and precise language.

In 10 Simple Secrets of the World’s Greatest Business Communicators Gallo proposes, with a bit of his tongue in his cheek, the following eleven secrets: 1.  Be passionate, use your head to reach their heart; 2. Inspire your audience by getting them to care about your message; 3. Prepare, then toss the script; 4. Start strong but don’t bury the lead; 5. Clarity, lost the jargon or lose your audience; 6. Brevity, keep it short; 7. Say it with style; 8. Command presence through body language; 9. Wear it well, the way you dress speaks volumes; 10. Reinvent yourself, continually improving your speaking skills; and 11. Believe you belong, the success of your presentation will be direct result of the vision you hold of yourself as a speaker.

Decker’s blog is and you can follow him on Twitter @BertDecker. Carmine Gallo’s blog is and you can follow him on Twitter @carminegallo.

Stories:  There are many great books on story telling, but Stephen Denning’s The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling has been most helpful to me.  His book makes a great argument for the importance of stories—he says that storytelling “is an equal partner with abstractions and analysis  as a key leadership discipline” (xv) and he offer great suggestions on how to craft and tell the right story for the right situation.  For example, he explains that a story designed to encourage change is most effective when told using a minimalist style so that “it leaves plenty of room for the audience to imagine a new story in their context” (p. 62). 

There are many other great books on stories, but I’ve found Annette Simmon’s The Story Factor, and John Walsh’s The Art of Storytelling to be especially helpful.  Dan and Chip Heath's  Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die and Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind provide great insights into why stories are important and how to craft and deliver them.  Pink identifies story as one the essential six senses necessary for a right-brained approach to life, necessary for success in a future he describes as a conceptual age.

You can find Daniel Pink’s blog at: and follow him on Twitter: @DanielPink.  The Heath brothers’ blog is at: and they write an excellent online column for  The people at provide a venue for people to interview loved ones, and then post their stories on the site.  There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of stories that are profound, humorous, heart-breaking, and inspirational.  I’ve learned a lot by listening to stories on this site.

TED. One of the best ways to improve as a presenter is to watch many of the world’s best presenters on the website.  TED, which stands for technology, entertainment, and design, is an annual conference attracting 3,000 of the world’s most creative and articulate people to Long Beach, California. Their presentations, usually no more than 20 minutes, make for riveting watching, and, for me at least, TED might be the best site on the web.

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Reader Comments (14)

Great list of resources! I have used many of these but appreciated the twitter and website links!!
June 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTheresa Gray
Thanks Theresa. It is great to hear from you. I expect many of these are well known for folks who might read this blog, but I wanted to put everything one place.
June 3, 2010 | Registered CommenterJim Knight
Jim - Great blog!

I believe the storycorp website is
June 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKayla
Reynolds has a ton of resources on his website, including a 6 pg PDF that outlines some of his "biggies." This is great stuff! Thanks for the being the catalyst to creative thought!
June 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShawn Johnson
Thanks Kayla for the heads up, and Shawn for your thoughts about Reynolds.
June 5, 2010 | Registered CommenterJim Knight
Another great presentation resource that is relatively hot off the press is:
The Choreography of Presenting: The 7 Essential of Effective Presenters by Kendall Zoller and Claudette Landry. This well-written book is especially valuable to read for the details of the non-verbal dance that goes on between presenter and audience. It is based on the non-verbal brilliance of Michael Grinder's classroom management work and on Zoller's doctoral research on the nonverbal moves of effective and ineffective science teachers in several different countries. It is especially strong on developing trust and rapport with the audience and recovering that and focus when things go astray.
June 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBruce Wellman
Thanks! This is a very helpful list and I'm interested to read more. It made me think of a column I just read a few days agoabout being to reliant on PowerPoint:

Also - since you're so technically savvy I'm assuming you listen to podcasts. Do you ever listen to The Moth? They are all about 10-20 minute long true stories told without notes. I've had to stop running on the treadmill a few times because they can be hilarious.
June 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLindsay Deacon
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July 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNflJerseyOnline
Jim, II am being asked by a school board member to produce the emperical research that shows a positive correlation between instructional coaching model and student performance. I can find studies that show an increase in the rate of transfer of skills that "coached" teachers implement in their classroom after professional development as opposed to "uncoached" teachers , but hus far, I have been unble to find any studies that show the direct connection to increased student learning. Can you direct me to any studies?
March 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKathy Revis
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