Public Speaking: Favourite Resources

I’m looking forward to conducting a week-long course in public speaking in Regent’s Summer Programs very soon. (Yes, there’s still time for you to apply. Or to send your pastor. Or professor. Or….)

I’ve been speaking over the last few months in a pretty wide range of places: from conducting a seminar for faculty members at Hong Kong University to addressing a local writers’ conference, from emceeing a friend’s wedding to emceeing a choral concert, from preaching in a Regent chapel service to responding to a controversial film at the DOXA Festival, and from speaking to teachers in a conference at Richmond, BC, to speaking to travellers on a ship in the Baltic.

Along the way, I’ve acquired a store of favourite writings on speaking, as well as some favourite models of good speaking. So what or who are yours?

What’s your favourite book, or website, or TED talk, or sermon, or YouTube example of excellent speaking? Readers of this weblog are a pretty diverse bunch, so we’ll have Zig Ziglar fans and Parker Palmer aficionadoes, and that’s all fine. Sound off, then, would you? To what or whom would you point us to become better speakers?

(Yes, “Jesus” and “the Bible” are the right answers, as always. Here is your well-deserved gold star. But who and what else?)


15 Responses to “Public Speaking: Favourite Resources”

  1. Poetreehugger

    If time travelling counts, let me hear C. S. Lewis. I near fell in love with his mind just from reading his words; would love to hear him.

  2. Theologien

    Can you share the name of some of your resources for those of us who cannot attend the seminar?

  3. Matt McCoy

    See, I used to have some favorite public speaking resources, and then I took a few classes from you, including your four hour seminar on public speaking. And now, when I go back to those resources, I say things to myself like, “Hey, that speaker said he was going to talk about X, but then ended up talking about Y,” or “She said this was going to be a practical speech, but never actually got to the practical bits.” At the risk of sounding like a shameless plug for your class (which, of course, it is), I think it’s worth the time and effort to hear what you have to say about it.

    And, in order to actually answer your original question, my favorite resource which survived the Post-Stackhouse scrutiny is “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information” by Edward Tufte. When I have to use slides and/or handouts to communicate data, he’s still my first source to consult.

  4. Jeff Kimble

    One of my favorite public speakers is Michael Sandel, who teaches a course on Justice at Harvard. He is an excellent teacher. His class is one of the most popular on campus and his teaching style is superb. I consider him an outstanding role model as both a public speaker and teacher. Here’s the link to his course for those interested to watch him in action:

    I echo the request by theologien. Would you be willing to share some of your thoughts and resources with those of who cannot attend the seminar?

  5. The Oldest Hath

    Youngsters like Dr. Stackhouse may be unfamiliar with the story of Mouseland, told in a simpler era by the greatest political orator of his time, T.C. Douglas:

    A treasure-trove of great sermons is available at Look for Darrel Johnson’s Living Sacrifices: Alive in God’s High Calling, for one example.

    Poetreehugger, I hope, may enjoy C.S. Lewis’s lovely voice at or

    Matt is quite right (as usual) about Tufte. Nathan Koomey offers similarly clean and compelling good advice in Turning Numbers into Knowledge.

    In the days before cynicism was invented, Kennedy’s inaugural address was widely admired:

    Dan Pink’s delightful talk is made even more interesting, I think, by RSA Animate:

    Any of Frederick Buechner’s essays in The Magnificent Defeat would make great speeches.

    Last but not least, please note that prosody–the musical quality of varied intonation, the aspect of speech that conveys emotional connotation–is arguably the single most compelling quality in great speaking. Here is a fellow whose prosody captures and carries the listener even in a setting where he is contractually obligated to eschew all other forms of animation:

    • DJ

      Wow. Thanks for these. I look forward to reading or hearing them.

  6. David

    Tim Brown, President. Western Theological Seminary (Holland, Michigan). He is a masterful preacher and a gifted public speaker.

  7. Mac

    I think that Sam Wells, former Dean of the Chapel at Duke, is an excellent public speaker. He manages an understated yet powerful delivery and can deliver a joke without making it feel extraneous to the sermon – a rare and difficult skill. Lots of his stuff is available on itunes U.

  8. Mike in Pennsylvania

    Favorite audio book readers…
    Patrick (not Jethro) Tull – great on Sherlock Holmes
    Jim Dale – won a Grammy for his Harry Potter series reading
    Rob Inglis – Tolkien books
    John Cleese – Screwtape Letters

    Ken Myers – Mars Hill Audio Journal
    N.T. Wright – combines acumen & wit

  9. Ward

    I must chime in for August Konkel, former president of Providence University College & Seminary. A master a preaching the Scriptures sans notes, and keeping listeners riveted.

  10. Jeff Kimble

    I concur with Mike regarding Ken Myers (Mars Hill Audio Journal)–a true wordsmith. I thoroughly enjoy listening to Sarah Williams (Regent College) on church history. She has an easy, conversational style that is quite captivating. Both Ken and Sarah display a fine command of the English language that makes listening to them a real pleasure.

  11. Todd Cleek

    Tim Keller, understand his audience as well as anyone I’ve heard. Makes me think, “Why didn’t I say it like that?


Comments are closed.