It’s not enough to build the best product…

Or brainstorm the best ideas.

The fact is that you need to sell and convince an audience. And in a world full of distractions, the challenge of commanding scarce attention is merely the tip of the iceberg.

You need your message to be captured within the minds of your audience. This gives your ideas space to manifest and compel action.

That is where persuasion comes in.

Persuasion is the influence of beliefs, attitudes, intentions, motivations or behaviours, and giving a sales pitch is one way to persuade your audience to invest into your product.

That may seem like a mouthful of words. Hence persuasion might come across as a complicated technique, only to be employed by experts and smooth-talking salespeople.

Yet you are probably unconsciously doing it.

It occurs in our everyday interactions, from convincing someone to eat at a restaurant that you like, to influencing your other half that the house you’re looking at now is better than the rest you’ve seen, as well as in different business settings. So honestly, persuasion isn’t as scary or difficult as it appears to be.

To help you, here are 16 books that you should add to your reading list.

While some of these books were hand selected by our team, we also reached out to several business influencers to share their favourite – inspiring them to be the persuasive communicators they are today.

Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds 

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Highly recommended by Guy Kawasaki and Angela Maiers, this is a must read for all aspiring presenters.

It’s not another recipe book about “how to make slides” — this is about re-imagining how your entire presentation will work together as a persuasive and integrated show, from conception through delivery.

As the Japanese word ‘Zen’ suggests, the advice laid out follows the philosophy of simplicity and focus. This helps steer you away from cringeworthy habits such as death by bullets and distracting sound effects.

Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences by Nancy Duarte

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Highly recommended by Ann Handley and Nilofer Merchant, Nancy Duarte has produced a series of books that has compelled the next generation of presenters to step up their game.

One of her books ‘Resonate’ guide readers on how to make a strong connection with their audience and lead them to purposeful action.

A key technique covered in this book is the delivery of S.T.A.R. moments, moments within your presentation that convey your big idea in a sincere and enlightening manner.

Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds

Like it or not, people are comparing your presentations to TED talks. But fret not, Carmine Gallo has broken down core lessons learnt from TED talks into action steps you can implement in your next presentation.

This book is simply a masterpiece. And it was a massive effort on Carmine’s part. He analysed 150 hours of TED talks and interviewed leading neuroscientists to uncover the science of persuasion.

Thanks to Dorie Clark for the recommendation.

Improving Your Storytelling: Beyond the Basics for All Who Tell Stories In Work and Play” by Doug Lipman

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As suggested in the title, this book is not aimed at novice. This covers the framework of the storytelling “triangle” (the story, the teller, and the listener) — and all of the relationships between them.

Doug Lipman seamlessly wove together three concepts: honoring your audiences, telling only stories that you can love and that speak to you, and practical story-learning techniques

Thanks for Karen Dietz for the recommendation.

Made to Stick: How Some Ideas Take Hold and Others Come Unstuck

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It is not enough to share a great idea. It needs to stick in the minds of your audience. This is where ‘Made To Stick‘ by Chip and Dan Health fills the gap.

In this book, they share a framework comprising of six principles of communication.  SUCCESs – Simplicity, Unexpectedness, Concreteness, Credibility, Emotions, Stories.

They use a fascinating blend of case studies and anecdotes to illustrate their point. One of the intriguing case studies covers how high-concept pitches such as ‘Jaws on a spaceship’ (Alien) and ‘Die Hard on a bus’ (Speed) convince movie executives to invest vast sums of money in a project on the basis of almost no information.

Thanks to Yamini Naidu for the recommendation.

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini

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Influence is THE classic to read when it comes to the topic of persuasion, where Cialdini explores and explains the psychology and science behind why people say “yes”.

In his book, he goes into detail about the six universal principles of persuasion: reciprocity, commitment and consistency, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity.

To further assist the reader in seeing why these principles of persuasion are essential, every chapter is filled with interesting examples that describe how each principle can be applied to help you become a better persuader.

The Art of Persuasion: The Language of Influence and Manipulation by Andrzej Batko

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A psychologist, NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) and business trainer, Andrzej Batko has many years of professional experience under his belt.

With his background in psychology, he has learnt and taught other professionals how to integrate and utilise new psychological discoveries to generate profits in a business.

In The Art of Persuasion, Batko discusses the importance of the choice of words used when phrasing a persuasive sentence, and how the art and science of persuasion can be mastered by anyone.

By reading this, you can learn techniques to influence the subconscious of others, as well as notice the manipulation done by others.

The Art of Influencing Anyone by Niall Cassidy 

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In The Art of Influencing Anyone, Cassidy uses storytelling as a tool to show his readers how to influence the people around them.

The stories he includes allows the information presented to be more practical to the reader, thus making the book an easier read as compared to a more academic book.

Besides the real life accounts, Cassidy also incorporates cutting edge research on how our brains function to show the more technical side of persuasion, before proceeding on to show how to combine the two to put this knowledge into practice.

Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive by Noah J. Goldstein, Steve J. Martin and Robert B. Cialdini.

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Co-written by Cialdini and regarded by some as a sequel to Influence, Yes! is a collection of 50 discoveries from the science of persuasion.

Each chapter is short and enjoyable yet in depth, which makes applying these discoveries to your persuasive speech an easy task. Yes! also proves how small yet scientifically proven changes to the way you speak and approach others can have a dramatic effect on how the other party is influenced.

Methods of Persuasion: How to Use Psychology to Influence Human Behavior by Nick Kolenda

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With a focus on cognitive psychology, Kolenda presents readers with a 7-step persuasive process that follows the acronym “METHODS”, which is to Mould their perception, Elicit congruent attitudes, Trigger social pressure, Habituate your message, Optimise your message, Drive their momentum and Sustain their compliance.

With each step, Kolenda explains the psychology behind it with research to back up what he has written. Far from being a boring read, Methods of Persuasion provides the knowledge and the ‘how-to’s in everyday life while still remaining engaging, insightful, informative and funny.

Brainfluence: 100 Ways to Persuade and Convince Consumers with Neuromarketing by Roger Dooley 

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Striking a great (and rare) balance between being an academic and research-based book that is also clear and easy to read for non-scientists, Brainfluence is another compilation of real-world examples, with a focus on practical marketing takeaways from neurological research.

Dooley answers the “why” behind what experts think is a good or bad marketing idea, giving insight that can be applied to various areas of your speech.

Everyone Communicates, Few Connect by John Maxwell 

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Written by bestselling author John Maxwell, the overarching theme of this book is to use empathy to connect with others.

In a digital environment there are people tend to be obsessed with broadcasting their promotions over listening, this is a timely reminder.

Thanks to Dan Rockwell for recommending the book. Dan also shared with me how this book moulded his ritual of connecting with people in the audience, before he speaks.

Verbal Judo: The Gentle Art of Persuasion by George J. Thompson and Jerry B. Jenkins

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A guide to the martial arts of the mind and mouth, Verbal Judo teaches readers how to foster cooperation between yourself and your target audience through effective communication and persuasion.

Using police stories to illustrate their points, Thompson and Jenkins make Verbal Judo a useful yet interesting book to peruse.

In this updated edition, they has also added what they believe to be the five universal truths of “human interaction”: that people feel the need to be respected, that people would rather be asked than be told, that people have a desire to know why, that people prefer to have options over threats, and that people want to have a second chance.

Thank You For Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About Persuasion by Jay Heinrichs 

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Thank You for Arguing is like taking a master class on the art of persuasion, with lessons being taught by “professors” such as Aristotle, Bart Simpson and Winston Churchill.

In it, Heinrichs reveals time-tested secrets such as Cicero’s three-step strategy to get an audience to take action, as well as modern techniques that include different politicians’ use of “code” language to appeal to a certain demographic.

A fun book to read regarding the topic of persuasion, Heinrichs complements his mastery at teaching an ancient art in a modern way with humorous examples that are relevant in the world we live in today.

Mastering Persuasive Public Speaking: The Influence Approach by Gren Kleiser

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In Mastering Persuasive Public Speaking, Kleiser pens down hands-on, dynamic and effective techniques that will help change the way you present and persuade, thus affecting how you influence your audience.

One focus is his book is how to free yourself of undesirable psychological and social inhibitions in an easy way without help from anyone else.

The book itself does not contain much theory, but rather presents more ‘how-to’s with practical methods and step-by-step instructions that would definitely help you get your point across in a convincing way.

There’s No Such Thing as Public Speaking: Make Any Presentation or Speech as Persuasive as a One-on-One Conversation by Jeanette and Roy Henderson 

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According to Jeanette and Roy Henderson, the best speeches don’t sound like speeches, and the best speakers make listeners feel as though they are being addressed directly.

In Theres No Such Thing as Public Speaking, the Hendersons reveal the tricks they have taught in their courses on giving speeches and presentations that are effective but yet still retain the immediacy of having a one-on-one conversation with the members of the audience.

The book contains well-explained strategies that are easy to translate from book knowledge to the podium, allowing readers to craft out and deliver speeches that are more impactful and persuasive.

To Recap

And there we have it, 16 books to ensure that you have this persuasive presentation down pat! Give them a read, jot down the points they offer and use them where you feel is necessary.

Many of these books might have overlapping points, but by utilising one or more of these principles in your persuasive speech and practicing them on a regular basis, convincing your audience that your product is an excellent one will slowly but surely (or if you get good at it, quickly) be a piece of cake!

Good luck!

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Eugene Cheng

Eugene Cheng is the co-founder and creative lead of HighSpark (formerly Slide Comet, a strategic presentation consultancy serving Fortune 500 companies like: Panasonic, Dentsu, Nike. A self-confessed presentation obsessive, he relishes in building compelling visual content for his agency’s channel and his personal channel on SlideShare and is also a Keynote Author ( top 1% of SlideShare)

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