Public Speaking for Psychologists

A Lighthearted Guide to Research Presentations, Job Talks, and Other Opportunities to Embarrass Yourself

by David B. Feldman, Ph.D. & Paul J. Silvia, Ph.D.


Although humans are by nature an optimistic lot, we view some events with dread. Near the top of most people’s list of dreads—in between “koalas coming down from the eucalyptus trees and rising up against humanity” and “caffeine declared a controlled substance”—is “public speaking.” Few people take naturally to talking in front of an audience. They don’t look forward to it, they don’t volunteer to do it, and they don’t do it as well as they could. But a career in psychology and its kindred fields could involve a lot of public speaking, so you should learn to do it well. With time and practice, you can become a confident, effective presenter.

Effective public speaking involves learning a few rules and tricks, practicing at home, and then getting out and doing your best. In this book, we cover the basic principles that apply to all scholarly presentations and then consider some common genres, such as research talks, posters, job talks, and presentations to lay audiences. Although our book has an audience of beginners in mind—newly minted professionals, graduate students, and advanced undergraduates—we hope that even grizzled veterans of the conference world will find something useful here.

We wrote this book using the time-honored tactic of dividing the chapters between the authors, so astute readers will notice slightly different writing styles. If you’re curious to know who wrote each chapter, simply look for coordinating adverbs (Dave), asyndetic coordination (Paul), and actual scholarly references (Dave) instead of mere opinion (Paul). Or you could look for who wrote the chapter’s Woeful Tale of Woe. The order of authorship was determined via a complex set of factors: height, love of Mexican telenovelas, household cat-to-dog ratio, level of caffeine addiction, number of Volvos owned, and amount pledged to National Public Radio over the past decade. Despite our differences on these dimensions, we share responsibility (i.e., blame each other) for the book’s errors and flaws.

Many people helped with this book, and most of them didn’t know it. Over the years, we’ve received good public-speaking advice from mentors, friends, and colleagues. The valiant students in our speaking-intensive classes deserve special thanks. And, of course, Linda McCarter and the crew at APA Books deserve thanks for their help and work on this book. Editing and publishing is a craft unto itself, one unrecognized by readers but appreciated by authors.


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