How to Speak by Patrick Winston

Ability to communicate

“We are storytelling animals”

Students shouldn’t go out without the ability to communicate for success in life depends on

  • ability to speak
  • ability to write
  • quality of ideas

in that order

Quality of communication depends on

  • Knowledge in this area
  • practising what you know
  • inherent talent

in that order: what matters most is what you know!

Rule on engagement
“Could you close that laptop please?” - humans have only one language processer.


How to start?

  • Start with a Joke? I don’t recommend it!
    • People are adjusting in, and are not ready for a joke.

    • Start with an “empowerment promise”

      • “At the end of this 60 minutes…….”
      • Express how stuff you’re going to talk about is cool!
    • How do you inspire people?

      • Everyone was inspired when they exhibited passion about what they are doing!

4 Samples of Heuristics

  • Cycle around about the course of the talk
    • 20% of the listeners may be fogged out at a given time. So repeating it in a cycle, 3 times can convey it to most of the audience
  • Build a Fence around your idea, so that people don’t assume it to be something else
  • Verbal Punctuation- to bring people back into the bus
    • To bring prople who fogged out back into the loop, give an overview now an then (a status update of sorts)
  • Ask a Question
    • Wait for 7 seconds for an answer
    • question shouldn’t be too obvious - people will be embarrassed to answer
    • question shouldn’t be too hard - nobody will have anything to say

Build up your personal repertoire by observing your favourite speakers

Time and Place

  • Time: do not coincide with food or sleep
  • Place:
    • Well lit -‘It’s extremely difficult to see slides through closed eyelids’
    • the place should be cased
      • like you’re going to rob a bank
      • the hall should be reasonably populated
        • Right sized place that looks more than half full

Boards and Chalk

  • Blackboards and Chalk is the tool for informing/teaching/lecturing; slides are for exposing
    • Writing has a graphic quality
    • speed with which you write on the board is approx. how fast people can grasp
    • the board acts as a targer
      • Hands in the pocket or back?
        • Big NO
        • Extraordinarily insulting in many cultures
        • “looks like you are concealing a weapon”
      • with the board, you have something to do with your hands, something to point at


  • They shouldn’t take attention away from the speaker
    • Fewer words- when there’s too mush to read, “I wish you hadn’t talked much, it was very distracting”
  • De-clutter:
    • Get rid of the logos
    • Get rid of the titles
    • Get rid of the bullets and dots
  • Laser pointers or any pointers for that matter take away attention and eye contact with the audience
    • “You know what, we could all leave and he still wouldn’t know”
    • Use arrows or marks in the slides instead of using a pointer
  • Speaker should be close to the slides


  • Talks are like plays!
    • Use objects- remember Walter Lewin!
  • The reason this is effective is “EMPATHETIC MIRRORING”
  • Create events to make the talk memorable
    • break a prop
    • burn something

Preparing & Reviewing

  • Preparing for Oral Exams
    • Get friends who nothing about the topic to review
    • “If you can’t make me cry, I won’t value as a friend anymore!”
    • People who know what you’re talking about, like your faculty advisor hallucinated that there is stuff in the talk that actually isn’t

Job Talks

  • Showcase a vision
    • problem that people care about
    • your novel approach
  • Showcase that you’ve done stuff
    • Listing the steps that need to be taken in order to achieve a solution to the above problem
    • You don’t need to have done everything already
    • “Here’s what needs to be done.”
    • Enumerate your contributions
  • All in 5 minutes

Getting Famous/ the recognition you deserve

  • “Your ideas are like your children, you don’t want them to go into the world in rags”
  • Let them get recognised fot their value
  • to get remembered,
    • make sure you have a SYMBOL associated with your presentation
    • a SLOGAN
    • a SURPRISE
      • an idea that sticks out, not necessarily the most important
    • the STORY of how you did it

How to Stop

  • FInal Slide: not to have

    • Collaborators: Put that slide towards the beginning of the talk
    • Questions: waste of real estate and opportunity to show who you are
    • website: waste of opportunity, does nothing for you
    • “THE END” :lol:
    • Thank You: Did the people stay out of politeness?
  • Final Slide: to have

    • Conclusions
    • Contributions
  • Tell a joke! People are ready and receptive for a joke!

    • That way people think they had fun the whole time
  • Salute the audience:

    • Speak good about the audience.
    • Tell what you want them to do, etc.
John Sebastian
John Sebastian
Grad Student