How to Speak by Patrick Winston

This course itself is an perfect example of the techniques mentioned in the talk:

  1. Start a talk with a PROMISE
  2. Eliminate clutter from your slides
    (because we only have one language processor,
    and we can either use it to read the stuff, or use it to listen to the speaker)
  3. How do you teach people how to think?
    Provide them with
    • the stories they need to know
    • the questions they need to ask about those stories
    • mechanisms for analyzing these stories
    • ways of putting stories together
    • ways of evaluating how reliable a story is
  4. When finishing the talk, tell a JOKE or salute the audience

A must watch for learning how to give a talk.
Highly recommended!


  • The success of your life will be determined largely by

    1. your ability to speak
    2. your ability to write
    3. the quality of your ideas

    (in that order)

  • Your speaking and writing is determined by this formula:

    f(K, P, t)

    (in that order)

  • This lecture: some examples of speaking techniques
    1. How to start
      • don't start a talk with a JOKE
        • people is not ready for a joke
      • start a talk with a PROMISE

        at the end of this 60 minutes, you will know things about speaking you don't know now,
        and something among those things you know will make a difference in your life.
      • samples
        1. CYCLE on the same topic
        2. BUILD A FENCE around the idea

          explain what this idea is NOT

          • so my idea can be distinguished from other's ideas
          • so people won't confuse this idea with others
          • because people will occasionally fog out, and need to get back on the bus
          • you need to provide some landmarks,
            places where announcing you're announcing that it's a good place to get back on
            • enumerating
            • providing numbers
          • give audience a sense that
            there's a seam in the talk and you can get back on
        4. ASK A QUESTION
          • the standard amount of time you can wait for an answer:
            7 seconds
          • the question has to be carefully chosen:
            it can't be too obvious
            people will be embarrassed to say it
            it can't be too hard
            nobody will have anything to say
      • these 4 ideas is just a start
        -> build up your repertoire of ideas about presentation
        • How?
          watch the speakers you admire and feel are effective,
          ask yourself: why they are successful
          -> build up your own repertoire
          -> develop your own style
    2. THE TOOLS (effective things in Patrick's armamentarium)
      • TIME & PLACE
        • Best time to give a speech: 11am
        • Best place:
          1. WELL LIT
            • whenever the room is dimmed, humans start to fall asleep
          2. CASED
            • See if there's any weirdness
            • side note:
              Imagine all the seats are filled with uninterested farm animals
            • more than a half-full
      • Boards & Props & Slides
        • EMPATHATIC MIRRORING (effective)
          • Board
            • best for informing (teaching, lecturing)
            • why?
              • graphics (easy to draw illustrations)
              • speed (the speed to write is approximately the speed at which people can absorb ideas)
              • target (for the hand)
                • you can point at the stuff (on the board)
          • Props
        • Slides
          • best for exposing
          • More chalks, less powerpoints
          • Job talks (conference talks)
            • Our purpose is to expose ideas, not to teach audience
            • There are always too many slides, always too many words
            • Some extreme examples for "How not to use slides"
              1. read your transparencies
              2. too many words
                • We only have one language processor
                  and we can either use it to read the stuff, or use it to listen to the speaker
              3. too far away between speaker and slides
              4. laser points / physical pointer
                • No eye-contact
              5. The too-heavy crime
            • Important rules
              1. Do not read
              2. Be in the image
              3. Keep images simple
              4. Eliminate clutter (title, footer, bullets)
                (use a larger font-size so you can only put so many words)
              5. Put a little arrow for emphasizing
              6. Leave some air in the slides (make the slides lighter)
                • An hapax legomenon (an extreme complex slide that can only occur once in a talk)
    3. Special cases
        1. PROMISE
          • start with a promise
        2. INSPIRATION
          • incoming freshman: tell them they could do it
          • senior faculty: help them see a problem from a new way
          • everyone: when someone exhibited passion about what they are doing
            • express how cool the stuff is during the promise phase
        3. HOW TO THINK
          How do you teach people how to think
          • we are storytelling animals
          • so if we want to teach people how to think,
            provide them with
            • the stories they need to know
            • the questions they need to ask about those stories
            • mechanisms for analyzing these stories
            • ways of putting stories together
            • ways of evaluating how reliable a story is
        • Oral exams
        • Job talks (general framework for building a tech talk)
          • 5 mins (to express)
            • (your) VISION
              • a problem that somebody cares about
              • something new in your approach
            • (you've) DONE SOMETHING
              • by listing the steps that need to be taken in order to achieve the solution to that problem
              • you don't need to have done all that steps
          • conclude by enumerating your CONTRIBUTIONS
        • Getting famous
          • WHY
            (why should you care about getting famous)
            • you never get used to being ignored
              but you can get used to being famous
            • help your ideas (your children) get recognized for the value that is in them
          • HOW (to ensure your work gets recognized)

            1. SYMBOL (associated with your work)
            2. SLOGAN
            3. SURPRISE
            4. SALIENT (an idea that sticks out)
            5. STORY (how you did it, how it works, why it's important)
      • HOW TO STOP
        • FINAL SLIDE
          • Contributions

            - Argued uniqueness of human intelligence
            - Demonstrated culturally biased understanding, persuasive retelling, schizophrenic behavior, and self-aware machines
            - Offered steps toward a better understanding of ourselves and each other
            • your contributions
            • what we get out of it
        • FINAL WORDS
          (how to tell people that you are finished)
          1. tell a JOKE

            I always finish with a joke,
            and that way,
            people think that they've had fun the whole time

          2. Don't say "THANK YOU"
            • a weak move
            • it suggests that people listened for that long out of politeness
            • what everybody does is not necessarily the right thing
          3. Benediction ending

            God bless you, and God bless America
          4. Salute the audience
            (how much you value your time at a place)