Kishore Vancheeshwaran
How to Speak (MIT lecture)

This a lecture on How to Speak by Patrick Winston from MIT.

Here’s a summary written in one of the comments.

__GRIG__ writes:


  1. Do not start a talk with a joke.
  2. Promise - Tell them what they gonna learn at the end of your talk.
  3. Cycle – make your idea repeated many times in order to be completely clear for everyone.
  4. Make a “Fence” around your idea so that it can be distinguished from someone else’s idea.
  5. Verbal punctuation – sum up information within your talk some times to make listeners get back on.
  6. Ask a question - intriguing one

Place and Time

  1. Best time for having a lecture is 11 am. (not too early and not after lunch)
  2. The place should be well lit.
  3. The place should be seen and checked before the lecture.
  4. The place should not be full less than a half, it must be chosen according to the amount of listeners.

Tools For teaching.

  1. Board – it’s got graphics, speed, target. Watch your hands! Don’t hold them behind your back, it’s better to keep them straight and use for pointing at the board.
  2. Props – use them in order to make your ideas visual.

Visual perception is the most effective way to interact with listeners.

For Job Talk. Exposing, Slides

  1. Don’t put too many words on a slide. Slides should just reflect what you’re saying, not the other way around. Pictures attracts attention and people start to wait for your explanation – use that tip.
  2. Make slide as easy as you can – no title, no distracting pictures, frames, points and so on.
  3. Do not use laser pointer – due to that you lose eye contact with the audience. Instead you can make the arrows just upon a slide.


Show to your listeners your stuff is cool and interesting.

You have to be able to:

  • show your vision of that problem
  • show that you’ve done particular things (by steps)

All of that should be done real quick in no more than 5 min.

Persuade your listeners you’re not a rookie (Prof. Winston contrived to do that from the very first seconds of his talk)

Getting Famous

If you want to your ideas be remembered you’ve got to have “5 S”

  • Symbols associate with your ideas (visual perception is the best way to attract attention)
  • Slogan (describing your idea)
  • Surprise (common fallacy that is no longer true, for instance, just after you’ve told about it)
  • Salient Idea (not necessarily important but the one that sticks out)
  • Story (how you did it, how it works…)

How to End

  • Don’t put collaborators at the end, do that at the beginning.
  • Question’s the worst way to end a talk.
  • It’s good to end with a Contribution slide – to sum up everything you’ve told with your OWN decision.
  • At the very end you could tell a joke since people then will leave the event feeling fun and thus keep a good memory of your talk.
  • “Thank you (for listening)” isn’t good ending, it’s trite at least. You can end with a quote of a prominent person (my own knowledge), with a salute to people (how much you valued the time being here, the people over here…, “I’d like to get back, it was fun!”

That part actually I find the hardest one, since saying “Thanks” is a kind of a habit and it’s really difficult to make people clap if your talk wasn’t fascinating, so you’d better do this great and you won’t have to worry about how to end!

I personally felt it was a wonderful talk. I hope others find it useful as well.

If you would like to leave a comment, contact me via email.
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