Video Summary: How to Speak, by Patrick Winston

  • Post category:Summaries
  • Post last modified:November 1, 2022

Summary reading time: 3 min

Video length: 1 hour and 3 min

Find below the notes and summary of the video entitled “How to Speak” by Patrick Winston.

Patrick Winston was an MIT professor of computer science.

Summary of the Video How to Speak by Patrick Winston

Your success in life will be determined by your ability to speak, write, and the quality of your ideas, in that order.

What really matters is

What you know X How much you practice X Talent (which does not matter that much).

How to start a talk.

Some people think you should start with a joke. Don’t. In the beginning, people are not ready for a joke.

What you want to do instead is start with a promise. Tell people what they will know at the end of the talk that they didn’t know at the beginning. Give them a reason to listen.

Heuristics to care about when you give a talk

  • Cycle on the subjects three times. Tell people what you want to tell them, 3 times.
  • Build a fence around the idea so that people don’t confuse your idea with another idea. It needs to be distinguished. “My dog may seem the same as Joe’s dog but mine is X and Joe’s is Y”.
  • Verbal punctuation: provide some landmark where you are inviting people back into the talk (when they get lost or distracted).
  • Ask a question (wait for 7 seconds before giving the answer). Cannot be too easy, neither too hard.

Time and place

  • Best time to have a lecture is 11h.
  • Place: must be well-lit
  • You must know the place before you give a talk
  • It should be moderately populated (not too many, not too little)

Whiteboard: good when your purpose is informing, you have a graphic quality, speed, (slides go too fast) + board can be a target.

Slides: good when your purpose is exposing, not teaching.

There are always too many slides and always too many words.

Don’t use background junk on your slides. They should be as minimalistic as possible.

Get rid of the words. There should be as few words as possible.

Get rid of logos. Keep the slide simple.

Get rid of the title.

The more there is on a slide, the more attention will be focused on the slide, and not on the speaker.

This is why your slides should be as blank as possible. We only have one language processor, that we use to read stuff, or to listen to the professor. We can’t do both.

People remember what is on the slide. Not what the speaker said.

Don’t use laser pointers. When you do that, you lose contact with the audience.

Props: use them to illustrate your argument.

Empathetic mirroring: when you look at people doing something, you feel you are doing it too.

How do you inspire people?

  • Tell them they can do it
  • Present them a problem in a new way
  • Exhibit passion about what you are doing

We are storytelling animals. We like stories. We want to know stories. If you hope to teach people something – anything – tell it in a story.

The situation is a huge problem, people cannot contextualize.

How to pass a job interview

Getting famous: once you got the job, you need to get recognized for what you do. Your idea is like your children, and you want them to matter. To do that, you have to present them in a way that matters.


  • Get a symbol associated with your work
  • Get a slogan
  • Surprise people
  • Salient idea: not important, but an idea that sticks out
  • Story: how you did it, how it works, why it is important

How to stop a talk

What is the final slide of the talk?

What are the final words?

Don’t talk about collaborators. You want to introduce them at the beginning, not at the end.

Don’t ask if anyone got questions. It is the worst way to end a talk.

Don’t write “the end”.

All these slides about further inquiries etc do nothing for you, they waste an opportunity for you to tell people who you are.

You want to have a contribution slide, where you say what you have done, and from which people understand why it matters.

You could also tell a joke.

Don’t thank people. It is a weak move. It suggests that everybody stayed out of politeness.

You should say instead “it’s been nice to be here, great, fantastic, I have liked it, I look forward to coming back here in the future”.

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