MIT prof's notorious talk on How to Talk

MIT prof Patrick Winston gives an infamous annual talk called "How to Talk," a lecture on how to give good lectures. It's open to students and, apparently the public. This 1999 version of the talk (pre-Powerpoint!) is filled with damned good advice on persuasive public speaking, delivered in the form of "heuristics" that you can use to guide your own presentations. Link


  1. I like his Bob Newhart manner of delivery and there is some interesting information covered, but I think the date of this talk is incorrect (all the way back to the YouTube source).

    Based on his references to the Quayle/Bentsen debate being “a few years ago,” President Bush’s “State of the Union address last night,” and the not yet developed technology to easily create color transparencies, I would date this talk at 11 am January 30, 1991.

  2. There’s another professor, Dr. Robert Rannie from Northern Illinois University, who is a member of SHARE an IBM user group I’m also a member of. For years he gave training at the conference for session speakers (especially first-timers) and his simple mantra works very well.

    Tell them what you’re going to tell them.
    Tell them.
    Tell them what you told them.

    in other words, the introduction skims the topics you’ll cover; you cover it; then you summarize.

  3. And who can forget the godfather of clear thinking, Rudolf Flesch, author of The Art of Clear Thinking, How to Write Speak and Think Effectively and Why Johnny Can’t Read among many others.

    I treasure my 70’s paperback editions, now dog eared and falling apart, for the tremendous difference they made in my life. They are dated with references to WWII and early TV shows but they are simply golden.

    Flesch was also the guy who came up with the readability test which is enshrined, ironically, in uber-bloatware Microsoft Word.

  4. Like others, by the time I got to the contiguous video it had been removed. Then, I found the segmented nature of the Harvard site to be too distracting. So, I created an .m3u playlist for use with VLC – much better!

    If you’d like the full, high-quality, uninterrupted video, you can save the following text as “Winston-HowToSpeak.m3u” and open it with VLC:
    (in case the formatting gets screwed up, note that each line either starts with ‘#EXT’ or ‘http:’)


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