How to Speak (from MIT)

By the end of the next 60 minutes you will have been exposed to a lot of ideas, some of which you will incorporate into your own repertoire, and they will ensure that you get the maximum opportunity to have your ideas valued and accepted by the people you speak with.

Patrick Winston, MIT

Patrick Winston’s How to Speak talk has been an MIT tradition for over 40 years. Offered every January, the talk is intended to improve your speaking ability in critical situations by teaching you a few heuristic rules.


Around 40 years ago, Professor Patrick Henry Winston ’65, SM ’67, PhD ’70 gave his first talk on How to Speak.

We were sitting in my office, whining about somebody’s horrible lectures, when he said, “You should do a class on how to speak.”

Actually, that first edition of How to Speak drew about 100. This past week about 250 showed up. It’s a little hard to say exactly because [the lecture hall] officially seats 150 and perhaps another 100 sat on the stairs and floor or stood in the back or watched from the hall.

It became so popular, in fact, that the annual talk had to be limited to the first 300 participants. Every year, Professor Winston improved upon the talk. As he put it, “There is much more now, of course, because I keep learning new things. I’ve added techniques for passing oral exams, delivering successful job-interview talks, and ensuring that ideas become as famous as they ought to be.


Introduction @00:16
Rules of Engagement @03:11
How to Start @04:15
Four Sample Heuristics @05:38
The Tools: Time and Place @10:17
The Tools: Boards, Props, and Slides @13:24
Informing: Promise, Inspiration, How to Think @36:30
Persuading: Oral Exams, Job Talks, Getting Famous @41:30
How to Stop: Final Slide, Final Words @53:06
Final Words: Joke, Thank You, Examples @56:35

Author: Conor Neill

Hi, I’m Conor Neill, an Entrepreneur and Teacher at IESE Business School. I speak about Moving People to Action. View all posts by Conor Neill