How to Speak, How to Live

Photo of Patrick Winston, with chalkboard highlights of the talk in the background.

Professor Patrick Winston and some highlights of his How to Speak talk. (Image by Brett Paci. Photo by Azeddine Tahiri. Used with permission.)

Watch this one-hour master class on effective presentations by the late Patrick Winston.

By Curt Newton, OCW Director

“Your success in life will be determined largely by your ability to speak, your ability to write, and the quality of your ideas, in that order.” — Patrick Winston

MIT Professor Patrick Winston (1943-2019) was a pioneer in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). He literally wrote the book on AI, and his AI course on OCW has been one of our most popular courses since it was published.

Beyond the considerable quality of his ideas, he’s been celebrated at least as much for how he went about it all. The website A Memorial to Patrick H. Winston includes rich history, fabulous stories, and a gallery of photos. The tributes offered there show clearly his positive impact on the thousands of lives he touched.

One striking way Professor Winston expanded his circle of impact beyond the AI field was through an hour-long talk he gave annually at MIT, called How To Speak. For over 40 years, every January during the MIT Independent Activities Period, people flocked to hear it. Word spread year by year, and the room was frequently overflowing.

Now on OCW, you can join the audience at one of his last How to Speak talks, given in January 2018. How to Speak is full of insights and tips for job interviews, lectures, persuasive talks, and even getting famous. Professor Winston also follows his own advice here: How to Speak demonstrates everything he says we should know and do, a classic embodiment of the principle “show, don’t tell.” It’s a master class in engaging an audience with essential information, at once expansive and crystal-clear, delivered through a rich and deeply human tapestry of stories.

“I believe that we are storytelling animals. We start developing our story understanding and manipulating skills with fairy tales in childhood and continue on through professional schools like law, business, medicine, everything. And we continue doing that throughout life.”

Professor Winston lived this belief, continuing to develop and refine his storytelling skills, and kept sharing what he was learning, throughout his life. OCW is deeply honored to share the How To Speak tradition with you.

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