Public Speaking

I don’t do as much public speaking as I used to. Fortunately my colleagues at USV have picked up the slack and we are still out there telling the world what we believe in and why. I think that is critical to building the brand of an investment business.

Because it is Blockchain Week in NYC, I have done a number of public speaking events this week and have two more today. I also did something up at Columbia University last week for a friend and do a fair number of public appearances for the K12 CS Education work I do.

All of that has had me on a stage a lot in the last week and reminded me that there is an art to public speaking. I have also witnessed a lot of people doing it poorly this past week.

I have three main rules that I try to live by:

1/ Be brief. It is possible to make a point in less than a minute. But many take five or ten minutes to do it. In a world where people take their phones out the minute they are bored, you simply can’t take a long time to make a point.

2/ Be bold. Stake out positions that will stimulate debate and get people talking. I am not suggesting that you should take a position you don’t believe in. But I do think it is important to go out on a limb from time to time.

3/ Have fun. Show your personality. Smile. Laugh. Enjoy it. The audience will pick up on that and it will make it more fun for everyone.

I have also taken to doing a lot of interviewing lately. When I get asked to make an appearance, I often ask if I can do the interview instead of being interviewed. I usually turn those into public conversations and that is a lot of fun and, I think, works for the audience too.

I am interviewing Olaf Carlson-Wee, the founder of the Polychain token fund, today at The Token Summit. I plan to have fun and will work to keep it snappy and provocative.

#crypto#life lessons

Comments (Archived):

  1. Pete Griffiths

    Tell ’em what you’re gonna tell ’em.Tell ’em.Tell ’em what you told ’em.

  2. Nicholas Osgood

    Very timely for me personally. Signed up for ToastMasters with part of my team and have taken bootcamps. It truly is hard to be comfortable, not use filler words, using correct body language, hand gestures, etc. Obviously its all about practice, practice, practice. “We talkin about practice”

    1. fredwilson

      I got my first instruction in public speaking via Toastmasters in my 20s. I am a big fan

  3. William Mougayar

    Also, give them sound bites- memorable short statements they will quote you on. – see you later at the Token Summit ! https://uploads.disquscdn.c

    1. Jordan Jackson

      Will fred be live streamed william?

      1. William Mougayar

        We had it periscoped if you caught it. But it will be re-published maybe next week. In the meantime:

        1. JamesHRH

          Why does every crypto visionary look like he’s part of the bad guy team in a cheap super hero movie?

  4. Jordan Jackson

    I always enjoy your perspective fred – will your sessions be live streamed and or recorded?

    1. fredwilson

      Don’t know. But if they are I will share them here

  5. Ruhinda Ruganda

    Hopefully share the recorded content on here…:)

  6. Tom Labus

    Brevity with substance is always appreciated!

    1. Peter J. Mills

      Brevity is the soul of wit, wrote WS. It’s also the pulsing heart of Twitter – and of successful blogs such as Fred’s.

  7. Pointsandfigures

    Also dress normal. Dress well. Not like a rock star

    1. awaldstein

      what does this mean?

      1. Pointsandfigures

        Dress nicely but not crazy. You aren’t Elton John giving a performance. Be entertaining but not over the top. Know your audience

        1. awaldstein

          Been in tech startups for 30 years and it simply doesn’t matter.People should do what they feel comfortable with and focus on expressing themselves.If you are judging people by how they look you are simply missing the boat.

          1. pointsnfigures

            Know your audience. I wouldn’t show up on stage in shorts. However, if I was doing a thing in Cali on a hot day I might consider it.

          2. awaldstein

            What you do, what each person does is not the same as you making a rule that people should dress nice (your word).It simply does not matter.What you say, your conviction, your depth and authenticity does.Blockchain Week was full of brilliant, successful, pensive people over every shape, size, age, background and attire. No one gave a shit. And this is from open source developer to bankers in tshirts.

          3. awaldstein

            My point is what you and I do, has nothing at all to do with what others simply doesn’t matter what you look like as long as you are comfortable and interesting and prepared.

      2. JamesHRH

        See picture above.

        1. awaldstein


          1. JamesHRH

            Pic here of Fred with someone looking exactly how Jeff described you not wanting to look. Saw your other comments, you are likely not interested…..

          2. awaldstein

            I saw the presentation as was there.Brilliant. Truly.Jeff is right for himself, wrong about a standard completely.If the only thing you think about is how Fred and Olaf look after the conversation, you are missing everything.This is not crypto or tech simply reality and nothing new at all and no different than any forward revolution of change I’ve been involved with for my career from gaming to music to midi to 3d to natural wine and farming to environmental communities.

          3. JamesHRH

            I agree with both of us!i do think there are times when being yourself is inappropriate – you have a job to do and you should dress for the job.Self expression is not an inviolate principle, for me……each his own.

          4. awaldstein

            of course.

  8. awaldstein

    I learned to do this simply by doing it. Not the best way actually.I’ve boiled it down to being dramatically over prepared, create a short list of sound bite answers and use them, and simply relax.

  9. jason wright

    You wear a camera. Olaf wear a camera.

  10. Randall Tran

    Thanks for sharing. One other thing I want to add: be audience centric. All of the things we hear about public speaking (eye contact, voice projection, facial expressions) is to ensure that you are able to actually reach a larger crowd. Always, always, ALWAYS remember to not just communicate to the microphone, but the people listening to you.

  11. LIAD

    hunted turned hunter – love it.

  12. Vendita Auto

    “Fun snappy and provocative”.You have got to watch the Brit series “Fleabag” on Netflix

  13. Guy Lepage

    Excellent reminders/tips. Thx for sharing.

  14. Chimpwithcans

    I have a friend from high school who has dived head-on into the world of “Network Marketing” – whatever that means. It seems to be a lot of public displays of style over substance.Not that I think Fred would be style over substance – quite the opposite – but it’s interesting to think of public speaking as a career in the age of instagram and snapchat. My first thought is that to engage with someone listening – There has to be something of value at the end of your proposition or presentation. Content.Often it is just emotional tugging. Don’t emotionally tug!

  15. sigmaalgebra

    The speaking I have long liked best of all was what I heard in a course in grad school. Later I had occasion to tell the Professor and the Dean “Best course of any kind I ever took in school. Powerful material, beautifully presented. Each day it was a shame to erase the board.”I’ve never seen anything even 1% as useful from public speaking. So, to me, public speaking tends to be short on content, but, sure, maybe with some entertainment.I did a lot of college teaching. So, that’s a form of speaking. So, after a while learn how to communicate the information to the students. It appeared I did well enough in freshman and sophomore math, computer science, and some more, but there was one course in New Math for Elementary Education Majors. So, the class was all coeds, with solid plans of being teachers in K-6 or so, and likely wives and mothers. GOOD for them. But they were nervous! Net, the main challenge in teaching them was not the math but JUST to sense and alleviate their unreasonable anxieties!There are at least several approachesto public speaking, and with the Web we can be awash in examples daily.No doubt Fred’s advice will work well for public speaking at industry conferences, etc.Point 2/ seems to suggest to get points across but without a lot of supporting data, examples, rationality, etc.

  16. awaldstein

    Your chat on stage at Token Summit was a highlight of the day.Perspective on staking was an original, hands on take from someone who truly knew his shit, unique from a host of recycled content on the same subject from the week.The pov on security I had never heard before.Big thanks.

    1. cavepainting

      Agree. It was an excellent conversation. The security perspective on PoS vs. PoW was something very new indeed and somewhat surprising because conventional wisdom has always stated the converse.

      1. awaldstein

        Do you know if this is available to share anywhere?

  17. mark slater

    There is an art and a skill to good public speaking…sadly one i do not possess. I am frequently overcome by nerves and it has led me to shy away from any invite. I am generally a confident person but this is a bit of an achilles heel.Turning the tables however sounds like something i could do!