10 tips to gain the public speaking confidence and skill of Guy Kawasaki

Guy kawasaki and the Singularity University labs team

Early Macintosh evangelist, author, speaker, entrepreneur, and investor. Guy Kawasaki not only juggles these responsibilities, he excels in them all.

Last week, I had the incredible pleasure of listening to a speech by Guy at the Singularity University. By the end, my hand hurt from all the notes, yet his speaking style is what really stood out.

Guy captured the attention of a room of 200 people yet made us feel like we were each having a one on one conversation with him.

What does Guy do in his speeches that is so effective?

1. “I believe that 80% of my job is to entertain, while 20% is to educate.”

Professors aim to educate and, perhaps, make someone chuckle once. Think back to university and schooling, you probably only remember that one teacher who made you laugh or made the class environment more interesting. Besides them you’re lucky to remember a solid 2% of your professors’ names, much less what they actually taught.

On the other hand, Guy spent most of the time making us crack up which immediately embedded the words into our memory.

A growing body of evidence shows that professors that interject appropriate humor into their lectures increase memory retention. Just remember, make your jokes aligned to the material or you’ll distract, rather than impact.

2. “Most tech speakers suck. I do a top ten format so if I suck, at least you know how much longer there is to go.”

It also made note taking really, really easy. This point was so good that, in the spirit of that, the rest of the post will take heed and be in a “Top 10”.

This is important because humans now have an attention span shorter than a goldfish, so varying material helped snap our attention back to the talk when it wavered.

Goldfish have a longer attention span than humans

3. Kept it conversational

Guy looked so relaxed on the stage yet he actually didn’t move around much yet was impressively poised for the fact that he was lounging on a stool.

Being in control of yourself while you speak is another very important point to keep in mind. This not only boosts the confidence of the speaker, but also provides a comfortable environment to the audience.

After the end of the speech, an audience member pointed out that he had great poise, he was funny, and he asked him, how do he get to be this confident?

4. He practiced. A lot.

“I’ve given this speech at least a dozen times.”

As the proverb goes, ‘Practice makes perfect’. Guy had given this speech often and he had given some of his previous speeches over a hundred times.

One trap we can fall into though is the law of familiarity, which states: “the more I spend time with and get to know anything…  the less I am excited about it or the less I am to give it the attention it deserves.” This can make us become a little too mechanical with our actions if we over practice and don’t tweak the material.

My dear friend Pascal Finette of Singularity University and The Heretic fame had seen this specific speech three separate times and not once has it been exactly the same. He is constantly tweaking examples as well as jokes and making off-the-cuff remarks, or at least they seem like off-the-cuff remarks, to his audience. This not only kept us entertained but also keep himself engaged in the content.

How do you get to this level of confidence? Well, practice yet don’t memorize your speech verbatim.

5. Memorized his slide order to look more professional

Have you ever seen a speaker who knew their material so well they clicked next and started speaking, without looking at the notes? That’s what we got to witness during Guy’s speech.

Pascal recommends you memorize your slides but don’t necessarily memorize the sentences and don’t over practice to the point that you end up being mechanical and stop being engaging. It’s very easy to see a speaker who’s disconnected from his audience and just running through the motions – if you’d like an example, look at some of my earlier speeches (no, I won’t link to them).

6. He used familiar constructs and improved upon them

“Create a MVVVP.”

His audience was well aware of an MVP (Minimum Viable Product), so he evolved this concept to drive the point home that it should also be Valuable and Verifiable. It was a quick way to drive a memorable point home.

7. Used analogies

It’s well known that humans learn best from analogies. In the book Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath they show this point with an example:

“A pomelo is a large citrus fruit with a thick but very soft rind that’s easy to peel and its fruit is slightly sour and ruby red in color.”


“A pomelo is like a large grapefruit with a thick, soft rind.”

Which one do you remember? Now you know why Guy uses analogies.

8. Kept the slides dead simple

Guy’s slides were dead simple. So simple, in fact that it made me a little jealous as I usually put far too much effort into my own slides – for much lesser results. I’ve spent 30+ hours on design, making beautifully designed slides. His? Black background, off-colored white text and little verbiage.

He saved time on slide design and invested it into humor and content. And that

9. Forced us to take notes

Without much text on the slides we weren’t able to just wait for the slides to be sent and instead had to take notes. If you didn’t take any notes, you didn’t get to keep the content. I took a ton of notes and did more writing than watching for exactly this reason.

And finally, he

10. Ended with (self deprecating) humor

“Point number 10, don’t let the bozos (experts) grind you down (convince you’re doing it wrong). I saved this for last so you’d listen to me for the rest of the speech.”

Not only did it get a laugh, it was also concluded his speech on a high note for us all. If you do nothing else, start and end with a bang or plan on walking away whimpering.

In conclusion, if you would like to be a speaker with the confidence level of Guy Kawasaki, remember the golden formula: practice, practice, practice, and keep it funny.

Stay driven my friends.

About Garrett Dunham

Garrett Dunham is a Silicon Valley born-and-raised entrepreneur, keynote speaker, and startup advisor. His companies have been featured on the New York Times, NBC, TechCrunch, Fast Company, and Venture Beat, among others. He spends his days mentoring startups at Start-up Chile and Singularity University, building products, and blogging about entrepreneurial success and self optimization.

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