Public Speaking Tip: Pretend Your Audience is Listening in Their Second Language

One of the biggest keys to success in life is being able to communicate clearly.  If you’re the smartest person in the world, but can’t explain your ideas to anyone else, it doesn’t matter.  Many people struggle translating their ideas into actionable chunks.  Others struggle with getting up in front of a crowd.  They talk too fast, use jargon, business buzz words and end up losing their audience.  The best public speakers I’ve seen talk slowly, clearly and have broken their ideas into small pieces that people can understand.  I left the startup panel at SXSW 2010 thinking that Naval Ravikant knew what he was talking about.  He talked slowly, clearly and delivered insight.  If you watch the best TED Talks, they all do the same thing.

I’ve always been interested in trying to improve public speaking, but never had a good idea until I came to Chile.  We were at an entrepreneurship panel held completely in Spanish with four speakers.  Most of the speakers talked slowly and clearly, but one was clearly nervous, making her speak even faster than normal.  I had trouble understanding her for awhile until she worked out her nerves.

So pretend your audience is made up of people who know your language as their second language.  If you do this, you’ll speak more slowly, use smaller words and break your ideas into chunks.  I’m not suggesting you dumb down your presentations.  Speaking simply and clearly is not dumb.  In fact, many times it’s even harder.  That’s why you often see websites with a full paragraph of text without having any idea what they actually do.  But that’s for another blog post.

Public Speaking Keys

  1. Slow down.  Then slow down again.  You’re probably still talking too fast.
  2. Avoid jargon and business buzzwords.  Communicate simply and clearly
  3. Relax.  You know more about your subject than your audience.


  • Great post, Nate. Speaking of long paragraphs of text, I noticed that the homepage for Entrustet has too much text under the three headers. Keep enjoying Chile!

    • Thanks. And I agree re: entrustet home page. I’m actually working on that
      at this very moment, along with fixing up the images like you said last
      week! Keep finding stuff that you think looks bad, I want to fix it!

  • Love it… I love to get in front of the audience and jab about things. Your last bullet “you know more than the audience” is very true!!! This is how I learned when I jumped from engineering to sales/marketing and scared s***less when I made my very first presentation.

    • Thanh, agreed. Public speakers shouldn’t be nervous. You know more than
      your audience, so you’ll be able to answer questions. And if you don’t know
      the answer a simple “That’s a great question, I’m not sure, but I’ll do some
      research and email you when I find out ” will work in just about every

      Nathan Lustig

      cofounder, /
      My blog: You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Til It’s Gone, so Seize Your
      Opportunities with
      Entrustet blog: 247,000 Bloggers Will Die This Year in the United

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