Publish at May 22 2022 Updated May 22 2022

Speaking and Presenting: Conversation Starters

Build persuasive surprises into your presentations

This course will teach you how to build persuasive surprises into your presentations, the kind of surprises that will change how your audience sees a particular situation or proposal and then gets them talking—in a good way. It will also identify several techniques you can use to start (and maintain) your own conversations, whether with a big group, a small group, or even just one-one-one.

What you'll learn

  • How to incorporate a "little bit of mischief" to your presentations in a way that delights and informs your audience
  • How to connect with people via the "language of common life"
  • How to use "mirroring" and follow-up questions to establish trust and build rapport
  • How to reimagine the experience of starting a conversation with a stranger


  • Week 1 - Unexpected : Vocabulary : “Be surprising, in a convincing way.” You’ll encounter those words a lot during this course. To discover who said them and how you can put them to work, check out the materials in Week 1!
  • Week 2 - Unexpected: Speaking Studies and Speaking Exercises : A great way to create a message that people not only listen to but actually remember is to include what the behavioral economist George Lowenstein calls “information gaps.” We’ll learn what those are this week. We’ll also meet a scientist who does something remarkable: makes talking about the life of grass really interesting.
  • Week 3 - Conversation: Vocabulary : Those of you who have taken the companion series Good with Words: Writing and Editing may remember the following advice: “Trying to sound smart is a pretty dumb strategy.” We’ll learn this week that it also applies to speaking and presenting. Don’t try to impress your audience. Don’t set out to wow them with your intellect. Focus instead on being helpful. Treat your words like they are a gift you really want to share.
  • Week 4 - Conversation: Speaking Studies and Speaking Exercises : Congratulations! You’ve made it to the fourth and final week of Course 3. We’re going to start by looking at the difference between a high-considerateness speaking style and a high-involvement one. But we’ll also make time for some surprising findings about what you can do to make your next commute a little more pleasant and stimulating--not just for you but also for a complete stranger.

To enroll, click here

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  • The art of conversation


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