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Audiences like to be flattered; they like jokes; they like to be swept off their feet by a vigorous stream of words.As you decrease the intelligence of the audience, being a good speaker is increasingly a matter of being a good bullshitter.
That's true in writing too of course, but the descent is steeper with talks.
Any given person is dumber as a member of an audience than as a reader.
For example, when I give a talk, I usually write it out beforehand.
I know that's a mistake; I know delivering a prewritten talk makes it harder to engage with an audience.
But I always end up spending most of the time rewriting it instead.
Every talk I give ends up being given from a manuscript full of things crossed out and rewritten.
What I really want is to have good ideas, and that's a much bigger part of being a good writer than being a good speaker. If you know what you're talking about, you can say it in the plainest words and you'll be perceived as having a good style.
Sometimes I have to pause when I lose my train of thought. But I don't wish I were a better speaker like I wish I were a better writer.
Thanks to Sam Altman and Robert Morris for reading drafts of this.
Did you know the word ‘essay’ is derived from a Latin word ‘exagium’, which roughly translates to presenting one’s case?