Great Tech Speakers on Video

Posted by Barry Flanagan on Feb 14th, 2008
Feb 14

While I work on crafting my post on the first of the Six R’s (Results), I thought I would post some video of speakers with technical or science based topics who stand out from the crowd. This post is the first one of a group.

The speaker I would like to highlight is Lawrence Lessig. Here is a bit of Lessig’s Bio from his web site -


Lawrence Lessig is a Professor of Law at Stanford Law School and founder of the school’s Center for Internet and Society. Prior to joining the Stanford faculty, he was the Berkman Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, and a Professor at the University of Chicago. He clerked for Judge Richard Posner on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and Justice Antonin Scalia on the United States Supreme Court.

Lawyers are not generally thought of as technical speakers. Lessig is different. He is one of the creators of the "Creative Commons" license and is a big open source and "free culture" advocate. I first learned of Lessig while reading the "Lessig Method" post on Garr Reynolds site "Presentation Zen". Here is a snippet from Garr -


The "Lessig Method" of presentation is not an official method per se, but many people who know about the work of Stanford law professor, Lawrence Lessig, have been inspired by his presentation style and informally refer to his approach as something unique indeed. Those who have seen Lessig present have been talking about his approach for a while. David Hornik at VentureBlog wrote a post entitled Putting the "Power" in Powerpoint over two years ago. In this post he heaps praise on the presentation style of Lessig. Hornik says Lessig’s presentations "are a fantastic combination of content, art and brand…."

Lessig does an amazing job of combining great stories and metaphors, simple visuals and a very judicious use of text in his power point slides. You cannot understand the power of his style until you hear and see it. Garr describes it -


I guarantee you there is no presentation book on the market that would recommend you use a few hundred slides, some visible for 1-2 seconds, for a 15-minute presentation. That’s crazy talk, right? Yet, it works in this particular case for this particular audience and for the particular allotted time, a short 15-minutes. This is why I never recommend a specific number of slides, or even that a presenter must use slideware at all. It depends.

Robert Ahdieh of Concurring Opinions recently had this to say about Lessig’s method -


Some time ago, however, a friend forwarded me this link, to a talk and PowerPoint presentation by Lessig, back in 2002. (Even if you’ve seen it, I’d encourage you to sample it again, as a truly amazing piece of work.) Basically, by the spare use of select words and phrases, Lessig successfully conveys both his broad themes and a substantial amount of information, in a way that even visual images – let alone line after line of PowerPoint text – could never have done. I’m confident that my absorption of the relevant ideas and material was exponentially greater than my normal (perhaps abnormally low) rate.

The KNOWHr blog picked Lessig’s 2002 presentation of the "Free Culture topic" presentation as one of the "Top 10 Presentations Ever".


Lawrence Lessig’s Free Culture talk at the 2002 Open Source Conference. The master of the simple slides shows us how it’s done. And since, as he says, this is his 100th time for this talk, he has this bad boy down solid. Even though this talk is from 2002, his slide presentation style is still as fresh today as Axe Body Spray.

Here is a recent presentation that Lessig gave at TED





Lessig gave a similar talk as part of the "AtGoogleTalk" series on YouTube.






If you want to see more of Lessig, here is an excellent presentation he gave a LinuxWorld.



Lessig at LinuxWorld



You can find much more Lessig videos at his site.

When I have more time, I plan to do a more in depth analysis of Lessig. These videos give you an idea of the synergy of speaking, style, visuals, and structure that is possible. Lessig’smethod of presenting is very powerful and undeniably memorable. I find myself completely enthralled as I watch him present, and his message sticks in my mind. How often can you say that about a presenter talking about open source, copyright law, and content on the internet? I am working to implement more of Lessig’s style into my own presentations, in hopes my own audiences will find my talks nearly as memorable.



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6 Responses

  1. Great Tech Speakers on Video, Part II | Public Speaking for Geeks Says:

    [...] searching for additional info on Lawrence Lessig for my earlier post Great Tech Speakers on Video, I came across a a snippet on Dick Hardt as another presenter who has successfully learned and [...]

  2. Andrew Hill Says:

    I have never heard of Lessig before. That TedTalk was really good, and the Linux World presetnation was fantastic. I have never seen anyone present like thta. I was completely enthralled. I just started as a SE for a small software company, and mostly use the crappy text filled slides from marketing. I will have to try to make a deck like this.

    BTW, thanks for the link to Presentation Zen. I will have to get that book.

  3. Great Tech Speakers on Video, Part III | Public Speaking for Geeks Says:

    [...] Steve’s session videos are all hosted on at the TechNet SpotLight. Since these videos are in Microsoft SilverLight, I am not able to embed them into the blog (though I am looking for a working SilverLight plugin for WordPress). One of Steve’s recent sessions was called The Fortified Data Center . In this session you see Steve down in the audience, moving throughout the room, using alot of audience appropriate humor (I love his “unhandled coffee exception”). Steve uses personal and customer stories very effectively. He does a great job of continually changing his volume, pitch, rhythm and vocal pace to keep the audience engaged. He uses many visuals quite effectively and for the most part the slides provide support for his remarks. He uses a presentation remote to keep him from being tied to the laptop to advance the slides, which allows him to get down in the audience and physically connect with the crowd. There are a few occasions where the slides are overloaded with bullets or text (one slide on SharePoint had over 100 words). Another slide that depicts all the components of Steve’s “Fortified Data Center”vision is overloaded with graphics and texts. On those occasions, I get the sense that Steve is committing one of the commons sins of technical speakers, using the slides as a handout. If you uses the slide merely to provide visual context to your remarks and create a separate handout, it is much easier to avoid these issues. Admittedly, this is extremely common in the tech industry and I have done it myself many times, unfortunately. Despite those few slide issues, overall Steve is a very good technical speaker. There is much to be learned from his use of stories, metaphors, examples, and audience interaction. In my opinion, if Steve implemented more of the concepts in books on powerpoint design like “Visual Selling” or “Presentation Zen” he would be even more effective. A very interesting combination would be Steve’s engaging speaking style with Dick Hardt’s powerpoint design (inspired by Lessig). [...]

  4. Public Speaking for Geeks » Blog Archive » Why I Blog Says:

    [...] of Steve Riley if I wasn’t writing blog posts about great tech speakers. I may not have seen those amazing Lessig videos either. Each of those speakers and their videos hold new ideas and new techniques that I cannot [...]

  5. Public Speaking for Geeks » Blog Archive » Screencasting Presentation Says:

    [...] used a mind map for the outline and included it as the agenda slide. In several slides, I followed the Lessig Method for text. The great majority of the sides were simple visuals which I narrated, consistent with the [...]

  6. Public Speaking for Geeks » Blog Archive » World’s Best Presentation Contest Says:

    [...] story, so it was a natural choice for this contest. It was an interesting experiment to apply the Lessig method and use of visuals to this old zen tale. I am surprised I could not find any other visual examples [...]

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