Drop Dead Presentations

AvatarCommunicate, impress, and get results through powerful presentations. A helpful resource for every student and professional who likes to do a Steve Jobs in front of the crowd.

The Steve Jobs Formula

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There are two things that remind me of Steve Jobs the most: 1) his commencement address at the Stanford University graduation; and 2) his iPod and MacBook presentations.

I remember him more for the second. In his presentations, Steve Jobs never fails to impress his audience. No sweat. Awesome.

What makes a Jobs presentation stand out? What makes it remarkably powerful? There is no fixed formula on how to make a truly drop dead presentation. No single style to wow the audience. But these pointers just seem to give the kick to a presentation.

1. Sell the Benefit
Steve Jobs does not sell bits of metal; he sells an experience. Instead of focusing on mind-numbing statistics, as most technologists tend to do, Jobs sells the benefit. For example, when introducing a 30 GB iPod, he clearly explains what it means to the consumer -- users can carry 7,500 songs, 25,000 photos, or up to 75 hours of video. In January when Jobs introduced the first Intel-based Mac notebook he began by saying, "What does this mean?"

He went on to explain the notebook had two processors, making the new product four to five times faster than the Powerbook G4, a "screamer" as he called it. He said it was Apple's thinnest notebook and comes packed with "amazing" new features like a brighter wide-screen display and a built-in camera for video conferencing. It's not about the technology, but what the technology can do for you.

2. Practice, Practice, and Practice Some More
Jobs takes nothing for granted during product launches. He reviews and rehearses his material. Business Week wrote, "Jobs unveils Apple's latest products as if he were a particularly hip and plugged-in friend showing off inventions in your living room. Truth is, the sense of informality comes only after grueling hours of practice." The article goes on to say that it's not unusual for Jobs to prepare for four hours as he reviews every slide and demonstration.

Practice does not always make perfect, but increases your repertoire in dealing with your mistakes. Rehearse, but not memorize your lines. Just bear in mind the outline of the report, and the important cues that will guide you in making transitions from one point to another.

3. Keep It Visual
Speaking of slides, there are very few bullet points in a Jobs presentation. Each slide is highly visual. If he's discussing the new chip inside a computer, a slide in the background will show a colorful image of the chip itself alongside the product. That's it. Simple and visual.

Apple's presentations are not created on PowerPoint, as the vast majority of presentations are. But PowerPoint slides can be made visual as well. It's a matter of thinking about the content visually instead of falling into the habit of creating slide after slide with headlines and bullet points. Making a slide image-rich rather than data-heavy is also another chance to reduce the number of slides in your presentation.

To the reporter, a visual slide doesn't sound too good because that means the absence of script. There comes the fear that if you don't see the lines on screen, you may not be able to articulate your thoughts after all. I have solved this dilemma by practice and getting familiar with the slides minutes or hours before my presentations. A script is not needed. Just talk about the important points--do it with finesse--and you'll get it over.

4. Exude Passion, Energy, and Enthusiasm
Jobs has an infectious enthusiasm. When launching the video iPod, Jobs said, "It's the best music player we've made," "It has a gorgeous screen," "The color is fantastic," and "The video quality is amazing."

Be passionate about your message. Carry on the presentation with enthusiasm. Let the message bite to your audience by moving on the floor, doing the proper gestures, and speaking in the right tone of voice.

5. "And One More Thing..."
At the end of each presentation Jobs adds to the drama by saying, "and one more thing." He then adds a new product, new feature, or sometimes introduces a band. He approaches each presentation as an event, a production with a strong opening, product demonstrations in the middle, a strong conclusion, and an encore -- that "one more thing!"