Holy Smokes, Bullets Kill! (And Other Presentation Tips)
Before planning your presentation, according to Carmine Gallo, it is critical to know the question that matters most to your audience: “Why should I care?”1 You need to think about how to inspire your audience. Simply trying to sell them something doesn’t cut it. As Carmine writes, “Your widget doesn’t inspire me. Show me how your widget improves my life, and you’ve won me over.”2
Here are Steve Jobs’ ten secrets for insanely great presentations.3
- Plan in analog. Brainstorm in advance of creating your presentation. You can use pen and paper, a whiteboard or, better yet, a mind map.
DO NOT use PowerPoint®to create your presentation—it will be used only in the final step! (More on this later.)
- Create Twitter-friendly headlines. Describe your product or service in 140 characters or less. Preferably, a lot less. Steve introduced the MacBook Air® as simply, “The world’s thinnest notebook.” About the first-generation iPod®, he tweeted: “It’s one thousand songs in your pocket.”
- Introduce the villain. Steve saw a presentation as a three-act play that must tell a story, but what is a story without a hero and a villain? Before he introduced the famous 1984 ad to a group of Apple salespeople, he set the stage, casting “Big Blue” as Goliath. “IBM wants it all,” he warned, and defiantly asserted that only Apple stoodin its way. His dramatic moment sent the crowd into frenzy.
While the villain doesn’t have to be a competitor, it must be a common foe that your audience will want to join with you in rallying against. Your product is then revealed as the conquering hero.
- Create visual slides. As Carmine writes, “Neuroscientists are finding that the best way to communicate information is through text and pictures, not text alone.” As for bullet points, Steve never, ever, used them and neither should you. Carmine has a section in her book titled, “Bullets Kill” that describes why you should avoid using PowerPoint to create your presentation.
“Think about what happens when you open PowerPoint. A blank-format slide appears that contains space for words—a title and subtitle. This presents a problem. There are very few words in a Steve Jobs presentation. Now think about the first thing you see in the drop-down menu under Format: Bullets & Numbering. This leads to the second problem. There are no bullet points in a Steve Jobs presentation. The software itself forces you to create a template that represents the exact opposite of what you need to speak like Steve!”4
Take a look at the following comparison of bullet-point slides compared to the same information, presented visually.
- Practice, a lot. Most people read their presentations off of their PowerPoint slides. This is why most presentations are boring. Steve treated every slide as piece of poetry and every presentation as a theatrical event. He wasn’t a natural presenter; he worked very hard at it. Rehearse your presentation, toss the script and look at your audience. Practice at making it look effortless.
- Obey the ten-minute rule. It’s a scientific fact that the brain gets tired after ten minutes. Steve’s presentations typically lasted an hour and a half. He would break them up into short intervals of ten minutes or less by interspersing videos, demonstrations, or guest speakers. Don’t let your audience get tired or you’ll lose them.
A great way to keep your audience’s attention when presenting information is though sequencing, which builds the story within a visual one step at a time, making the information much easier to digest.
- Dress up your numbers. We often deal with large numbers or data that an audience can’t comprehend without context. Breaking them down and presenting numbers visually can overcome this. Notice how much more effectively the chart below illustrates sales figures as opposed to a matrix of data.
- Reveal a ‘holy smokes!’ moment. Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them fe el.” Steve Jobs always produced a memorable moment in a pre sentation. When he introduced the MacBook Air, he told his a udience that while everyone had seen manila envelopes floating around the office, what they had never seen was someone pulling a notebook computer out of one—which is precisely what he did. The audience went wild and images of that moment remain emblazoned in people’s minds four years later.
- Sell dreams, not products. When it looked at the iPod, the world saw a music player. What Steve Jobs saw was a tool to enrich people’s lives. Howard Schultz of Starbucks didn’t have a passion to sell coffee; his vision was to create an experience: a ‘third place’ between home and work where people would want to gather. The dream met the customer’s need and the product sales took care of itself.
- Have fun! When was the last time you saw someone enjoying giving a presentation? Steve Jobs had fun in every keynote. He made jokes at his own expense. While most people give presentations to deliver information, Steve always created an experience that his audience would enjoy and remember. Most importantly, he sold them on becoming a part of his dream, not his product.