Don’t listen to Steve Jobs.

For years I have been haunted by Steve Jobs, the presenter.  He was an exquisite presenter, with a great style, presence and charisma.  We can all learn things from how he worked.

But for years, I had to combat those clients who read enough of Jobs’ presentation philosophy to be dangerous.  Jobs preferred graphics over words in his slides.  Clients tried to do the same thing, but they had two problems; they didn’t have the confidence to reduce the word count on the slides for fear they might miss something.  And, they used stock art and stock photos.  Some of the graphics were good.  Most were gratuitous and had little to do with the point of the narrative.

Jobs didn’t have to use stock photos for his slides.  He had a huge art department that spent months creating the perfect slide to convey the point Jobs was making.  Most of us don’t have such an art department, or budget, at our disposal.

So, while everyone tried to emulate Jobs’ presentation style, they couldn’t.  But, not just because of the slides.

Jobs was famous for preparation and rehearsal.  He worked his presentation until it was close to perfect and tweaked every word to get things just right.  Many of the clients I’ve seen put in a minimum amount of time for preparation and almost nothing for rehearsal.  If you are going to copy the great man, you gotta do everything he did.

Jobs was a minimalist.  He didn’t try to cover every product and every feature and every selling point when he presented a new product.  He had one big takeaway and 2 or 3 support points.  Most clients aren’t comfortable unless they empty the closet of every selling feature they can think of.

The greatest disconnect that most clients have with Jobs’ style is the product itself.  Jobs had spectacular, mold-shattering, beautiful  products that the world had never seen before.  Imagine if you are the presenter and what you have to show is a telephone no one has ever even imagined that also plays music and becomes a pocket laptop.  That’s a really easy thing to present. You own the audience from the moment you take it out of your shirt pocket.  You don’t need lots of slides to explain it or justify it. The mere demonstration of the product does it all for you.  OK, now imagine you are presenting instead, a line of shoes that are new but very similar in every way to what’s out there in the market now.  Or, you are presenting a process for auditing financial records which is a newer version of the one you introduced last year.  It is impossible to present them the way Jobs did.  The audience just won’t respond.  You may need to justify the presentation with more content, more words on slides, more data.

I am a great admirer of how Jobs presented.  He was a genius.  I loved that his slides were sparse, that he was disciplined to stick to a few points, that he spoke to the audience and not the screen behind him.  He had a terrific, yet simple mantra: concrete/simple/emotional.

Look at the new iMac.  It’s thin and light (concrete), it’s so thin it can slide into a manila envelope (simple). Isn’t it fabulous (emotional).”

There are lots of things we can learn from him (Read: Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs by Carmine Gallo).  But, applying all of his techniques to each person’s presentation is never going to work.

Learn from the master, then make it fit your style and product.

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