Learning from Steve Jobs: Executive Presentations Made Perfect

The other day, a girl friend of mine came to visit and she was cooking up a storm in my kitchen. Before she placed the dishes out on the dining table, she was feverishly decorating the dishes with garnishes, wiping off the edge of the dishes, looking up matching colors of plates and napkins for the table, and even grabbed one of my crystal vases from next to the TV and put it on the table like a centerpiece (sans flowers). “People eat with their eyes,” she said to me with a big smile, expert-like. “Presentation is everything!”

Is presentation everything? Yesterday I came across this link on Twitter about this new book called The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs written by Carmine Gallo. Apparently, Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ presentation has harnessed enough attention that some experts are analyzing and advising executives to present like Steve. So what is it about Steve’s presentations that warrant our emulation?

Here are the FIVE key takeaways:

  • Introduce the antagonist
  • Create Twitter-friendly headlines
  • Sell dreams, not products or services
  • Keep your presentation sophisticatedly SIMPLE
  • Rehearse, rehearse and rehearse

1)      Just like any story, there’s always an antagonist. If your company, product or service is the hero, how would you open up the presentation? You would set the stage and give your audience the lay of the land, that your company can make things better and restore equilibrium to the situation. Essentially, here’s where you explain why you’re doing what you’re doing, and why you’re introducing your product/service to the world the way it is. 

2)      How people write their Twitter updates (140 characters only) is what you want to strive for in describing your product or service. Keep the description short, sweet and significant. “Our cleaning products can clean up any mess at home”, “Our restaurant offers you the best Italian experience outside of Italy,” or “Our service revolutionizes the way medical billing is done.” Weighty claims, short statements.

3)      Change is in the air. After all, what you’re selling is going to set off changes in the way people do business, conduct their lives and deliver better outcome. Tell the story about your product or service in the same way – what positive changes or experience people should expect from using your product or service.

4)      Simplicity is the way to go, or in Steve’s words, the “Zen” way. What’s so Zen about Steve’s presentations is they’re all simple, clean and professional-looking. Though dramatic in his delivery, Steve made his slides easy to follow, attention-grabbing and focused with key, memorable messages. He believes simplicity demonstrates sophistication – love this concept!

5)      Since we were kids, our parents would constantly remind us how “practice makes perfect.” Presentations are no exceptions. Steve Jobs is maniacal with his practice and rehearsals, sometimes spending over 100 hours on one presentation. I’m not talking about putting the slides together, but rehearsing the actual delivery of the presentation. No wonder he speaks so effortlessly and elegantly on stage. What admirable diligence!

Watch Steve Jobs’ keynotes and presentations here: http://www.apple.com/quicktime/guide/appleevents/

The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs – How to be insanely great in front of any audience http://abcnews.go.com/video/playerIndex?id=8655775

For other discussion on Steve Jobs’ presentations: http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/content/jan2008/sb20080125_269732.htm; http://www.presentationzen.com/presentationzen/2008/01/5-presentation.html

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