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Steve Jobs: Creating an Engaging Presentation

Even after his death, Steve Jobs continues to be an idol of the business community constantly receiving praise for his dedication to innovation and excellence. There are an endless number of lessons one can learn from the late Apple guru, but one in particular that we can focus on is how he beautifully mastered the art of presentations. He seemed to give as much care to the impact of his presentations as he did to the product he was showcasing. Below are three lessons we can takeaway from the former CEO of Apple.

Show Passion for What You’re Presenting

In any given video of Steve Jobs talking about Apple or anything he was working on, his passion for it is immediately apparent. His ability to be inspired and immerse himself in any project he took a part in, coupled with his famously less-than-mild temperament, made every one of his presentations an invigorating sight to see.

There’s no replica for genuine passion about what you do, but giving off a positive vibe during your presentation will always work in your favor. Enthusiasm, openness, and a smile will make you and by extension your presentation, more likable by your audience.

Utilize a Simple, yet Dynamic Visual Aid

Jobs created an iconic platform for his product presentations that were always immediately recognizable by most anyone. A large, black stage with an enormous screen, behind a plainly dressed Jobs, who wears a slim microphone attached to his ear.

His visual aid, the PowerPoint presentation on the giant screen behind him, is remarkably simple. Each slide has either a single picture or sentence projected on it. This enables each slide have all the more impact and keeps the audience’s main focus on what Jobs is saying.

Work the Audience: Build and Relieve Suspense

This may seem like an abstract idea, but it’s key when engaging an audience – a great presentation is a performance. You need highs and lows–to build suspense and then release it and Steve Jobs was able to execute this perfectly.

While it takes a talented dramatist to replicate what Jobs does during these presentations, you can replicate the emotional effect he has on his audience by rehearsing and  also ensuring that you have everything you need.

-Plan your speech with care. Coordinate your talking points with a visual accompaniment. Especially if you’re making a sell, timing and suspense is everything. Identify a seemingly unsolvable problem, use it to build anticipation, then relieve it with your carefully crafted solution.

-Great speakers and presenters don’t just roll out of bed and wow an audience. They work at it tirelessly. Write out all your cues and talking points, then rehearse this until you’ve perfected what you’re going to say. If speaking in public makes you uncomfortable, rehearsing and then showing up prepared can give you the assurance you need.

-Crafting the perfect PowerPoint for a grand slam presentation can take a lot of expertise. Even if you have the Graphic Design and storyboard experience to make a professional-grade presentation, this can take a huge amount of time that you could otherwise use perfecting your talking points. Using professional PowerPoint designers and specialists is imperative for taking a presentation to the next level.

While few of us have the brilliant spark that let Jobs captivate an audience the way he did throughout his life, with some practice, we can learn some of the ways that made him such a inspiring and innovative figure.

Presentation Lessons from the Fed; Intentional Vagueness & Ambiguity

“I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”

Ladies and gentlemen, Alan Greenspan.

In 1987, Alan Greenspan famously said this and confused the crap out of a reporter questioning him about his plans for the Federal Reserve’s position on some matter, which for the sake of this article, is no longer important. Understanding the coded financial jargon, known as “Fedspeak” (a deliberate parallel to “Newspeak” of George Orwell’s novel, “1984”), used by U.S. Federal Reserve officials, is quite the challenge.

Greenspan, much like every other Fed board chairman in history, intentionally uses this vague and ambiguous dialect to answer questions about their monetary policy. In doing this, they can prevent financial markets from overreacting to their remarks. According to Alan Greenspan, the recognized chief in “Fedspeak,” using the coded dialect involves, “purposeful obfuscation to avoid certain questions coming up, which you know you can’t answer.” Here’s an example:

The Fed originally said: “The Committee will maintain the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent and continues to anticipate that economic conditions, including low rates of resource utilization, subdued inflation trends, and stable inflation expectations, are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels for the federal funds rate for an extended period.”

The Fed’s official explanation of this “Fedspeak” phrase reads: “Extended period is conditioned on resource slack, on subdued inflation and on stable inflation expectations.”

Nevertheless, some observers think the phrase actually means something closer to: “the U.S. economy is still doing pretty poorly, and so we really have no clue as to how long the economy will take to recover enough for the Fed to start raising interest rates.”

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Although “Fedspeak” may be useful in political, economic, or governmental situations, a corporate presentation should be exactly the opposite. Any presentation expert will agree with the fact that clear, concise, and tangible information is necessary for a successful and effective PowerPoint presentation.

Have a story to tell before you start creating your PowerPoint presentation. Once you can clearly define your beginning, middle and end, you are ready to begin the presentation design and sequence.

The best way to avoid ambiguity and confusion in your audience can be found in a “three-act story” structure. This structure revolves around these three questions that your audience will ask themselves:

  1. Why should I care?
  2. How will your product make my life better?
  3. What action would I need to take?

Instead of using 30 different statistics, 4 slides of technical data or long background stories, focus on simple, clear, direct language. Make your content easy to understand, easy to remember, and better yet, easy to share. Make your content into universal converter (those big bulky blocks you take on trips to Europe to charge you phone or camera) .

Your content should be universally transferable from Facebook statuses, to Tweets, to text messages. The easier it is for people to share, the more they will.

Ill leave you with Leonardo Da Vinci’s philosophy that Steve Jobs often quoted: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

 

Reference:

Alkalay, Leo. “Understanding Fedspeak.eToro Blog. June 17, 2011.

Body Movement in your Presentation; How to Make it or Break it

Would you deem it appropriate for Obama to give his State of the Union address while sitting in a “chris-cross-applesauce” position? No, you would not. That is because you know that he would look childish, immature, unprofessional, and similar to how I sat in elementary school.  Body language dictates how we are perceived in any situation. On a very base, subconscious level, and this goes double when we’re in front of an audience, body language can make or break what people think of us and what we are saying in a matter of seconds. When all eyes are on you, your movements, posture and body language carry more gravity than usual, so each requires even more attention on your part.

Most studies find that verbal communication makes up less than 10 percent of all human communication, while nonverbal communication (i.e. body language, eye contact, etc.) makes up roughly 55 percent of communications. Here are a few tips to guarantee your body is portraying the message that aligns with your professional presentation.

 

Face your audience head on

Take a power stance: Square your shoulders to the direction of the audience and plant your feet far enough apart to be sturdy and balanced. However, if you’ve ample space when presenting, utilize it. Facing your audience head on doesn’t mean becoming a statue. Make it a deliberate point to move from point to point while you speak. This will give you a more vibrant, commanding presence that will demand attention from your audience.

Steve Jobs at an Apple presentation
Apple co-founder Steve Jobs utilizes his large floor space while remaining open to the audience.

Eye contact

Eye contact is a pivotal part of communication in Western culture. The unspoken understanding is that when a person avoids eye contact, it’s because they’re lying or nervous. When presenting, eye contact is vital in order to ensure your audience trusts the validity of what you’re saying.

A good trick is to pick out three people in the audience: one in the center of the audience, one in the left corner, and one in the right corner; Alternate between them.

Some will tell you all you need to do is pick a few spots on the back wall of the room, but the problem here is that you’re not actually connecting with anyone, and that can make the presentation feel insincere or inhuman. Eye contact is vital for making a connection with your audience.

Never underestimate the importance of good posture

Superman having great posture wearing a cape
Superman, the epitome of cape wearers and good posture, has the puffed-out chest and arched back.

An upright, open posture can signify success, confidence, honesty, positivity, vibrancy—the list is practically endless. The point is: have good posture. If you often catch yourself slouching, try standing and walking as if you were wearing a cape; that’ll give you a good idea of how you should be standing.

Posture is especially important when presenting, because it’s directly correlated to being perceived as confident. Your audience doesn’t want to listen to someone who doesn’t appear to be resolute in the message he or she is presenting.

While having a well-designed PowerPoint presentation from a PowerPoint specialist can go a long way in creating a clear, convincing professional presentation, there’s no substitute for confidence. Body language can reveal a lot about a person, and when correctly mastered, can do a great deal to ensure a lasting impression on others. The most important thing is to relax, remain open, and be comfortable in your own skin.