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It takes more than jeans and a black turtleneck to give a good presentation.

Book Review: The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs by Carmine Gallo

We’ve learned a lot about charisma and effective speeches by studying President Obama’s delivery this year. But Steve Jobs, Apple, Inc. CEO, also knows how to take charge of a room, and work the audience to his advantage. In The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, author Carmine Gallo, a Businessweek.com columnist, dissects Jobs’s presentation skills, and provides a road map to making a better impact on your audience.

 Steve Jobs works on his speeches as he does his brand, where he turns Apple prospects into customers and customers into evangelists.

 Most people fail to think through their story, resulting in, at best, an uneven delivery of their message. Jobs works hard at the elements of a good presentation, before creating any slides, focusing on stories, characters and story-boards. His success comes from thinking, sketching and scripting, rather than filling in a boring bullet-point template.
Presentation software makes it far too easy to overload the brain. Gallo cites neurology research that proves bullet points are the least effective way to deliver important information “The brain is fundamentally a lazy piece of meat,” says Gregory Berns in Iconoclast.

 Gallo includes an interesting section titled “Bullets Kill” about over-reliance on PowerPoint templates to tell and sell your story. There are actually nine elements of a great presentation, including your “passion statement,” the use of metaphors, and crafting your message to deliver three key points.

 Things in threes is a big part of Jobs’s communication strategy. People are overwhelmed with too much detail and can easily focus on just three specific points. A narrative delivered in three parts provides direction for your audience, and if you’re as talented as Jobs, you build drama with each point.

 

Gallo uses the rule of three to break down presentation development into three parts as well: Create the story, deliver the experience (not the presentation), and package the material.  

Introducing sexy new technology to Mac lovers might seem like an easy sell, but just imagine the fallout if Jobs didn’t get his core message across. If thousands of people left a MacWorld convention with wrong information the result would be confusion in the market, dissension among fans, and a lot of bad press to re-spin. Jobs knows how to deliver a sound bite right, such as the introduction of the MacBook Air, saying: “It’s the world’s thinnest notebook,” instead of saying "The MacBook Air is 0.16 inches thick.”

 Jobs is also known for his use of fun terms and unexpected words that are exciting and non-technical. His language is simple, concrete and makes an emotional connection through the use of descriptive adjectives. He follows the Zen kanso principle: “to express great beauty and convey powerful messages through simplification.” Jobs displays the same love of simplicity that users enjoy in Apple’s streamlined products.

 Among the many principles of good presentations mentioned in The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, Gallo gives strong evidence for using pictures in presentations, stating research that shows the benefits of multisensory presentations as an aid in recalling information later, and useful strategies for contiguous and coherent presentation of images. 

Why work so hard at presenting? Jobs doesn’t sell a product, he sells the dream of a better future. That takes skill and time to master. Of course, it’s easier to emulate his techniques for exciting technology but the same principles can be put to work for presentations covering any topic.

It’s time we all learn what the author calls the 10 minute rule. “Your audience checks out after ten minutes. Not eleven minutes, but ten.“ Steve Jobs is a master of keeping people from boredom by breaking his presentations into active parts: demo, video clips, bringing on another person for a brief segment, all done with humor, passion and sincerity.

 You may think you know how to stand and deliver a presentation but you'll learn a lot from The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs about body language. With Jobs, even his vocal delivery has careful pauses and delivery that makes people listen. He leaves nothing to chance.

 In all presentations, remember the audience member who’s thinking: “Why should I care?” When planning your outline, make sure you consider that at the outset to deliver the best, most relevant, persuasive, and interesting presentation, whether speaking to an audience of one or 1,000. The next time you step up to deliver a presentation, if you apply even just three of these tips you’ll be ahead of the game. If you use everything you learn in The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, you’ll likely even be invited back.

About Helen Gallagher

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