More Things Steve Jobs Can Teach Us About Delivering a Powerful Presentation

You don’t have to reinvent the computer to become great at giving speeches.

Who wouldn’t want to give a presentation as great as the ones Steve Jobs delivered?

He didn’t just announce a new Apple product; he found ways to get the audience as excited as possible while masterfully making that Apple product the next “must have” item. Don’t believe me? Check out his 2007 iPhone launch speech. Replace Jobs with a popular music act and the audience would be just as amped.

Thankfully, you don’t have to invent the next hot tech gadget or wear a black turtleneck to present as well as he did. There are some key takeaways from his speeches that anyone in business can sprinkle into their own communications.

Whether you’re pitching to a VC, trying to sell to a customer, or just getting your team amped up on a Monday morning, incorporate these elements and see how far they’ll take you:

Have a “Tweet-friendly headline”

Carmine Gallo, the author of 7 Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, dubbed this term for Jobs’ one sentence summaries of the product he was presenting. Some of them include “Mac Book Air: the world’s thinnest notebook”, and “iPod: One thousand songs in your pocket.”

His intro sentences were so great because they clearly outlined what the product did while creating intrigue. Rather than rambling on, he used them to perfectly convey his message as compactly as possible.

Whether you’re just writing a Tweet or presenting a new product, you can do something similar–try to cut the fat as much as possible (while still conveying your main point) to keep your audience glued.

Show your passion

You might be incredibly passionate about your business or new product, but nobody else knows that.

Take a page from Jobs, who not only acted excited, but sprinkled in words like “cool” or “amazing”, and once said “it looks pretty doggone gorgeous” with a huge smile after revealing a new iPhone.

Most speakers make the mistake of solely focusing on the topic ahead, and leaving their personality out of it. Like Jobs, you eventually want to exude passion from every pore instead. For some baby steps, you can include a few reasons you’re so excited about something when presenting it. You shouldn’t be afraid to be confident and say why you think your great product is so “amazing” or “awesome.”

Ditch the PowerPoint

Jobs famously said “people who know what they’re talking about don’t need PowerPoint.”

Microsoft rivalry aside, he had a great point. I know I roll my eyes thinking about the hours-long slideshows I had to deal with on Wall Street while fighting off falling asleep. That’s why instead of relying on PowerPoint, Jobs kept the audience’s eyeballs on him to keep them awake.

It might take some work, but by remembering your talking points (instead of looking at a screen every five seconds), you can rely less on PowerPoint and more on yourself. If you absolutely have a burning desire to use PowerPoint, consider using those “Tweet-friendly headlines” instead of a wall of text.

Numbers are your new friend

Just like this article’s headline, Jobs used number outlines to draw the audience in.

Rather than leaving the audience guessing, he said things like “Today we are introducing three revolutionary products. The first, a widescreen iPod with touch controls. The second, is a revolutionary mobile phone. And the third is a breakthrough Internet communications device.”

This tip is simple, but powerful. Start using it today.

Tailor to the audience

“Your audience is in the room for a particular reason. It’s critical to understand why they’re listening to you so you can tune your presentation in a manner that makes them more receptive listeners,” said Jim Confalone, co-founder of ProPoint Graphics when he analyzed Jobs’ speeches.

Whether you’re networking or presenting, it’s important to realize that it should never be a one-sided conversation. When you gear your conversation towards others’ interests, you’ll find an attentive audience like Jobs.

Practice, practice, practice

“Jobs unveils Apple’s latest products as if he were a particularly hip and plugged-in friend showing off inventions in your living room. Truth is, the sense of informality comes only after grueling hours of practice,” said a Business Week article.

When was the last time you spent hours rehearsing a speech or practicing a presentation? Jobs wasn’t born being a great communicator, he worked hard at it. If you put in the elbow grease, you can be just as great as him.

Don’t worry about mistakes

Nobody’s perfect; even Jobs wasn’t when he presented.

Carmine Gallo points out that Jobs wanted to show photos from a website during a presentation once, but the screen went black instead. He laughed it off and said “Well, I guess Flickr isn’t serving up the photos today.”

This applies to everything in life, but is especially useful during presentations: take mistakes in strides. While you should learn from them, you shouldn’t let them hold you back.

Elle Kaplan

CEO, Lexion Capital Management

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