In honor of its 30th anniversary, here is Steve Jobs presenting Apple’s Macintosh computer for the first time. Many, many things have changed over the intervening years, but one fact has remained constant: wearing a bow tie is always a risky wardrobe choice.
When people think of presentation failures they tend to think of things going unexpectedly awry. Dead projectors. Missed flights. Wardrobe malfunctions. Really thirsty politicians. But some presentations are disasters even when they go precisely as planned.
I’ve been holding on to this video of the Samsung Galaxy S4 launch for a while now because it’s just so hard to understand what their marketing team was thinking. My best guess is that they finally decided they’d do something other than just copy Apple. Instead of putting together a streamlined launch presentation, they’d put on a show. With skits!
The video above is the full 50 minute event. I wasn’t having any luck getting it to start playing at my favorite bit, the Drunk Bridesmaid number, so fast-forward to the 38 minute mark if you don’t have the time or the stomach for the whole thing. As many others have pointed out, it’s at least a little sexist. But to me the bigger issue is that they seem to have lost track of why they’re putting on a show in the first place. Sure, you want to entertain your audience so they enjoy themselves and keep paying attention. But what’s important here is selling phones, not Broadway-level production values.
As you put together your presentations, keep in mind what you want to accomplish. Remember that all the pieces of your presentation (your slides, jokes, stories, musical numbers) are there to support your message. They should never distract from or overwhelm it.
Are drunk bridesmaids going to help you sell phones to women? Probably not.
Most presentations rely on logical arguments to try to persuade an audience–and that’s one of the reasons that so many of them fail. Charts, facts and figures tend to bore an audience and make them tune out. Making an emotional connection, on the other hand, is much more likely to be effective. It’s something that every speaker should try to include in their presentations.
When it comes creating advertising–which is really just another presentation format–Apple is the undisputed master at making people feel that they need something, even if it’s just a smaller version of something they already own. There’s a lot that any presenter can learn from how they work their magic to create that kind of desire.
Here’s a great example of how Apple deploys emotional content to sell its products. They don’t use any of the new iPad Mini’s specifications in order to make you want the new toy. This ad don’t even use any words other than the product’s name. Instead, Apple appeals to nostalgia with the childhood ritual of learning to play “Heart and Soul” on the piano, using the size difference between the two iPads to suggest a child playing along with an adult. Watching the piece for the first time during the keynote event literally gave me a warm fuzzy feeling, even though I’ve never played the piano.
With all the news about Steve Jobs stepping down as Apple’s CEO, it seemed like a good week to write about the impact that his presentations have made on the company and on all of us. But CNET has done such a good job of collecting his talks that I thought I’d just share their work. Check out their compilation, starting with a very young Steve bopping to the Flashdance theme.
I’m of two minds about whether Facebook is a force for good or evil in our lives. But I am pretty amazed about how it has helped me reconnect in person with friends I haven’t seen in ages. Last year I had lunch in Washington DC with my friend Liz Wiley, who I hadn’t talked to since high school (hi Liz!). And a couple of months ago I managed to have dinner with Tim Goldsmith after discovering that we were both in Atlanta on business. Connecting wasn’t easy since neither of us knew the city very well and the GPS in his rental car seemed to be giving him lousy directions, but we finally met up at Taqueria del Sol in Decatur.
I’m not sure I’d seen him since we lived in Santa Cruz in 1990, so we had a lot to catch up on. As usually happens in these situations, one of the first things to come up was work. It’s kind of a shame how that happens, isn’t it? He told me about his brand new job and I explained that I was developing public speaking and presentation skills training.
“You should just tell your students to take all of the junk off of their slides and then show them a video of Steve Jobs,” Tim said.
It’s not exactly a comprehensive course, but it’s a good piece of advice if it’s all you have time for.
The Times‘ David Pogue offers some great advice for speakers in Technology, or Lack Thereof, at the Podium. Some of his anecdotes will be hilarious and painful for anyone who does much public speaking because they’ll recognize that moment of dread when they know that things aren’t going to turn out the way they’d hoped. My most recent painful encounter with an AV guy happened when I was scheduled to give a talk at an big technology company. I was prepared with all the right dongles (Pogue is right– Macs tend to make AV people panic, so be sure to let them know you’ve brought your own ASAP) but asked my host to send someone to turn on their projector and sound equipment because I didn’t want to screw anything up.
The guy arrived quickly, but was obviously already stressed at 8:30 in the morning. He grunted, flipped a switch or two and greeted me by saying “they never should have scheduled you for this.” Luckily his attitude softened a bit when I flashed my dongle and he saw that I wasn’t a rookie who would be requiring a lot of hand-holding. Still, what a warm greeting and great way to start the day….
The key to avoiding the kind of technology disasters Pogue describes (and ingratiating yourself with the AV guy) is to be as prepared as possible. Visit the room in advance so you’ll know what you’re dealing with. Bring printed copies of your presentation as a back-up plan. And make sure you have all of the equipment you’ll need by checking in advance with the people running the facility you’ll be using. Even better, bring everything you need with you. It’s not a bad idea to arrive with your own cables, remote, even your own projector if possible. An iPhone or iPad can make a great remote control or act as a the kind of “confidence monitor” that Pogue describes. I’ve even used them as teleprompters for recording video.
Whatever you do, make sure to befriend the AV guy. If it’s a catered event offer him a doughnut or a sandwich. You need him on your side!
If you’re going to try to sell a big idea (like an office building that looks like a space donut and houses 12,000 employees) you might as well bring out the big guns.
So Apple CEO Steve Jobs– who’s been on a tear with the public events this week– showed up at the Cupertino City Council meeting last night to present Apple’s proposal for their new campus. At this point Jobs’ first-rate abilities as a salesman are pretty much unquestioned. What I find fascinating about this clip is how star-struck the audience and the City Council members all appear. They just can’t stop smiling at the idea that Steve Jobs is there speaking to them.
Few of us have that level of celebrity at our disposal, but this is a great example of how powerful a personal appearance– a presentation– can be when you want to accomplish something; a little human interaction can go a long way. Tonight the evening news here in the Bay Area had a clip of one of the City Council people saying that he had no doubt that the project would be approved, even though the review process hasn’t even begun yet.
Looks like Jobs will find it considerably easier to build Apple’s new home than it was for him to demolish his old house: