Book review: Present like Steve Jobs (be insanely great)

The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience

By Carmine Gallo

McGraw Hill

Ten minutes, three highlights, one headline and no bullets.

That’s the winning formula if you’re looking to deliver the presentation of your career. A presentation that moves an audience to action. A presentation that gets you the greenlight for your big idea. A presentation that rallies the troops, raises the roof and changes the way the rest of us see the world.

In other words, a presentation that borrows from the playbook of Steve Jobs.  Fortune Magazinenamed Jobs CEO of the Decade.

Author and columnist Carmine Gallo would add another accolade. “Steve Jobs is the most captivating communicator on the world stage,” says Gallo. “No one else comes close. A Jobs presentation unleashes a rush of dopamine into the brains of his audience.  Jobs is a magnetic pitchman who sells his ideas with a flair that turns prospects into customers and customers into evangelists.”

Gallo has studied keynote presentations delivered by Jobs and come up with a set of simple-to-learn techniques that the rest of us mere mortals can adopt to take our presentations to the next level.

Talk for no more than 10 minutes at a time. Any longer and you’ll lose your audience. If you’re on tap to fill a half hour or 45 minutes on an agenda, use demonstrations and show and tells to break up your talk. Or share the stage with a colleague. “Your audience checks out after 10 minutes,” says Gallo. He says Jobs doesn’t give the brain time to get bored. In a 30 minute presentation, he’ll work in demonstrations, guest speakers and video clips.

With your presentation, stick to the three main highlights you want to share with your audience. Serve up more than three or four and you’ll confuse us, overwhelm us and lose our attention. There’s a reason Goldilocks met three bears rather than four or 12.

Anchor your speech or presentation around a compelling headline, the one key message you want everyone to remember.  Borrowing from Twitter, use 140 characters or less to sum up the main point you’re trying to get across. Embed that headline throughout your speech.  

Your headline needs to answer the one question every audience asks at the start of every presentation – why should I care? Why should I listen to what you have to say.

“If your product will help your customers make money, tell them. If it helps them save money, tell them. If it makes it easier or more enjoyable for them to perform a particular tasks, tell them. Tell them early, often and clearly. Nobody has time to listen to a pitch or presentation that holds no benefit.”

When Jobs unveiled the iPod back in 2001, he had a clear, compelling headline that hammered home the benefit of the portable MP3 player. One thousand songs in your pocket.

Don’t fire up PowerPoint until you’ve written out your speech. Skip the standard template served up by PowerPoint  and opt instead for a blank page. Put a single word or key message on each page that synchs with your presentation and reinforces your key messages and your headline. Add some photos and graphics into the mix. But whatever you do, don’t use bullets.

“There are no bullet points in a Steve Jobs presentation,” says Gallo. “Texts and bullets are the least effective way to deliver information intended to be recalled and acted upon. Save your bullet points for grocery lists. Remember, it’s the story, not the slides, that will capture the imagination of your audience.”

Once you’ve got your script and your supporting slides, rehearse and refine your remarks. Be prepared to invest hours getting comfortable with your presentation, focusing not just on what you’re going to say but how you’re going to say it. Make your presentation look effortless and spontaneous.

According to Gallo, Jobs spends many hours over many days preparing for a single presentation. Jobs also spends a ton of time reviewing and rewriting the slides that will go along with his keynote. “Ordinary speakers become extraordinary because they practice,” says Gallo.

Lots of practice lets you get out from behind the podium and ditch the prepared remarks. Instead of reading to the audience, you can make a connection and have a conversation. Bring a summary of the points you want to cover off to help you stay on track.

“Toss the script,” says Gallo. “Notes will interfere with the emotional connection you need to establish with your audience, detracting from the presentation experience. Theatrics can turn an average presentation into an extraordinary event. A script gets in the way.”

And there’s one last key ingredient for an insanely great presentation. “Steve Jobs is motivated by a messianic zeal to change the world, to put a ‘dent in the universe’,” says Gallo. “In order for these techniques to work, you must cultivate a profound sense of mission. If you are passionate about your topic, you’re 80 per cent closer to developing the magnetism that Jobs has.”

If you don’t have the passion, don’t present until you’ve found it or found someone who has it.

So let’s make a pact, you and I. Before the year is out, let’s deliver the presentation of our careers whether we’re infront of an audience of 10, 100 or 1,000 at work or in the community.  And, to borrow the standard opening line from Jobs’ keynote presentations, now let’s get started.

Published by

Jay Robb

I've reviewed more than 500 business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999 and worked in public relations since 1993.

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