Steve Jobs is widely acknowledged as one of the most influential and inspiring business leaders of his generation. Even after his passing 7 years ago, he is still one of the most powerful faces of Apple and the tech industry. However, it wasn’t just his business-savvy, competitiveness and vision that created his iconic status – it was his ability to present. Here are some lessons taken from Steve Jobs that anyone can use to make a more powerful impact during their professional business presentations.
- Put a bit of you into the mix: When we think in terms of business presentations, we often totally ignore our own personality and style in order to focus on facts, spreadsheets and charts. The best speakers, however, bring their own flavour into the presentation. Jobs often showed his own excitement on stage – something not thought of as being very business-like – calling his products “cool”, “amazing” or even “pretty doggone gorgeous”. It showed his personal investment in a project and his passion for sharing it with people – something that drew in his audience with great effect.
- Concise, captivating slides: PowerPoint presentations aren’t usually something that anyone looks to as a source of intrigue or excitement, but that’s overlooking just how useful they can be for engaging your audience. Think about using headline slides in a similar format to Tweets – short, sweet and mysterious enough to make people want more. Jobs was great at creating these phrases to make people sit up and take notice during a presentation. For example, “iPod: One thousand songs in your pocket” introduced a revolutionary music storage device in just 7 words that showed people exactly how this device would impact their lives.
- Don’t rely on the slides: Although Jobs used to present in front of a screen where he could show images and text points, the main focus of the presentation was always on him. He even went so far as to say that “people who know what they are talking about don’t need PowerPoint”. This doesn’t mean throwing out your slides though – it means owning your presentation and relying on your knowledge rather than on dozens of slides. By knowing your subject matter inside out, you’ll feel more confident, more in charge of the presentation, and your audience will feel more engaged as a result.
- Don’t get bogged down in the details: Presenting is a challenge for many reasons, one of which is that as an insider on a project, you’ve got hundreds of hours behind you on the subject. Now, you’ve got to work that into a presentation that’s 30 minutes long, and every single detail seems equally important because it’s been your whole focus for such a long time. However, to make your presentation meaningful and effective, you need to be ruthless with the details, cutting out the bloat so that you create a simple, clear message that contains the essentials. As Jobs said, “Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean and make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains”. Remember, you can always have a Q&A in the last few minutes to elaborate on your core presentation.
- Failure is the price of success: Many people have a fear of public speaking that makes the idea of presenting a nightmare. Although Jobs didn’t express having had this fear, he understood the price of failing at something. In fact, he was once quoted as saying “I’m the only person I know who’s lost a quarter of a billion dollars in one year. It’s very character building”. And if he can bounce back from that, then we can certainly bounce back from those terrifying school speeches where our minds went blank!
- Practice, practice, practice: The other side to the coin is old-school practice – the best way to learn your subject matter, streamline your concepts and build that essential confidence. Jobs’ presentations looked like a casual conversation with friends and so they appeared effortless, but the truth is that he had a rigorous set of rules and requirements to follow to ensure every single segment, script and technical element was rehearsed and refined several times at an individual and team level. He applied these same rules to himself, even ensuring he spent 2 full days preceding a keynote address to rehearse repeatedly, complete with test audience.
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