Why Not Every Presentation Should Be Like Steve Jobs’s

Many of us would agree that Steve Jobs’ presentations can be considered to have ‘legendary’ status. We’ve probably come across them in some way, either through watching Apple’s WWDC, or reading articles and books such as Carmine Gallo’s that was dedicated to discussing his speeches.

Ever since the unveiling of the iPhone in 2007, the less-text, highly visual and ‘big picture’ style of presentations have grown in appeal to presenters from all walks of life. In fact, if you were to compare it to Bill Gates circa 2000, it would seem that Steve’s unorthodox approach to presentation visuals and their format was at odds with how the rest of the corporate world delivered their presentations at the time.

It stood out amongst text-heavy presentations that put people to sleep, gave audiences the breath of fresh air they needed to remain engaged, and enthralled many with the aesthetic presentation approach. This is why it is now the gold standard of an ideal keynote presentation.

But is that really the best?

Contrary to popular belief, this style of presenting may not always be the best catchall definition of an ‘effective’ presentation. Instead, presentations should be designed according to their contexts.

The problem is, most people tried to follow suit without understanding two things:

  1. Steve Jobs could get away with that style of presenting because he had the autonomy to do it.
  2. This format of presenting may be great for a keynote speech, but might not fit every setting.

Put it this way – if you had to speak to your company’s CEO and a five-year-old child about a topic, would you use the same tone towards both? Similarly, different presentation settings require different styles, and different audiences require different ways of reaching out to them. This is why a Steve Jobs, TED-style presentation will not work in a boardroom, and a text-heavy slide deck may not succeed at a conference.

Presentations that follow the style frequently used by Apple work best for on-stage presentations at large events such as WWDC or TED talks. These situations are occasions where visually impactful slides make a huge difference and help to bring across key messages quickly to numerous audience members in a short timeframe.

However, in boardroom meetings where critical decisions need to be made by the audience, such presentations may end up backfiring as they may seem fluffy and probably lack important information needed to support the decision-making process. Instead, the presentations have to go beyond inspiring audiences and should involve slightly text-heavy slides with fewer images.

In short – Just like how we dress appropriately for different social functions, presentations are most effective when they are designed with the audience and the context in mind. Touting one particular style of presenting as a catch-all method for various kinds of presentations might be a segue towards career suicide.

Regardless of whether you’re using PowerPoint or other presentation software, the principles tend to be the same – you need to cater your presentation towards the setting. We encourage learners in our presentation skills courses to always be aware of the context before developing their presentations.

So let’s talk about the five different styles of presentations you may encounter, and the best approach for each of them.

presentation matrix - HighSpark

The Presentation-type Matrix

1. Keynote Speeches

The typical objective of a keynote speech is to inspire and help the audience retain key points quickly. This is why the content generally focuses more on the “why” rather than the “what”; for example, in most TED talks, speakers pull together stories with the main take-home message that is both insightful and impactful. In these situations, the presentations generally involve fewer words, highly visual and meaningful images, and a couple of key points.

These speeches are commonly also littered with literary devices like analogies, quotes and other tools for presentations. Steve’s presentations are notorious for having lines like: “And one more thing…” and also anecdotes of how customers use Apple’s products.

A good example to check out would be organizational psychologist Adam Grant’s TED talk, ‘Are You a Giver or a Taker?’. He wove in various experiences from interactions with others into a narrative that highlighted his key message: Why helping others drives our success.

2. Marketing Presentations

Marketing decks are generally created with the aim of spreading awareness about a product, organization, or initiative, and hopefully, gain an initial buy-in, hence they’re shared across various platforms such as the internet or social media. One popular example would be SlideShare, a social platform that allows users to upload their presentations on the site.

Like many of the featured SlideShare presentations, the content of the presentation deck is generally structured in a narrative, with minimal text and visually impactful stock images and icons to sustain the interest of the readers.

The general rule of thumb here is that your digital presentations that need to stand alone should have just enough text for it to be consumable without a presenter to walk through it but at the same time brief enough to be skimmed through quickly. Steve Jobs was well-known to have his slides designed to be as brief as possible. The problem with this approach without a presenter is that the audience can’t make meaning from such presentations.

Remember, in the digital world, most of us have extremely short attention spans. Think of your marketing materials as a hook – provide just the right amount of information to arouse interest, so that the audience is motivated to find out more. If there are too many details, it is difficult for them to maintain interest.

3. Sales Decks

Like what its name suggests, sales decks are generally used by salespeople to present their product to a client, with the aim of closing a deal. Chances are, you’ve gotten a foot-in-the-door beforehand with your marketing materials and numerous follow-ups, so your audience already knows the big picture. Now that they’re in the buying-decision process, what they want are the key details.

Here, both information and visuals hold equal importance, as the audience needs to visualize in order to be persuaded. At the same time, details should be included to add credibility, and concrete case studies of the products will help to paint a clear picture in their mind on how they can benefit from what you’re offering.

There are three main pillars of a sales presentation: Problems, Solutions, and Benefits. You need to show your audience that you understand the problems that they’re facing, how you can be their solution, and what are the benefits of choosing you instead of your competitors or sticking to the status quo. So when you meet your prospect for the first time, command their attention by addressing their key challenges, before ever talking about the solutions you offer.

In these presentations, technical aspects and details of your solutions are not required during the first stage of discussion. Instead, leave them until the end, when your audience is at least half-invested in what you’re offering. Unlike a ‘Steve Jobs style’ presentation where you speak about most topics at a high-level, sales presentations sometimes require you to get into the nitty gritty of your solutions.

Auston case study highspark presentation design

Example: Auston Institute Sales Presentation

4. Internal Review Presentations

Mostly used in corporate settings, the main objective of an internal review is usually to align goals amongst the stakeholders and propose areas for further improvements. This is where slapping an image onto a slide without any text just won’t cut it – details are key in this situation.

This can be said to be a polar opposite of Steve’s style of presenting. In many companies, especially larger firms, gathering stakeholders can be a challenge, and not everyone may be able to turn up for the meeting, increasing the likelihood of the presentation deck being disseminated after the meeting. Without sufficient details, the reader will not be able to understand, hence rendering the deck useless. If you try sending something out of Steve Jobs’ presentation during the Worldwide Developer’s Conference, it’s likely you’ll get a mouthful from your boss and colleagues.

In this case, information including ‘Why’, ‘What’, ‘Who’, ‘When’, ‘Where’, and ‘How’ are extremely important, and should be presented in order for stakeholders to make a decision.

This doesn’t mean that your slides have to look wordy and cluttered – your content can be arranged in a fashion that draws your audience’s attention to the key message, and be designed with visuals that add value to the communication of the content.

Internal reviews might not always look pretty, but they need to first and foremost ‘work’.

5. Investor Decks

This is more relevant for startups and new companies on the rise. To reach into the deep pockets of your potential investors, you have to be extremely clear and specific about your strategy to be a highly profitable and successful company. Details need to be shown to give the investors confidence in both your idea and your team.

However, many investor pitch decks (notably the public ones during Demo Day) are required to be delivered in 5-7 minutes. This is why you’ll need to keep your text minimal to allow them to focus on the key message of your pitch. At the same time, every important detail must be shared and highlighted.

So think of it as an elevator pitch – if you only had a minute to convince someone to buy into your idea, what would you say? That’s where your key message lies. When in doubt, have a look at some of the successful pitch deck examples online and you’ll get a good sensing of what’s required.

This is why (similar to keynote speeches) investor decks include fewer words and more images. The emphasis is on getting your audience to see your vision, and envision the same things you want to achieve. The only caveat is if you need this investor presentation to be read by others – then you might need a separate version to stand on its own. In some instances, Steve’s style might work on Demo Day, however in closed doors situations, you might want a little more data on your slide to back you up and support your pointers.

There you have it, five types of presentations for different situations apart from the Steve Jobs ‘TED style presentations’. Remember that those techniques we highlighted above aren’t always the gold standard, you’ll need to apply them correctly for it to be effective.

For your next presentation, keep your audience and purpose of the deck in mind. From there, you can figure out the appropriate style, and apply the right balance of text and images.

Have fun and all the best!

Psst – Which of these styles work best for your presentations? Let us know in the comments below!

3 Public Speaking Tips Every Presenter Must Know

When it comes to public speaking, even the most confident-looking individuals may stumble when faced with a sizable audience. When provided with a powerful platform for sharing messages and ideas, it can be tricky to deliver an excellent performance without losing your nerve. This is why politicians, industry experts, and various performers have allocated a good portion of their lives to acquire the necessary skills to excel in this endeavor.

There are several factors that come into play when speaking to the public: you have to be mindful of how you present yourself; the content of your speech; and how you relay your message. You have to take on a calculative approach while preparing because it will affect you far longer than the time you’re on stage. Improving your skills in public speaking skills can help in generating more awareness for your organization or cause after your engagement is over.

To assist you in preparing for this daunting task, here are three fundamental public speaking tips to knock your next speech out of the park:

Prioritize preparation

public speaking tip: preparing structure, design and story for your speech

Structure, Design, and Stories

Always trust your instincts if you think you’re not 100% prepared. Preparation is key when it comes to public speaking as it allows you to organize your content properly, as well as make it more impactful.

Taking more time to prepare will allow you to add enlightening elements by including personal elements like anecdotes, stories and also let you work on your presentation design. It’s also advisable to watch videos of public speaking professionals on stage to see how they’ve performed and/or how they were able to craft their speeches.

The first stage of preparation is to get into the right mental state where you’ve done the work to build the foundation of your upcoming speech with your stories, slides and the outcome you want to achieve.

Don’t memorize, internalize the delivery

It’s said that the best presenters don’t memorize their speech. Instead, you want to familiarize yourself with the overall structure of the presentation and rather than recite the words verbatim, seek to be conversational.

Intently familiarizing yourself with your content as well as the underlying ideas behind it will lead you to have an easier time in conveying your message in a way that’s authentic and natural.

Try to talk through the presentation out loud and fill in the blanks without memorizing your script, you’ll find that you’re comfortable to even present it without presentation slides or holding a script because the story tends to come out more naturally in speech.

Study your audience

public speaking tip: know your audience before giving your presentation

Part of succeeding in public speaking is making sure that your talk is relevant to the audience.
For example: Speaking to a group of executives about that latest video game will leave your message falling flat even before you’ve truly started to connect.

Create a general evaluation of the demographic present for your speech to reach out to them in the right way.

Level of comprehension

Speaking at a high-level to a novice audience and on a basic level for a technically erudite audience is a public speaking sin you’d want to avoid.

Try to get a hint of the general populace of the audience you’re speaking to and how knowledgeable they are. Are you speaking to senior executives or ones that just joined the company? Are you talking to subject matter experts or sales people that are on the ground?

Different audiences call for different tones and words that you choose to use.

Consider Culture

When presenting in a foreign country, you’d want to pay attention to any cultural differences to avoid a faux pas. Consider if the references you want to make are appropriate or offensive, consider whether the way you’re dressing is well accepted in those communities too.

These considerations will also affect whether you deliver your presentation using a more formal approach or try to adopt a more comedic and lighthearted style of delivery.

Here’s a video of Seth Godin speaking at the Gel Conference with a touch of humor. When speaking to an audience of creatives and marketers, this can be considered apt. If it was an event with a more serious tone or in a conservative society Japan, for instance, this style might not be so appropriate.

Reference Industry Terms

A great way to quickly build rapport and authority with audiences is when you use words that they use in their line of work.

Making your presentation relevant to their every day is a public speaking technique to be adhered to. Spending a little extra time to do a quick Google search to pick up on industry buzzwords and happenings can quickly help you establish common ground with a skeptical audience.

People appreciate it when speakers actually take them into account when preparing for the speech. No matter how hard you may try, the likelihood is that audiences will instantly know if you are insufficiently or altogether unfamiliar with the type of people you’re speaking to.

As general as your topic might be, it’s always better to study your audience first before speaking to them to leave a better impression.

Present an engaging personality

 

obama when public speaking tips

Regardless of the kind of audience you have, however, there is one thing that they always want – an engaging speaker. Even though you’re speaking in public, many people might prefer someone who speaks as if they’re in a private or intimate conversation. A connection is vital in effectively conveying your message, which is your sole objective at the end of the day.

You’re putting forth your own words and methodologies to be absorbed by people who might not be familiar with them. If you don’t share these in an engaging way, you’re setting up yourself for failure.

Take into account your vocal tone, body language, facial expressions, and timing when preparing for a speech. Even simple gestures can significantly contribute to your presentation.

To illustrate, some hand gestures include: placing it on your chest to emphasize an emotional point; showing a number through your fingers after saying it; and using both hands to represent two separate groups. Subtle cues such as these help your audience to keep track of the presentation not only mentally, but visually as well.

Amy Cuddy shares about the power of positive body language and gestures in her widely-acclaimed TED talk:

In addition, you always have to be the first to put in a lot of energy, which is a big ask in a room of anything more than a hundred people. Otherwise, your audience probably won’t have any enthusiasm left to listen until you finish. By doing all of this, you can bridge the divide between you and your listeners. It can also compel them to ask questions at the end, or even try to make your acquaintance once you step off the stage.

Here’s an example of Tony Robbins commanding the stage as one man with a boundless well of energy, notice his exaggerated hand gestures that come in useful when working with a large audience:

Without a doubt, an engaging personality can take you much further in public speaking when managed properly.

Your first foray into public speaking can be nerve-wracking. The best way to circumvent the nervousness is to consistently seek out more public speaking opportunities and perfect your process of preparation. Some of the best presenters of our time still admit to being nervous before their presentations, but they’ve learned to harness that energy to do an even better job!

To summarize, here are the three big public speaking tips that you need to know to boost your next speech:

  1. Prioritize preparation time to garner your public speaking ammunition in the form of stories, visuals, and delivery ability
  2. Study your audiences intimately to ensure you provide relevant content they want to hear about
  3. Present an engaging personality that people want to connect with better hand gestures and energy

Did you enjoy those public speaking tips? Let us know what else you’d like to see in the comments.

15 Bad Speeches We Can Learn From

If you’ve been an avid reader of our blog and generally presentation content on the internet, you’ll likely have been exposed to golden standards of presenting. (Think Steve Jobs) But how often have you encountered bad speeches that you can learn to avoid? Part of being a great public speaker or presenter is knowing what NOT to do so you can safeguard your reputation and speech.

Here are 15 bad speech examples for you to learn from:

Michael Bay quits Samsung

Have you ever forgotten your script, or perhaps experienced a faulty projector while presenting? Well, Michael Bay sure did. At the Samsung CES press conference in 2014, he failed to promote the new Samsung curved TV. After an error with the teleprompter, he apologized and walked off the stage, leaving the audience speechless and confused.

To avoid facing an awkward situation, pay close attention to certain key messages while practising. It will guide you through the presentation and help you recall the points, which could buy you some time to sort your cues.

Questioning Round: Miss Teen USA

In the Miss Teen USA 2007 question and answer round, Caitlin Upton struggled to answer her question: “Recent polls have shown that ⅕ of Americans can’t locate the US on a world map, why do you think this is?” She stumbled through her 30 seconds with an answer that barely made any sense.

You may come across some difficult questions when doing a Q&A session after a presentation. The best way you can deal with an unfamiliar question is to get back to the person after finding the answer. Always think through before replying and if you are unclear, ask them to repeat, or explain their question further. Failing to do so can lead to dire consequences on stage (usually an embarrassing time) if you rush through the question.

Emmy Awards 2013

The chances of winning an Emmy Award is probably one in a million, and award winners typically thank their families, producers and so on. However, all Merritt Wever had to say was “thank you so much. okay, I got to go. Bye.” The audience was baffled at the situation.

One thing that we can definitely learn from this is to have a prepared speech if you know you are being nominated. It may come off as rude if you don’t do so as you will leave the audience hanging, expectant of a thank you speech.

Melania Trump’s Republican National Convention Speech

Melania Trump’s speech at the Republican National Convention 2016 caused a huge controversy and uproar. Many observers were able to tell that her words were extremely similar to former First Lady Michelle Obama’s previous speech.

There may be days when you are inspired by others, and decide to put their speeches into yours. Do give the owners credit for it, which simply be done by mentioning these phrases, “quoted by”,”mention by” or “from”.

Theresa May’s Calamitous Conference Speech

This may be one of the most catastrophic speeches of all. The conference was to address and reassure her party’s political members about Brexit and Britain’s future. Amongst this seriousness, a comedian rudely disrupts her by handing over a resignation form and props behind were falling apart. Besides that, she was coughing endlessly into the mic, trying to proceed with the speech.

Props to her for trying to keep things together after an interruption, but coughing into the mic may seem unprofessional and unhygienic. One way to tackle these bad speeches is to turn away from the mic while coughing, though it would be best to hold it in. If you are losing your voice, do clear your throat first before speaking into the mic.

Santa Cruz City Council

One way of improving your city is to have people volunteer their ideas. Here is an example of a poorly executed speech with little structure and redundant hand gestures. It is natural to feel anxious when presenting in front of people with authority, however, it is important to keep your cool and practice before a speech.

A method to counter such anxiety is to have a list of things to be covered according to the flow of the speech. Having a specific structure helps both you and your audience understand the thought process better. Another way you can go about doing it is by practising in front of the mirror, which helps to boost your confidence and eliminate bad fidgeting habits.

Politician Rallying Votes

Being passionate and believing in yourself is important when you’re trying to convince people. Nevertheless, being overly zealous could potentially scare your audience, harming your chances to be voted. Looking at the video, you can probably tell that yelling makes it hard to hear your speech, and the tone of your speech affects the way your audience reacts.

One way to prevent this is to have your family members or colleagues listen to your speech beforehand. Have them pinpoint out specific mistakes such as voice projection, posture, and tone. Through this method, you will have a sense of what your audience will feel, and improve to make your speech better.

Pitching for 1million Pounds on Dragons’ Den

Asking for and receiving a million pounds is no easy task. Bathomatic failed to secure a deal with any of the dragons. In his pitch, he mentioned the problem, the solution and how he came up with this idea, however, there was something missing. He did not mention any benefit statement or justification for a large amount of money.

During a pitch, it is important to address your audience’s concerns. Questions such as “why should they invest in you?”, “what can you bring to the table for them?” can guide you in making a much more persuasive speech.

Common Mistakes Made

Here is a group of 4 students attempting to do a presentation on Apple. Throughout the video, we spotted numerous errors commonly made by presenters. Here are 5 mistakes which you should take note of:

1. Reading off the slides with your back facing the audience
This is where cue cards come into play. If you are having a hard time remembering your script and need pointers to remind you, cue cards are a good alternative to solve that. They prevent you from back facing the audience and increases the engagement rate, but remember not to rely on them for the entire presentation!

2. Redundant animation sounds
Just like sound effects in movies, they’re used to emphasize certain motions. Excessive use of this defeats the purpose and may be seen as annoying. Try to avoid using sound effects during a serious presentation as it destroys the atmosphere of a meeting or a pitch.

3. Teammates standing around
This could be one of the toughest problems that group presenters encounter during a presentation. Teammates who are not presenting maybe fidgeting or look disinterested, which could distract your audience. In order to stop it from happening, have your team members nod in agreement to what you have to say. However, if they’re not involved, get them to join your audience instead.

4. Long paragraphs of information
Based on a study done on 439 people by Dave Paradi, more than half felt annoyed when full sentences are used in Powerpoint. The solution to this is to break down sentences into shorter points, and every slide should only have one message. For example, if you are presenting a new product, separate the functions into different slides. This aids your audience in understanding and gives them a clear focused message.

5. Chewing on sweets/gums
Take a look at the boy standing at the far right. Do you notice something?

He has been chewing on a gum since the start of the presentation all the way until the end!

While you’re enjoying your gum, others may see it as ill-mannered. Avoid eating any candies, chocolate, and gum right before your presentation. Chewing on something while presenting will not only be seen as disrespectful, but it will harm your voice projection as well. The best is to keep away from such sweet treats until the end of the presentation.

Nervous Breakdown During Business Presentation

This is a scene from Billable Hours, where Robin suffered a stage fright presenting in front of her peers. Despite having cue cards, she struggled to hold her presentation together.

The greatest takeaway here is to always practice your script beforehand. Practicing helps you retain and generate a flow of key messages. While practising, generate a structure that is easy for you to remember when you’re presenting. It makes you less dependent on cue cards and increases your chances of having eye contact with your audience.

Science Communication Workshop Presentation

Here is a spoof of a science communication workshop presented by Dr Fisher-Kat. Besides the noticeable clutter of words and pictures on a single slide, she was rambling on about the different scientific terms. At 2:10, a lady asked a question, however, she received an insulting reply.

When you’re presenting to people, especially a general audience, it is best to keep things simple. Removing and simplifying terminology will help your audience in understanding. If such terms are needed, explain them in layman terms.

Dealing with questions can be difficult, especially when you’re given a time limit. Using “Can I get back to you later?”, helps you kill two birds with one stone. You will be able to proceed on with your presentation while giving your audience a peace of mind that they will be answered. You can have a short chit-chat with the person after the presentation or simply drop them an email.

Pitching Without Prepared Product

Whether it is pitching to your customers or investors, the most crucial parts are your services and products. But what happens when one fails to work? In this episode of Dragon Dens, an aspiring entrepreneur attempts to demonstrate his service. However, it did not work in his favour, leaving the dragons uninterested and speechless.

The biggest turn off for the investors is when you’re pitching something that does not work. To prevent this from happening, always do checks before going up on stage to do your grand pitch. Similarly, if your pitch requires help from others, remember to remind them of it. Being prepared definitely saves you from embarrassing situations.

Forgetting Your Script

There are two contrasting sides of this presentation, one being an engaging presentation, the other being a really confusing one. We also noticed that he forgot his script for a second in the middle of the presentation. How can we prevent ourselves from being seen as unprepared and confusing?

One way to go about doing this is by structuring your presentation. Stating the purpose of your presentation at the start would definitely help your audience understand better. This can be followed up with points supporting your key messages, and a summary of your main points. A presentation is just like writing an essay, there has to be a logical flow in order for your audience to understand better.

Sean Penn’s 2004 Oscar Speech – For Um-ing Too Much

A speech with flow often comes with tons of practice, but what happens if it is an impromptu speech? How do we give a speech without pausing for too long?

Impromptu speeches may be one of the hardest things to pull off. Besides thinking on your feet, you will have to speak in front of an audience with professionalism. However, these mistakes may seem minute when you’re fully focused on your presentation.

In this example, Sean seems to pull off his thank you speech pretty well except the countless number of times when he paused with an “um”. Though it is said subconsciously, it can make your speech choppy.

One method to avoid excessive pauses is to prep beforehand. You might want to know the background of the situation better before heading up to the stage. This way, you will have a rough idea of what needs to be covered when you’re on the stage.

For example, you will need to give an impromptu speech about your product to a group of investors. You can structure it by starting off with an introduction of yourself and your product, followed by benefits and lastly, sales and thank you. With a rough outline in mind, it could save some awkward pauses on stage and it might eventually impress the investors too.

IABC 2012 World Conference in Chicago

Buzzwords used in corporations around the world were collected and presented by Gerard Braud as an example of what no employee wants a CEO speech to sound like.

Simplifying terms used in your speech helps your audience to digest your content much easier as compared to the different unheard terminologies. When presenting to a general crowd, it is essential to understand that they might not entirely think the same way as you do.

One way to avoid miscommunication and confusion is to think in the audience’s perspective or get your family and friends to listen to you. If they don’t get the message you’re trying to convey, there is a high chance that the actual crowd may not understand it as well. Edit the speech accordingly, practice and you’re good to go!

Were you cringing while watching some of those bad speeches? You’re not the only one. To avoid a similar situation happening during your next speech or sales presentation, follow these tips based on learnings from the bad speeches above:

  1. Understand your audience
  2. Structure your key messages in a logical flow
  3. Prepare and check your props beforehand
  4. Practice Practice Practice
  5. Be calm when you face unforeseen circumstances

Prepare for the worst and you’ll never fall victim to a technical, or memory fault.