On January 9, 2007, Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone in one of the most fascinating product launches in history. While the iPhone was a revolutionary product, it wasn’t the iPhone that inspired thousands of people to camp out in the cold overnight. It was Job’s unique style of presentation, which Apple fans dubbed “Stevenote,” which helped make this one of the most impressive and memorable keynotes ever given.
As Carmine Gallo puts it in Steve Jobs’ book The Presentation Secrets, Steve “turned the typical, boring, technical, trotting slide show into a theatrical event with heroes, villains, a supporting cast, and breathtaking scenery. People who first witness a Steve Jobs presentation describe it as an extraordinary experience. “
Steve Jobs was one of the most fascinating communicators in the world. Even if you’re not the star of a highly anticipated product launch or a best-selling author and entrepreneur, you are likely to be in front of an audience at some point in your career.
Take these lessons from the world’s most fascinating moderators and communication experts and apply them to your next presentation.
How to be a good moderator
- Start with a clear message.
- Start on paper, not PowerPoint.
- Think of your presentation as a story.
- Tell your story in three acts.
- It’s not always about being unique.
- You don’t have to memorize word for word.
- Speak from the heart.
- Use compelling images as part of your speech.
- Throw away the bullet points.
- Spend time rehearsing.
- Use simple English.
1. Start with a clear message and purpose.
“If you can’t write your message in one sentence, you can’t get it out in an hour.”
– Dianna Booher, communications expert
If you don’t know what’s most important to your audience, then they probably won’t either.
Don’t even start your presentation without first understanding what you want the audience to take away in simple terms. This purpose and message will become your guiding star. Once you can get it across in the simplest possible way, you can build on that to support your points.
2. Start on paper, not PowerPoint.
“The most important thing you can do to dramatically improve your presentations is tell a story before you start working on your PowerPoint file.”
– Cliff Atkinson, beyond the bullet points
Think back to the last time you prepared for a presentation. First, did you sketch out the story that you would tell on paper? Did you then gradually weave in meaningful data, examples, and supportive points based on this outline? Did you have a clear, consistent message that your audience would remember without a transcript or notes?
You have probably answered “no” to these questions. If you’re like most people, you’ve probably prepared yourself by opening PowerPoint the night before your presentation, cobbling together a couple of dozen slides from decks that you or your co-workers have used in the past, bringing in a few photos and counted on your ability to “inspire” it personally.
The world’s most fascinating communicators know better. You invest more time in the idea than in the slides. Don’t sell yourself short by jumping head first into the presentation software. Take the time to carefully write your story on paper before you even think about making a single slide.
3. Think of your presentation as a story.
“Personal stories are the emotional glue that connects the audience to your message.”
– Nancy Duarte, communications specialist
Seasoned speakers plan, present, rehearse, and rehearse their presentations carefully, carefully, just as an Oscar-winning Hollywood director prepares their film for the big screen. They have seen the impact a carefully crafted story can have on influencing an audience, and they know that skipping this crucial first step is what distinguishes average communicator from exceptional.
According to Nancy Duarte, the communications expert behind Al Gores An Inconvenient Truth, presenters should spend around 30 hours researching, organizing, sketching, storyboarding, scripting, and revising the story for an hour-long presentation.
4. Tell your story in 3 acts.
“The way something is presented determines how you react to it.”
– Neville Brody, designer
Most presentations follow a variation of the following format:
- Who am I
- What i do (or what my company does)
- How my product / company / idea is different
- Why should you buy / invest / support me now?
The world’s most fascinating communicators typically rely on a three-act structure, which is more common in modern storytelling than in corporate conference rooms. The narrative is broken down into three parts – the setup, the confrontation, and the resolution – and features lively characters, heroes, and villains.
The following picture shows a snapshot of the three-act structure and which critical questions for the audience are answered in each case:
Note that this structure turns the typical flow of presentations on its head.
Instead of following a WHO> WHAT> HOW> WHY Flow, master communicators like Steve Jobs prefer one WHY> HOW> WHAT Format:
- Why should the audience care?
- How the idea / product will improve your life
- What action do you need to take?
This works because experts realize that the first thing to do when standing in front of an audience is getting them to care.
By structuring your presentation with a clear and compelling beginning, center, and end, you will take your audience on an exciting journey that will stimulate action, sell products, and fund businesses.
5. It’s not always about being unique.
“I don’t tell my story because it’s unique, but because it’s not unique. It’s the story of many girls. “
– Malala Yousafzai, activist and spokesperson
Writers and communicators often torment themselves with how to be innovative and different. However, sometimes it is better to be universal and resonant.
Malala’s story has been described as inspiring, brave and touching, but “Malala does not consider herself extraordinary. This is ‘just Malala’ as she would describe herself” (source).
Nevertheless, her speaking and advocacy help fight for the education of girls on an international level.
When you add authenticity and passion to your audience, it becomes less important to say something new.
6. You don’t have to memorize word for word.
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
– Maya Angelou, poet and activist
It is natural that you want your speech to be “perfect” every time. You may want to memorize every word or read straight from your speaker’s notes. This can lead to excessive nervousness. But guess what? You can let go of all of this.
Your audience doesn’t know what you were trying to say. You only hear what you say. And as Maya Angelou said, you will not remember the exact words you spoke, but how you spoke them and how they made you feel.
Instead of memorizing it, rely on the topic you know well. Practice explaining it from the cuff.
7. Speak from the heart.
“Emotionally charged events persist in our memories for much longer and are recalled with greater accuracy than neutral memories.”
– John Medina, brain rules
However, Maya Angelou’s quote in the previous tip isn’t all about memorization. There is one other point she makes.
While virtually every presentation relies on data to illustrate or highlight the point, master communicators like Steve Jobs know that data alone isn’t enough.
Again, science is helping us explain how and why this is important. In his book Brain Rules, molecular biologist John Medina says the following about the role of emotions in the human brain:
“An emotionally charged event (usually known as ECS, short for emotionally competent stimulus) is the most processed type of external stimulus ever measured.”
In their book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, Chip and Dan Heath explain the effects emotions can have on convincing communication. The authors describe an exercise that Chip does with his students at Stanford University. Students are tasked with delivering a convincing speech for one minute. Everyone must present on the same topic, with half of the class arguing for one point of view and the other half for the opposite point of view.
After everyone has given their one-minute speech, students are asked to rate each other on the effectiveness of the presentations and then write down the key points of each speaker.
Here is the data they gathered from this exercise:
- On average, the students used 2.5 statistics during their one-minute speeches
- 1/10 of the students used a personal story to get their point across
- 63% of the class remembered details from the speeches in which stories were used
- Only 5% remember the stats that were shared
The pagans drew this conclusion from the data:
“The stars of stickiness are the students who prevailed by telling stories, unlocking emotions, or highlighting a single point instead of ten.”
With this in mind, make sure that your presentation content goes beyond pure “facts”. Triggering audience emotions is a guaranteed way to increase the retention and impact of your core message. You can do this by speaking from the heart.
8. Use compelling images as part of your speech.
“A picture is worth a thousand words.”
There is a reason why expressions like “seeing is believing” and “a picture is worth a thousand words” are so widely accepted – and that reason is based on science.
It is known as the picture superiority effect and refers to a variety of research showing that people can learn and retrieve information presented as pictures more easily than if the same information is presented in words.
In one experiment, for example, subjects who were presented with information orally were able to remember about 10% of the content 72 hours later. Those presented with information in picture format were able to view 65% of the content.
Not only do we remember visual inputs better, but we also process visual information in the brain 60,000 times faster than text.
Sure, it takes longer to find and select awesome images to replace text, but master communicators know it’s worth the extra effort to get maximum impact and audience engagement.
9. Drop the bullets.
“As soon as you put bullets on the screen, announce,” Write this down, but don’t really pay attention to it now. “People don’t take notes at the opera.”
– Seth Godin, really bad PowerPoint
Seth is right. Researchers have consistently shown that text and bullets are the least effective way to convey vital information. Despite clear evidence that wordy, bullet-point slides don’t work, the average PowerPoint slide contains 40 words. No wonder SlideRocket found that 32% of people fall asleep during PowerPoint presentations and 20% would rather go to the dentist than sit through someone else!
This may be hard to believe, but Steve Jobs never used a single point. Not even. His presentations have always been remarkably economical, relying on a few powerful images and carefully selected words or phrases.
Even during product demos where Jobs explains or demonstrates the key benefits of a new product, his slides are refreshingly bullet-free.
Our short-term memory cannot store fewer than 7 elements for more than 10-15 seconds.
Imagine introducing the thinnest notebook in the world. Replace the bulleted list of technical features with a photo of a large Manila office envelope.
Or do you want to inspire an audience to help your nonprofit end the water crisis? Skip the list of bulleted stats in favor of a short, powerful video that shows, rather than explaining, why everyone in the room should care.
10. Spend time rehearsing.
“If you invest energy in understanding the audience and carefully crafting a message that resonates with them, you need to invest time and discipline in the process.”
– Nancy Duarte, communications specialist
Creating a presentation that informs, entertains, AND inspires an audience takes a long time. The first 30 hours are spent researching, sketching, planning, and revising your story. Simple, very visual slides with very few words and NO BALLS will be created over the next 30 hours.
However, the last 30 hours are used for the sample of the delivery.
When was the last time you rehearsed for a presentation for 30 hours?
Of all the lessons revealed above, this is without doubt the most overlooked. Don’t be the person who does everything according to the book only to end up blowing it all up by not practicing. A lot of.
30 hours of rehearsal can be painful. It is definitely time consuming. However, there are no shortcuts for excellence.
11. Use simple English.
“IPod. A thousand songs in your pocket. “
– Steve Jobs
When Steve Jobs introduced the world to the iPod, he could have said something like this:
“Today we’re introducing a new portable music player that weighs just 6.5 ounces, is about the size of a sardine can, and has large capacity, long battery life and lightning-fast transfer speeds.”
But he did not do it. Instead he said, “iPod. A thousand songs in your pocket. “
Jobs could have described the MacBook Air as “a smaller, lighter MacBook Pro with a generous 13.3-inch, 1280 x 800 pixel, glossy LED screen and full-size keyboard.”
Instead, he went on stage with an office-sized Manila envelope, pulled out the notebook, and said simply, “What is MacBook Air? In one sentence it is the thinnest notebook in the world. ”
Unlike most of his contemporaries, Jobs generally avoided complicated statistics, technical data, buzzwords, and jargon in his presentations. Instead, he relied on simple, clear, direct language that was easy to understand, easy to remember and, even better, extremely “tweetable”. Jobs often used metaphors and analogies to give meaning to numbers.
A closer look at some of Jobs’ most famous keynotes reads like a presentation in “headings” – powerful, memorable, specific statements that consistently result in fewer than 140 characters.
Take a look at one of your most recent presentations now. Is it lively with simple, specific, tweetable headlines? Does the script read like plain English a 7 year old could understand? Do you put data and statistics in context so their meaning is clear and easy to digest? Did you ruthlessly cut out all of the jargon, including overused, meaningless terms like “integrated”, “platform”, “leader”, “synergy”, etc.?
If you want to improve your ability to convince an audience, make your best impression on Steve Jobs. Use simple language with no jargon. Make sure your key messages are specific and consistent. And don’t forget to use vivid metaphors or analogies to create context and clarity around large numbers and complex ideas.
Final thoughts on these public speaking tips
On September 28, 1997, Apple debuted its now famous “Think Different” advertising campaign, which featured a series of black and white images of iconic characters such as Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King Jr. and Amelia Earhart. As her images flashed on the screen, the following words were spoken:
“Here’s to the madmen. The outsiders. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square hole. The ones who see things differently. They don’t like rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them , disagree with them, glorify or slander them. You can only ignore them. Because they change things. They drive humanity forward. And while some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to believe that it is they who can change the world that do it. “
The aim of the “Think Different” campaign was to sell computers. Notice that the word “computer” did not even appear in the script.
I point this as a final thought because it sums up a crucial, remarkable quality that most of the world’s most fascinating communicators share. They may have very different presentation styles, but they all have this in common:
They don’t just provide “information”. they convey meaning – and with passion.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2013 and has been updated for completeness.