The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs

by Lynn Truong on 10 November 2009 7 comments

I was excited to read The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience, written by Businessweek.com columnist Carmine Gallo. I've been to a lot of conferences and sat through a lot of bad presentations. But on a few rare occasions I'd sit in on a spectacular one. It wasn't just informative, but engaging, inspiring, and entertaining. But that's about the extent I could go as far as breaking it down and deconstructing what makes a great presentation when it's my turn to come up with one.

I've always suspected that it's more of an innate talent, that's a part of one's personality, than something to learn. But that's not true. In his book, Carmine Gallo breaks down the specific techniques and provides a blueprint for an electrifying presentation, in the style of one of the most captivating communicators in the world -- Steve Jobs.

Here are some of the highlights of the book I found most insightful.

The Rule of Three

It is well established that we can hold only small amounts of information in short-term, or "active," memory.

Teachers, journalists, and speech writers often use the rule of three when it comes to laying down specific points. Group your narratives in threes to keep the audience engaged.

The Ten-Minute Rule

Your audience checks out after ten minutes. Not in eleven minutes, but ten.

Research shows that our brain starts to get bored and look for distractions after ten minutes. But that doesn't mean that you can't do a presentation that's longer than ten minutes. It just means that you need to provide intermission. That could be in the form of a brief Q&A session or a video clip, something that breaks up the lesson and gives the audience a break.

Less

Jobs's first four slides have a grand total of seven words, three numbers, one date, and no bullet points.

Presenters often try to cram their entire script into their slides. Perhaps they're afraid of forgetting, or they feel it's an added benefit for the audience to be able to read along (and take notes). But studies show that this actually splits their attention and makes the words less impactful. Instead, use the slides to offer a multisensory experience -- offer pictures, video, and animation in conjunction with your speech. This helps the audience learn and retain the information better.

Practice

Jobs rehearses for hours. To be more precise: many, many hours over many, many days.

When you see a presentation by Jobs, you think he has a natural talent for it. He's confident. He hits all the right marks. And it seems so easy. But the fact is, he puts in hours of grueling practice. It's obvious when presenters haven't done so. And it's easy to see why, when they've written their entire script into their presentation slides. The less words you put on your slides, the better you have to know your marks. So practice. Practice hard.

These are just some of the great tips in The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs.

Disclaimer: I received this book free to review and the post includes an Amazon affiliate link.

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Guest's picture

steve jobs is one of those people that i admire most in this life.... the relentlessly very successful business empire, all that money in his name, the cultlike following by the igeeks... whats not to love. I have never made a presentation but i hope that when the time comes i can, with constant practice like the king of the igeeks, be very skilled at this

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Robert

I've always found myself lost giving presentations. I've never been able to get my point across in a way I thought was adequate. Maybe I'll check out this book and pick up a few tips.

Guest's picture

A good presentation can sell ice to Eskimos, while a bad presentation can invoke fear and confusion.

-Dan malone-

Guest's picture

Unfortunately I don't want to spend the time practicing...I just want to be a great presenter. This is a great reminder that the really good presenters practice like crazy to make themselves look and sound great!

Guest's picture

This article brings me flashbacks of presentations given in business school that went horribly, horribly wrong.

You raise many good points with your article, but I think the most important is that practice is the key to success.

Guest's picture

There are a couple of other presentation books I really like:

Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds and
Slide:ology by Nancy Duarte (she has helped Steve Jobs with his keynotes)

I've even writen about presentations myself.

I am a big supporter of something Ms. Duarte said, "every presentation is an emotional journey." What journey will you take your audience on?

Guest's picture

One of the things that I would like to add is that being yourself is so important to giving a great presentation. While it is really important to have a presentation in the right format over the right time, I believe it's more important to be yourself because when you're talking to people afterwards they will see you as you really are. I