This is how Steve Jobs ended almost all of his famous keynote presentations, triggering an uncanny burst of euphoria amongst members of his audience. Whether it was the first iPod touch, the Macbook Air or more recently iTunes in the cloud, Steve’s signature conclusion never missed its mark and made a tremendous and lasting impact on the media coverage, that ensued from every product launch announcement.
On many levels, Steve Jobs redefined the way we design and deliver presentations. Stinson wouldn’t be where it is today if it wasn’t for two truly game-changing innovations: iWork’s Keynote and of course, the iPad. But today we’re going to focus on what constitutes an infinitely more valuable aspect of Steve’s legacy: the keys of its showmanship.
From a pure formal and stylistic standpoint, Steve’s keynotes were arranged like clockwork. It is well known that he used to practice his speech for days prior to d-day. To make sure everything would go as planned from start to finish, he also supervised trial presentations for the people who would be invited up on stage to present new partnerships (Intel, AT&T, Yahoo!, etc.) and third-party applications (Smule, Epic Games, ESPN, etc.). When one knows to which extent the keynotes condition the company’s trajectory for the next 6 to 12 months, it’s not surprising nothing is left to chance.
Some people believe there’s an Apple style for designing presentation while others think it’s barely lazy minimalism. Truth is Apple simply designs its presentation like they design their products, starting from the users’ needs. In this case, the spectator needs to understand new technologies and get a concrete grasp of how they’re going to change their daily lives. This is why so much emphasis is put on the core benefits to the end users, whereas competitors prefer to list technical specs and brag about pixel count and gigahertz.
When the first iPhone was announced at the 2007 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), everybody had a pretty clear idea of what the showstopper would be. Apple’s long awaited step into the mobile phone market was guaranteed to make the headlines for the following months. Well aware of how high the expectations were, Steve Jobs took full advantage of the edge by disclosing not one but three groundbreaking products (“a revolutionary phone, a touchscreen iPod, a breakthrough Internet communicator”) until the climatic moment when he revealed that these were actually only one. Despite years of gossips and crazy speculation about the iPhone, Steve still managed to sweep his audience off their feet 3 times in about 5 minutes, demonstrating his mastery of stagecraft.
This is one of Steve’s quotes that struck me the most. Back in June 2010, during a public interview with tech observer and WSJ columnist Walt Mossberg, Steve pointed out at the fact that some products are good at certain tasks while others may excel differently. This concept can be directly applied to how we design and structure content across slides. Never try to be exhaustive, rather prioritize the pieces of information that you judge to be the best contribution to the final call-to-action or the core message you want to convey. There’s no way a normal human being can assimilate all the data you’re pouring onto him, so get to the point and use your eloquence skills (or tricks) to help your spectator see the logical links, and eventually connect the dots.
Apple is renowned for being one of the few companies in the world to achieve the perfect marriage of technology and liberal arts. People who have been using Apple products for decades know that the whole experience they get from their digital companions is way beyond a simple human-machine interaction. Apple redefined the term user-friendly by stretching out the learning curve and making us uncover new feature and benefits from a product we first unboxed even years ago. Each and every invention packs a fair amount of learning into an bundle of blissful entertainment. That philosophy faithfully reflects back to Steve Jobs’ presentation style; he challenged himself to make his audience enjoy the show while sitting in a room packed to the gills for an hour looking at words and numbers and he nailed it. Bear in mind that your brand is not merely your visual guidelines or your logo, it’s how your company’s DNA expresses itself, regardless of the medium, presentations being one of them.
This one is a no brainer, but you would be surprised by the ratio of presenters who look like they would rather be anywhere but in front of their audience presenting sales forecasts. Steve Jobs is a entrepreneur and as he once said, “Apple is the world’s largest start-up”. In such organizations, things flow seamlessly and everyone can feel somehow connected to the fate of the company, like the cells of a living organism. But when comes the moment to walk into the spotlight, YOU are the company and thus everything you convey (consciously or unconsciously) impacts, to various extents, on the perception people have about your organization. Always remember, there’s a reason why you’re standing up there, facing them the same reason why your company exists.
The list goes on, and there are many other aspects to cover and that’s why I had infinite respect and gratitude toward Steve Jobs. To me he’s not the one who created the best computing device or the best interface, he’s the one who defined vectors of innovation and integrated them into a culture that will live on and I hope drive us for many generations to come.