On June 7, 2010, Steve Jobs took the stage at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference for another one of his trademark keynote presentations. The room was packed (the conference sold out in 8 days), millions tuned into the live feed, and sites like GDGT and Engadget (yes, they’re different sites…I think?) extensively live blogged the event.
It’s no secret that Steve Jobs’ presentation style is considered to be one of the best. Of course, that “style” has been developed by years of experience and a lifetime of preparation and practice. His keynote presentations are multimedia extravaganzas more akin to a concert than a corporate presentation.
I decided to take a close look at Mr. Jobs’ presentation to try and break it down for you all of you, highlighting his approach to the WWDC 2010 keynote presentation and what elements create the masterpieces we are used to seeing.
*Pay close attention to the “Glitch” section to see how Steve handled what could have been a huge disaster.
One of the most overlooked elements of presentation design is a focus on the structure of the story. The audience will have enough trouble following your presentation as it is – without a solid structure you’ll lose them completely. Jobs’ presentations always have a solid structure that can easily be followed, and he enhances it with slides that help define sections. As I followed Steve’s WWDC keynote, I made it a point to create an outline of his presentation. It was incredibly easy. I’ve included the outline below.
- iPad Update
- App Store
- HTML 5 Support
- Application approval process
- Ebay Application Results
- Three New Entertainment Apps
- Netflix – CEO Reed Hastings
- Zynga – CEO Mark Pincus
- Activision – SVP Karthik Bala
- 5 Billion downloads; $1 billion to developers
- iPhone Update
- US Smartphone Market Share
- Year by year
- iPhone 4
- 8 New Features
- All new design
- Retina display
- Powerd by the A4 Chip
- Gyroscope (Jenga demo)
- Camera System/iMovie for iPhone
- iOS 4 – “Most advanced operating system in the world”
- New Prices
Make sure even before you start designing your presentation that you have a clear outline of what the presentation will include. If you don’t have an outline, your audience certainly won’t be able to create one either. This will be a HUGE help when it comes to designing the slides and editing content as well.
Jobs is a master at his delivery. It sounds so conversational, with such a great “flow” that it seems he didn’t even rehearse it. I’ve heard (first hand) people claim that they DIDN’T want to rehearse their presentation because they didn’t want it to sound like it’s “rehearsed.” On the contrary, the only reason Steve Jobs can deliver his presentation in such a conversational way is that he rehearses…incessantly. He is notorious for spending not hours, not days, but weeks practicing, revising, and practicing some more. He knows the presentations inside and out. He knows every bit of data that’s about to show up on that screen. He knows exactly what he’s going to say and what words he’s going to emphasize. The ONLY way to improve your odds of a smooth delivery (and to manage your fears of presenting) is to practice.
Secondarily, Steve Jobs doesn’t use gobbledy-gook when he presents, especially describing the technology. Instead, he uses words we can ALL understand, with adjectives that are rarely used in “business speak”. Because of this, the audience can follow his presentation, understand what he’s talking about, and see the passion he has for these products. He gets you excited, believing that the new iPhone 4 isn’t just “enterprise-class” or “cost effective”, it’s “extraordinary”, “vibrant”, and “hot”!
I decided to write down every adjective (and a few other forms of speech) he used during his presentation that I don’t believe we hear much during business presentations. You’d be surprised how many variations he used.
This is one of the reasons his presentations stand out AND his audience is so excited to run out and buy these products. They’re not just “industry leading messaging devices”, they’re “incredibly fast, magical phones!” Not all of us are Steve Jobs, and not all of our products can truly be described with adjectives like this. If you try to crowbar these in, you may come off cheesy. Just keep your mind open to different ways of explaining your products – ensuring it’s a way that the audience understands.
To round out the trifecta, Steve knows how to harness the power of effective presentation visuals (slides) to enhance the important information that he’s presenting. He and his team of designers are amazing at creating simple, beautiful slides that (for the most part) convey only the most important information while Steve explains the details.
Slides created for Apple Keynotes are often seen as the guide for effective presentation design. He’s been a savior to the presentation designers out there who have been preaching this style for years because he has proven that you can be incredibly effective simply by using beautiful imagery and large text in small amounts. He doesn’t put the Apple logo on every slide, nor the URL or the phone number. He doesn’t use an agenda slide (although he does say how many topics he will talk about) and he uses very little animation. But to his credit, the animation he does use is pretty cool.
I took a number of screen shots while watching the keynote and I wanted to share some of my favorite and least favorite slides with a short description as to why.
One of my favorites – instead of bullet-pointing the results of the iPad sales, he gives each stat its own slide and makes sure the text is BIG,
with the most important text being the largest
Perfect in its simplicity. Do you like that he uses the texture?
Get right to the point – The text reads “Thinnest Smartphone” which is all
you need to know. Then show how thin it is. No extraneous information.
next to these lines and you’ve got bullet points. He only used slides like
this to wrap up though, not to introduce the features.
and Mr. Jobs adds the necessary information to connect the dots
in the audience’s minds.
No matter how much you prepare, you should always expect the unexpected, especially if you’re doing a live product demonstration. As Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” Even Steve Jobs couldn’t escape this law.
After Mr. Jobs had introduced the new iPhone 4, he wanted to show off the speed and new resolution of the phone. In order to do that, he decided to call up the New York Times web page on both the iPhone 4 and iPhone 3G. Unbeknownst to him, there were 570 WiFi base stations operating in the room, slowing the network to nearly a standstill. See the video from IDG.
An event like this could make even the most poised presenter panic. This isn’t the first time Steve has faced technical glitches in his presentation, and he wasn’t going to let this one bring his keynote down. Steve handled it with honesty, humor, and composure, quickly moving onto a new topic when he faced the glitch and simply asking the audience to turn off their WiFi to see the “wonderful” demonstrations he had for them. Once they did, the page loaded with blazing speed and he was able to proceed as usual.
Glitches are inevitable. It’s not how you avoid them, it’s how you embrace them and move on. The audience doesn’t expect you to be perfect, and everyone understands that machines are imperfect too. Nobody wants to face any sort of hiccup, but don’t try to run and hide from them. Be honest with the audience, make an attempt to fix it if you’re confident it can be fixed, or simply move on.
These were notes I wrote down but couldn’t find the perfect spot to put them in the post, so they go here!
- Customer Quotes – Jobs used customer quotes that were humorous and validated the Apple products. This is a great way to show peer approval.
- Numbered Slides – Jobs promised he’d give 8 special iPhone features, and put a numbered slide before each of the features. This helps the audience keep track. I love this and use it often in my presentations.
- Introducing and Concluding – When sections of his presentation were starting or finishing, he always used clear sentences like, “Now I’d like to talk about the iPhone” or “So that’s it for the iPad” to emphasize the change, again helping the audience keep their mental map in check.
- Multimedia – Jobs wasn’t simply a talking head. He switched up the input (which is VERY important for audience attention) by introducing guest speakers, showing videos, and giving demonstrations.
Overall I thought it was, naturally, a great presentation. There were some slides that I thought could have been better, and you know about the “Glitch”, but I’d be hard pressed to find an audience member (both in person and online) who didn’t leave excited about what’s to come for Apple. I’m glad I chose this particular presentation to break down because it wasn’t flawless, thus we could all learn a lot from it. I hope you did.