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Steve Jobs keynotes were not the ideal model for giving presentations
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besson3c
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Nov 18, 2011, 04:25 AM
 
Steve Jobs keynotes were great, but I think that it is a mistake to call them "presentations" in the traditional sense, and to suggest that presentations should be modeled after this approach.

I'm trying to think of who else gives presentations in this style, and I'm not coming up with much... Steve Jobs keynotes were pretty unique in that they were just glorified marketing pieces. There was at times some technical explanation or explanation of other slide-worthy concepts thrown in there, but they were pretty much just setups for more marketing.

This isn't criticism of those keynotes, they were always fun and effective, but again, I think it's a mistake to lump this sort of presentation style into the same category of presentation you'd give in a board room, academic conference, classroom, or in trying to woe a potential client or something. The standard for these sorts of presentations is little to no slides unless when actually useful to focus the presentation by outlining key points, no visual distractions, definitely no elaborate animation, no fancy graphics, etc.

Do you know of any other company that is known for putting on presentations in a Steve Jobs style?
     
TETENAL
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Nov 18, 2011, 05:12 AM
 
Steve Job's presentations were intended to be marketing. Since you admit they were effective at that, they were indeed pretty much ideal. I have not seen better product announcments by any other company ever.

Not every presentation's purpose is to sell a product though, you are right. But they are all merkating of a sort in a way that they want to get a point across. "Sell" a point. You can learn from Jobs here too.

And I fail to see how aesthetics couldn't benefit academic or business presentations. Just because something is pretty doesn't mean it lacks content.
     
OreoCookie
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Nov 18, 2011, 05:27 AM
 
I've incorporated the basic ideas Jobs used and explained in much more detail in books (e. g. Presentation, Zen, Design) into my academic talks. I like the results very much and at least in some instances, so did the audience.

Technical presentations will undoubtedly contain more detail, but the idea to focus on fewer things is essential. If you want to compare talks in academia to Apple presentations, have a look at the slides in the WWDC sessions, for instance.

So overall, I think what makes a good presentation are the same ideas and concepts that made a Jobs keynote a good presentation:
(1) Focus on the essentials. This is really, really, really the most important point in my opinion. I have the impression, many speakers don't even have a clear idea what the essentials of their talks are.
(2) Reduce things to a minimum. You don't have to print everything you say (otherwise the audience is better served reading your presentation rather than listen to you).
(3) Make pauses/take your time.

This list is incomplete.

Now how to implement these principles and ideas may differ from setting to setting, but the principles are the same.
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Spheric Harlot
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Nov 18, 2011, 05:46 AM
 
I think the important of having material that is visually interesting and does NOT look like shit is vastly underestimated, especially since slides are generally not only ugly, but over-filled with both relevant and less relevant information.

Keeping people's attention for 90 minutes (or even 20) is hard, and anything you can do to keep their minds a little more interested is helpful.

But the most important thing is Jobs' knack for making the endlessly rehearsed and thought-through seem off-the-cuff. That is a skill he developed over time, and it becomes obvious when you compare, say, the Macintosh introduction with the iPhone introduction.
     
lpkmckenna
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Nov 18, 2011, 06:28 AM
 
Do you know of any other company that is known for putting on presentations in a Steve Jobs style?
Lawrence Lessig gives presentations that are even more minimalist than Jobs, and he's handling complex political issues.

I watched an older Jobs keynotes the other day, and I was surprised how much rougher they were than I remembered. And the Comic Sans! WTF?
     
Waragainstsleep
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Nov 18, 2011, 06:42 AM
 
Its all about driving home the important points. The trick is in picking the right ones for your topic. These key points are like gravity wells in the reality distortion field. Everything around them should be sucked into those key points. I'm going to give some examples of different key points, but I've already given the best one. The key point of my post is that distilling your message down to only a few points is the key point. My gravity well analogy would work very nicely if I then showed a slide a bit like this:


But with the yellow mass labelled as "Key Points" and with generally cleaner, more Apple-esque graphics perhaps.

In a board room if you are reporting numbers to your board, then you will focus as much attention as possible on the numbers which make you look good. If you are pitching an idea, its just like a Stevenote because you are selling a product or concept to your board. The actual key points may be different to the ones you would use for the marketing to consumers, but the technique holds up.

A Stevenote style lesson would work very well for teaching kids the important equations in physics I think, Remember all those ones they used to put in triangles?

These ones: formula triangle

Take Newton's Second Law, F=ma. If you treat it like a product and try to sell it to your class, it works pretty well.

You can explain the three constituents as being the key "technologies" of the product and examples of use gives you the 'features'. I would try and sell it as if it were a tool. Imagine the following in Steve's voice:

"So today I'd like to show your our newest product. We've worked really hard on this one, and we're pretty proud of it. Its called Newton's Second Law. And it looks like this..."

{Slide showing the equation}

" So let me tell you a little about what we've done with this product. There are three key parts to it. Three components that make it all work. First of all we have F. F is for force. Next up we have m. M represents mass. Finally, we have a. Acceleration."

{Slide listing these three key points} {Then goes back to the equation and animation puts it into an 'equation triangle'}

"With this equation, if we know any two of these quantities, we can now calculate the third. lets go into a little more detail on the parts involved."

{Slide showing a big F with Force written below it. Space for other details to appear on the right hand side}

"Force. Measured in Newtons. Has to be in Newtons, otherwise it won't work at all. Thats very important. If you can measure it in Newtons, we can work with it. Any force. Absolutely any force in the universe. Thats pretty amazing."

You get the idea. Its an overly simple example but it works pretty well I think.
I have plenty of more important things to do, if only I could bring myself to do them....
     
OreoCookie
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Nov 18, 2011, 06:42 AM
 
Originally Posted by Spheric Harlot View Post
I think the important of having material that is visually interesting and does NOT look like shit is vastly underestimated, especially since slides are generally not only ugly, but over-filled with both relevant and less relevant information.
Yup, and people can either read or listen. So when they're reading, they're not listening and vice versa.

People also need to keep in mind that knowledgable people need not be good presenters. I have seen my fair share of presentations which you could only understand if you were already familiar (or intimately familiar) with a certain publication. In other words, it was useless if you hadn't heard of the work before. On the other hand, if you already know the work, then the presentation is kinda useless, too. Death by PowerPoint. They're easy to spot, though, if they style they use to prepare their slides includes »page« numbers and the ratio between number of slides and time is about 1, then in all likelihood, the presentation will suck.
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Spheric Harlot
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Nov 18, 2011, 07:18 AM
 
Originally Posted by lpkmckenna View Post
Lawrence Lessig gives presentations that are even more minimalist than Jobs, and he's handling complex political issues.

I watched an older Jobs keynotes the other day, and I was surprised how much rougher they were than I remembered. And the Comic Sans! WTF?
NOT Comic Sans!!!!

Marker Felt (incrementally better, but hey)
     
Thorzdad
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Nov 18, 2011, 07:34 AM
 
Jobs' presentations were very good examples of how the accompanying imagery should reinforce and underscore what the speaker is saying, working together to build a solid, captivating whole. They stand out as unique because most of us work in a world where the standard Powerpoint presentation is simply an almost rote recital of the speakers' words, with added bullet-points and other fluffery. You spend most of the time reading the screen and not listening to the speaker. The screen becomes a distraction from the speaker. The screen becomes the speaker, at which point there's little need for a speaker and the presentation should have simply been emailed out to everyone and been done.
     
dav
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Nov 18, 2011, 08:23 AM
 
i'm just going to sneak this in here: link
one post closer to five stars
     
Hawkeye_a
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Nov 18, 2011, 11:21 AM
 
I think Steve Jobs' presentations are the gold standard of contemporary times. Personally, i found his presentation skills very engaging not just because of the material he was presenting, or the structure, but rather the passion the dude had when talking about it. I highly doubt his enthusiasm was acting.

I'm not sure what metric could be used to measure the effectiveness of a presentation, but you have to consider how much those presentations have done for the company... i mean it's not some fluke that Apple has achieved so much in market success since he came back. Also, having the most valuable company in the world, and attracting(and retaining) some of the most talented people in the world has to involve top sales/presentation skills IMHO.
( Last edited by Hawkeye_a; Nov 18, 2011 at 11:45 AM. )
     
mduell
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Nov 18, 2011, 03:35 PM
 
Dick Hardt's Identity 2.0 presentation (or can we call it that?) comes to mind.
     
besson3c  (op)
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Nov 18, 2011, 04:43 PM
 
Originally Posted by Hawkeye_a View Post
I think Steve Jobs' presentations are the gold standard of contemporary times. Personally, i found his presentation skills very engaging not just because of the material he was presenting, or the structure, but rather the passion the dude had when talking about it. I highly doubt his enthusiasm was acting.

I'm not sure what metric could be used to measure the effectiveness of a presentation, but you have to consider how much those presentations have done for the company... i mean it's not some fluke that Apple has achieved so much in market success since he came back. Also, having the most valuable company in the world, and attracting(and retaining) some of the most talented people in the world has to involve top sales/presentation skills IMHO.

I agree with everything that has been said here, except for this gold standard bit. I still think that since most presentations aren't as marketing focused, the Jobsnotes are not the gold standard.

This point is a little academic, obviously the Jobsnotes were fantastic and entertaining and the whole nine-yards, and obviously Jobs himself was unparalleled in his focus, clarity, and was incredibly articulate.

However, I remember my college days of watching crappy substance-less presentations reinforced by good looking slides. If the Jobsnotes are indeed a gold standard it is because of their substance and Jobs' speaking ability, the slides, animation, and graphics themselves were merely the icing on the cake.
     
subego
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Nov 18, 2011, 04:48 PM
 
I don't think it's incorrect to think of doing a presentation as marketing to your audience.

In a presentation you are, in essence, selling information.
     
besson3c  (op)
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Nov 18, 2011, 05:05 PM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
I don't think it's incorrect to think of doing a presentation as marketing to your audience.

In a presentation you are, in essence, selling information.

As long as the information stands on its own without relying on the visuals as a crutch. Otherwise, it's sort of like a Michael Bay movie.

I wouldn't say that the Jobsnotes lack substance, but I would say that the substance is really really drawn out, padded by enticing marketing type stuff (such as all of the slides at the beginning of the keynote about the health of the company). You could distill the actual content of a Jobsnote down to fewer slides and a shorter overall presentation. However, then again, the slowness and drawn out (sometimes repetitive) nature of the keynotes also makes it accessible to the lay person who may know nothing about computers, so maybe what I'm calling drawn out is just an attempt to cast a wider net in terms of target audience.
     
subego
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Nov 18, 2011, 05:26 PM
 
I agree, but I think it's important to call out the utility of information visualization.

I'm not saying you're taking issue with that, but it could appear that way.
     
besson3c  (op)
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Nov 18, 2011, 05:30 PM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
I agree, but I think it's important to call out the utility of information visualization.

I'm not saying you're taking issue with that, but it could appear that way.

I'm not taking issue to that, but sometimes I personally feel that the Jobsnotes take this to the extreme in making something over abundantly clear. Then again, it would be interesting to have your lay person watch a Jobsnote and ask them if they could explain something like iCloud. Maybe the info visualization is perfect for these sorts of people? Not only am I more computer savvy than your average person, I'm also probably smarter than your average person too, so maybe I need some recalibration.
     
Waragainstsleep
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Nov 18, 2011, 07:37 PM
 
Jobsnotes have to work on people of lower ability too. Yes there were always lots of fanboys present so Steve could have taken a dump on stage and spent the rest of the keynote flinging it at the audience and still gotten a round of applause but the keynotes were for the benefit of journalists. By repeating the simple key messages he wanted to get across he was writing their sound bites and summaries for them.

These lazy, mass-market journalists then relayed exactly the info Steve wanted to there equally lazy viewers/listeners/readers. No point doing product unveils for the benefit of tech journalists because they will always moan about something no matter what you do, but if you market to the unwashed masses you'll sell craploads anyway. Look at all the bitching about the iPhone 4S followed immediately by record sales.
I have plenty of more important things to do, if only I could bring myself to do them....
     
funkboy
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Nov 20, 2011, 11:56 PM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
...it would be interesting to have your lay person watch a Jobsnote and ask them if they could explain something like iCloud. Maybe the info visualization is perfect for these sorts of people?
Absolutely. Go attend some presentation on a topic completely out of your comfort area - perhaps something in the softer sciences? Or even a hard science that you've never seriously studied - theoretical physics, some radical chemistry stuff, or perhaps some human interaction stuff.

I'll admit I haven't seen the original Cosmos (available to watch for free on hulu), but I wonder if Steve Jobs would approve of a Steve Jobs approach to explaining complex scientific theory. If nothing else, Steve Jobs keynotes are taking fairly complex engineering problems and making it easy for any layman to at least feel like they have a grasp of what's going on in these very complicated technological devices.

Richard Feynman definitely liked to boil down complex problems into simple explanations. Feynman could have explained the Challenger's O-ring problem in all kinds of scientific ways, because there was a lot of complex material interactions happening. However, he chose a much simpler explanation method that is likely remembered by anyone who has seen or heard of it.
Richard Feynman talks about the O ring - YouTube

Making something abundantly clear is important in any presentation, because - at least for presentations intended for large groups - it should get its point across to as wide a variety of people as possible. The old standard of
1) tell them what you'll tell them
2) tell them
3) tell them what you told them
is still reasonable advice for live presentations.
     
quesera
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Nov 21, 2011, 10:39 PM
 
Originally Posted by dav View Post
i'm just going to sneak this in here: link
I've always wanted his "Visual Display" book! I'd love to take the course!
     
Tiresias
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Nov 22, 2011, 12:41 PM
 
No, you're thinking of Steve Balmer's presentations.
     
Thorzdad
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Nov 22, 2011, 12:46 PM
 
Originally Posted by quesera View Post
I've always wanted his "Visual Display" book! I'd love to take the course!
It's an amazingly great, eye-opening book. I highly recommend you make the investment and get a copy.
     
   
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