Q&A with Author of "The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs"

What makes Steve Jobs such a special presenter, and what can CIO.com readers borrow from Jobs' vast skills? Communications coach and author Carmine Gallo shares his insights and favorite Jobs YouTube clips.

Last time CIO.com spoke with Carmine Gallo, a communications coach who has counseled many executives on how to give great presentations, he offered five sure-fire ways readers could ruin their next presentation (No. 2. Kill Your Audience with Bullets).

Evidence that people actually have not taken his advice on how to improve their presentation abilities is still all too common. (See 8 PowerPoint Train Wrecks to view the carnage.)

As many others have also noted, perhaps today's model of presentation perfection is high-tech's uber-presenter and the subject of Gallo's book (now available): Apple's Steve Jobs.

In The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience, Gallo examines Jobs' gifted public-speaking skills and offers a "ready-to-use framework to help you plan, deliver and refine the best presentation of your life," Gallo notes on his website. "It's as close as you'll ever get to having the master presenter himself speak directly in your ear."

CIO.com Senior Editor Thomas Wailgum recently spoke with Gallo about what makes Jobs so special, how much Jobs actually practices his craft, and what CIO.com readers can borrow from Jobs' presentation talents. Also included in the interview are instructive YouTube videos of the Apple pitchman in action.

CIO.com: You write in the book about the importance that simplicity and minimalism hold for Steve Jobs in designing Apple products. How does that concept carry over into his presentations?

Carmine Gallo: Steve Jobs once said "simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." You can see this approach in how he designs his slides. The slides are stunningly visual and minimalistic. He's not afraid of empty space. Sometimes, there's only one word or a simple photograph.

There are 40 words on the average PowerPoint slide. It's difficult to find 10 words in seven slides in a Jobs presentation. This is called "Picture Superiority." You see, neuroscientists are finding that information is more effectively recalled when the ideas are delivered as text and pictures instead of text by itself. Jobs has elevated presentations to an art form.

CIO.com: What's one thing that Jobs does, which very few people notice, that is critical to his presentation success?

Gallo: Jobs describes every product or new feature with a one-line description that can fit in a Twitter post. By doing so, he helps you mentally categorize the product. He gives you the big picture before filling in the details. For example, when Jobs introduced MacBook Air in January 2008, he could have said something along these lines: "Today we're excited to launch a new, thin, light ultra-portable notebook computer with a 13.3 inch wide-screen display, a full keyboard, a backlit display and five hours of battery life."

Instead he simply said, "MacBook Air. The world's thinnest notebook." If [a person watching] wanted to learn more, they could visit the Apple website after the presentation, but if they only remembered that one thing—world's thinnest notebook—it would tell them a lot. Now, Google for "world's thinnest notebook" and you will find more than 30,000 links to the phrase.

Audiences are looking for a "headline," a way to position the new product in their own minds. One of my favorite product descriptions from Jobs occurred in 2003, when he introduced Keynote presentation software for the Mac. He said "Keynote is a presentation app for when your presentation really counts. Oh, and Keynote was built for me!" The slide behind Jobs simply read, "Built for me." He then launched into the details of the software but you only needed the one takeway—a presentation application built for Jobs.

MacBook Air Introduction

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