Carmine Gallo had an interesting piece in Business Week earlier this month in which he deconstructed some of the elements of Steve Jobs’ iPhone launch presentation from January this year and illustrated some simple takeaways. His five elements:
1. Build Tension
2. Stick to One Theme Per Slide
3. Add Pizzazz to Your Delivery
4. Practise
5. Be Honest and Show Enthusiasm

I like Carmine a lot – his 10 Simple Secrets book is very good and I’m looking forward to seeing his thoughts in his forthcoming book Fire Them Up!

But I wasn’t too keen on some of the stuff in this article he wrote. I heartily agree with his thoughts on simple slides, practising assiduously and speaking with integrity and passion. But I don’t think you should emulate another person’s speaking style – it just won’t ring true. Also, I think that trying to insert tension into the vast majority of presentations is a high-risk strategy.

At sales conference after sales conference across the world, Marketing and Sales personnel try to get the audience going. They have themes for the conferences, and logos, and loud music, sometime balloons … fire-eaters … women dressed as giant crabs … [I remember being asked to wear a flak jacket and camo paint on my face at a ‘Task Force’ presentation many years ago. Deep sigh.]

All in an attempt to “build tension” and excite the salesforce. It takes a pretty naive bunch of salespeople to get fired up by this stuff. Who are we kidding? Most of them are jaded and playing the role of an excited, dancing-on-the-chair corporate citizen. In reality, it takes a pretty exciting product to genuinely excite salespeople. Can you honestly say that your 15th line extension to your paracetamol pain-killer merits “tension” in presentation at the launch meeting?

Steve, on the other hand, plays to an expectant audience. Look at how flat his pitch on Leopard felt to the world in June. [I posted on why this might have been back then.] For iPhone, the world was waiting with bated breath – and he did not disappoint. If I had to nit-pick, I would say he was a little self-indulgent and a little bloated in his intro, but that’s just me … Carmine writes:

“Jobs conducts a presentation like a symphony, with ebbs and flows, buildups and climaxes. It leaves his listeners wildly excited.”

A known presenter, with an adoring audience, and a highly expectant audience at that, can maybe, maybe, play these kind of games. Fake Steve Jobs writes:

“The article overlooks one huge item, which is my Kreskinesque group hypnosis techniques. Unfortunately that is not something you can learn from reading a magazine article.”

Good point FSJ.

Don’t present like Steve – or anybody else. Find your voice and present like yourself.