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Leave a Lasting Impression: Lessons on Presenting from Steve Jobs and TED Talks

Rob Stirling
Rob Stirling

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, sooner or later, you will need to give a presentation at work or in an offsite meeting. 

When you do, you will want it to be great.  

For lessons on killer presentations, there are no better examples than Steve Jobs and TED Talk presenters.

Here’s what you can learn from them to present well, create killer content and craft beautiful design.

Related Article: The 5 Most Motivating TED Talks

Presenting Well

The first thing to keep in mind when you are making a presentation is that you are making the presentation.

The way you look and act, and the words you say, are every bit as important as what you show on the screen.

Here’s how to ensure the way you present keeps your audience engaged.

1. Express Your Enthusiasm

If you’re not excited about the topic, your audience won’t be.

Jobs unveiled the iPhone for the first time with a big grin and the statement, “It looks pretty doggone gorgeous.” He was enthusiastic about the product and it showed.

Your audience has come to hear you speak. They want to hear what you have to say and why you’re excited about it.

Show them your excitement in the words you use and through your body language.

2. Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse

Take the time to rehearse your presentation. Know it inside and out, so you can give it without the aid of your slides.

As we all know, technical difficulties happen, and if the projector isn’t working, you still need to be able to deliver your presentation.

3. Have Fun

Tell a joke. Smile. Show your audience that you enjoy speaking to them and they’re more likely to enjoy listening to you.

Creating Killer Content

Creating content is the part many presenters spend the most time on: getting the right words on their slides.

When it comes to content, less is more. These tips will help your presentation achieve maximum impact with minimum fuss:

1. Create a Twitter-Friendly Headline

The essence of your presentation and your message needs to be short and compelling. In today’s wired world, it’s best if it can fit into a tweet.

Jobs did this well in his presentation launching the iPhone, when he declared, “Today, Apple is going to reinvent the phone.”

The headline “Apple is going to reinvent the phone” was the only text on the slide, and this phrase made its way into thousands of articles and blog posts.

2. Use Simple Slides With Few Words

For the first three minutes of his iPhone presentation, Steve Jobs used a total of 19 words across 12 slides.

That’s an average of less than two words per slide.

At TED 2014 in Vancouver, Canada, astronaut Chris Hadfield’s presentation had 35 slides and only five words.

Jobs and Hadfield knew the focus of the presentation should be the presenter, not the slides.

Punctuate your points with a few keywords on your slides, but don’t make your audience read large paragraphs of text while trying to listen to you.

They can’t do both at the same time, and it makes them less likely to remember anything you say.

Some good tips for reducing the number of words on your slides:

  • Use key phrases and main ideas.
  • Avoid paragraphs, quotes, or even full sentences.
  • Don’t use acronyms.

Try not to read from your slides. The content of your slides is for your audience, not for you.

Related Article: The Year in TED: The Most Inspirational TED Talks of 2015

3. One Stat, One Slide

Sometimes business presentations get heavy with statistics. You may have to provide the numbers, but you don’t have to provide them all on one slide.

Take a cue from Del Harvey, the Vice President of Trust & Safety at Twitter. In her TED talk in 2014, she opened her presentation by saying, “Back in January 2009, we saw more than two million new tweets each day on the platform. January 2014, more than 500 million. We were seeing two million tweets in less than six minutes. That's a 24,900 percent increase.”

Her slide said: “That’s a 24,900% increase.”

Most presenters would have put many statistics on one slide. But because Harvey wanted her audience to focus on one statistic, she knew not to clutter the slide with too much data.

Pick the important statistic and stick to one stat, one slide.

Crafting Beautiful Design

Good design gives a professional, custom look that tells your audience you care about your topic and about their attention. Don’t neglect the important visual aspect of your presentation, and follow these tips for superior presentation design.

1. Pictures Are Superior

A picture is worth a thousand words, and well-chosen pictures can indeed replace a thousand words in your presentation.

The Picture Superiority Effect tells us people recall about 10 percent of content when only they hear or read it.

But they remember 65 percent when they hear or read the information and see a picture that complements it.

This is why the slides for TED Talks like Hadfield’s emphasize high-quality images over text. When you talk about your topic and show a compelling image to complement it, people will remember far more.

2. Eliminate Distractions

Avoid distracting transitions or sound effects, which make you look amateur rather than professional.

Focus more on your message, and less on making it fly across the screen. Also, don’t use clipart, it also looks unprofessional.

3. Consider Alternatives to PowerPoint

Just because Powerpoint is the most common presentation tool doesn’t mean it’s the only one. There are many other alternatives.

One option is Prezi, which is great for non-linear presentations. Some of the benefits of Prezi include:

  • Its emphasis on visual storytelling
  • It works in your browser, no software required
  • It is easy to use for teams working on the same presentation

Other options include Apple’s Keynote, Haiku Deck, and FlowVella. Don’t limit yourself to PowerPoint when another tool may work better for you.

4. Fonts

If you follow the above guidelines, you won’t have many words on your slides, but for the words you do have, these are best practices:

  • Use a sans-serif font like Arial or Helvetica, rather than a serif font such as Times New Roman or Palatino. Serif fonts, with their small lines at the end of strokes, can be difficult to read.
  • Don’t use a font size smaller than 24 point.
  • Make sure the font is legible by using light-colored font on a dark background, or vice versa.
  • If you can, test your presentation before you give it, by standing at the back of the room and making sure you can read what’s on the slides.

Related Article: Never Giving Up: 9 Successful Entrepreneurs Who Failed at Least Once

Follow the lead of Steve Jobs and TED Talk presenters like Chris Hadfield and Del Harvey, by presenting well, creating killer content, and crafting beautiful design, and you’ll be ready for your moment on center stage.  

Image Credit: Monkeybusinessimages / Getty Images
Rob Stirling
Rob Stirling Member
Rob Stirling is the Director of Marketing at Cape Rey Carlsbad, a Hilton Resort. Stirling is a passionate and committed hotel executive who possesses a strong desire for success. An industry veteran with nearly 30 years experience, he has been involved in numerous high profile developments highlighted by the successful introduction of San Diego’s first Forbes Five Star Resort, The Grand Del Mar. A native of Connecticut, Stirling holds a bachelor’s of science in hospitality management from East Stroudsburg University. He is passionate about exercise, soccer and travel.