Apple introduced new products today for the education market, and its presentation was vintage Steve Jobs. From the way they told the story behind the new iPad for students to the way the slides were designed, Apple's leaders used the same techniques that Steve Jobs perfected from his earliest presentations.

These are effective strategies that any entrepreneur or business professional can--and should--use to elevate their presentation skills. Here are three takeaways from the introduction of Apple's new iPad for students that anyone can copy to present like Steve Jobs:

1. Treat presentations as performances.

The event was held in the auditorium of Lane Tech, a high school in Chicago's Northwest side. Apple CEO, Tim Cook, said more PhD's have come from Lane Tech than any public high school in the country. Invitations to the members of the press looked like a class schedule and promoted an "assembly."

The font on the slides looked like a version of "Chalkboard" that comes with Apple Keynote. Everything from the setting to the font on the slides were consistent with the theme.

The lesson: Great presentations are performance art. Think about how every detail of the event or presentation reinforces the larger theme.

2. Explain the backstory before revealing new products.

I've written about this before: Great presenters don't start with the product. They start with the backstory. A backstory introduces the characters, experiences, history, or innovations that brought you to this place. 

"At Apple, we care deeply about education," Cook began, before reminding the audience that 40 years ago--in 1978-- Apple was the first to bring computing technology to the masses and exploded in the education market. Several times in the presentation, Cook connected the new products to a famous quote or insight from Steve Jobs.

These two particularly stood out:

  • "Our place is at the intersection of technology and liberal arts." Jobs said this in the first iPad launch 2010.
  • "At Apple, we've always believed that people with passion could change the world." Jobs used this line as early as 1997.

The lesson: Products are much more interesting when your audience learns about its backstory. Features and benefits don't inspire; stories do. 

3. Keep slides simple with no bullet points.

There were no bullet points on a Steve Jobs slide. Ever.

And there were no bullet points on the Apple Education event at Lane Tech. The slides were remarkably simple, clean and uncluttered. When Tim Cook delivered key statistics, the number was the only thing on the screen. For example, 

Cook said Apple's cared deeply for education for 40 years. The slide only had the numeral: 40. Cook said Apple would give 200 gigabytes of free cloud storage for the education market. The slide only had the numeral: 200 gb. Apple announced it handed out one million badges to teachers [earned by taking online programs]. The slide only had the numeral: 1 million.

Very few words cluttered the slides. I saw nearly every slide--the most "wordy" contained a total of 18 words, but it was one quote from a famous educator, Horace Mann. The rest of the slides were mostly photos with--at most--one or two words complementing the image.

The lesson: Bullets have no place in a presentation meant to inspire and excite. People can't focus on what you're saying while reading text on a slide at the same time. Keep text to a minimum. 

Steve Jobs turned presentations into an art form. Apple's current leaders were taking notes. And so should you. 

Published on: Mar 27, 2018
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