Your audience is overwhelmed with data, numbers, and statistics in their daily lives. When they're watching your presentation, they certainly don't want to be bombarded by another barrage of numbers. But in most cases, you can't avoid meaningful statistics that provide the evidence for your pitch or proposal. What's a speaker to do?

The folks who design Apple's slides have a solution. It's brilliant. It works. And you can do it easily in your next presentation. Here's the simple hack: Stick to one number per slide.

For an example, look no further than Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference held earlier this month.

When Apple CEO Tim Cook began talking about a new release of Apple's mobile operating system (iOS 13), he said: "iOS has the highest customer satisfaction in the industry, with an incredible 97 percent." The slide had one number in large font--97 percent. In smaller font beneath the number, a sentence read: "Customer satisfaction for iOS 12."

That's it. One number and one sentence.

Few leaders know numbers as well Cook does. He's capable of poring over excel spreadsheets for hours and catching the one discrepancy that everyone else overlooked. Yet, when Cook delivers public presentations, he's careful to focus on one number on one slide. Only after he's done explaining the statistic does he move to another slide.

"Our adoption rate is industry leading as well," Cook continued. "Eighty-five percent of iOS customers are on the latest release." What number is the one and only statistic on the slide? You got it--85 percent.

Cook isn't the only Apple presenter who follows the formula. All of Apple's senior executives use the same presentation template.

When Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, took the stage to show off the new features of iOS 13 for the iPhone, he rattled off a series of numbers related to the phone's performance. Each number got its own slide.

According to Federighi, the new OS allows phones to unlock FaceID 30 percent faster, downloads are 50 percent smaller, and updates are 60 percent smaller--all making apps a faster experience. In this order the slides read:

30 percent

Faster FaceID unlock

50 percent

Smaller app downloads

60 percent

Smaller app updates

Steve Jobs began using the formula of one number or theme per slide long before business professionals even started thinking about designing presentations more effectively.

When I wrote The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, I cited a presentation he delivered for the second version of the iPad. In the first five minutes, his slides altogether contained a total of just 33 words. To put that into context, it's said that the average presentation slide contains 40 words--that's on each slide.

Even today, most speakers create slides that look more like documents with numbers, charts, and bullet points. This is exactly the wrong way to present information that's intended to be recalled and acted upon. According to neuroscientists, our brains are energy hogs. The brain evolved to be as efficient as possible and to save energy. If it has to work too hard to figure out a slide, it tunes out.

Stick to one theme--one number--per slide. Your audience will thank you.

Published on: Jun 21, 2019
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