Former Apple Macintosh evangelist and author Guy Kawasaki has given at least 2,000 speeches since 1987. Many of the presentation techniques he uses to captivate an audience he learned from the most influential boss he's ever had--Steve Jobs.
I recently had an opportunity to sit down with Kawasaki at his Silicon Valley house to talk about his new book, Wise Guy. Specifically, we talked about public-speaking strategies that all entrepreneurs and leaders should follow if they want to give presentations that stand out.
One strategy in particular sounds simple--and it is--but the reason behind using it is profound.
"Make the type size on your slides bigger," says Kawasaki. While Kawasaki suggests using 30-point text at a minimum, he reveals that Jobs used 190-point text. Why? The simple answer, according to Kawasaki: "Bigger text is easier to read. Duh!"
The strategic reason is that larger text forces you to use fewer words on a slide. Creatively, it's a good exercise because it requires the speaker to be more thoughtful with the words they use. Also, fewer words means the audience's attention is on the speaker, not on the words on the slides.
When I was writing The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, I spoke to Apple designers who created Jobs's slides. They told me that while most presenters try to put as many words as possible on a slide--Jobs did the opposite. He removed and removed and removed through every iteration. The result was strikingly simple, often just one word on a slide.
The average presentation slide is said to have about 40 words. When I first learned that statistic, I examined some of Jobs's most famous presentations, notably the iPhone launch of 2007. I discovered that Jobs didn't reach 40 words until the 10th slide or so.
According to cognitive biologists, the human brain is far more capable of recalling information when it's presented as pictures with few words--one or two words to accompany the photo. If you take a look at some of Jobs's presentations, you'll see he followed the guideline.
For example:When Jobs was talking about the weakness of Apple's competitors in the smartphone category, one slide simply read: Smartphone. The next slide showed photos of the competitors with no text. When Jobs revealed the new touchscreen user interface, his slide simply read: Revolutionary U.I. The next slides showed photographs of the phone with a finger touching it.
If you go this route--less text, bigger font--keep one thing in mind. You'll need to practice a lot. Jobs rehearsed relentlessly. "He really practiced," Kawasaki says. "He made it look easy because he practiced for weeks."
It might sound counterintuitive, but putting only a few words on a slide will force your audience to listen to your idea more attentively. Go bigger. Your ideas deserve to be heard.