Scene 8: Channel their inner Zen

‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.’ Steve Jobs

  • Jobs makes products easy to use by eliminating features and clutter
  • It’s laziness on the presenter’s part to put everything on one slide
  • Where most presenters add as many words as possible to a slide, Jobs removes and removes and removes
  • A Steve Jobs presentation is strikingly simple, visual, and devoid of  bullet points

No more pencils

  • The minute you put bullets on the screen you are announcing, “write this down, but don’t really pay attention to it now”
  • People don’t take notes when they go to the opera
  • Ultimate goal: ease of use and clarity

Macworld 2008: The art of simplicity

Let’s rock

  • If you deliver a point and your slide has too many words – and words that do not match what you say – your audience will have a hard time focusing on both you and the slide.
  • Wordy slides detract from the experience.
  • Simple slides keep the focus where it belongs – on you, the speaker.
  • The Let’s Rock presentation – excerpts:
Steve’s words Steve’s slides
Good morning. Thank you for coming this morning. We have some really exciting stuff to share with you. Before we do, I just wanted to mention this (gestures toward screen) The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.
Enough said. So, let’s get on with the real topic of this morning, which is music. We’re going to talk about music today, and we’ve got a lot of fun, new offerings. Music
So, let’s start with iTunes iTunes
iTunes now offers over eight and a half million songs. It’s amazing. We started with two hundred thousand. We now have over eight and a half million songs. 8,500,000 songs

Empirical evidence

  • Empirical studies based on hard data, not opinions, prove that keeping your slides simple and free off extraneous information is the best way to engage your audience.

Dr. Richard Mayer’s fundamental principles of multimedia design based on cognitive functioning:

  • Multimedia representation principle – two-minute warning
    • Multisensory environments: texts and pictures, animation, and video – much more accurate recall of the information, even up to 20 y later
    • The task of leaders is to simplify. You should  be able to explain where you have to go in two minutes. Jeroen van der veer, CEO, Royal Dutch Shell
    • Contiguity principle
      • Present corresponding words and pictures contiguously rather than separately
      • Verbal+visual – stronger mental connections
      • Split-attention principle
        • Present words as auditory narration rather than visual on-screen text
        • Coherence principle
          • Use few rather than many extraneous words and pictures
          • Adding redundant or irrelevant information will impede, rather than aid, learning
          • An ideal slide would contain an image along with a simple line drawing directing the eye to the area that you want the viewer to see. This is called ‘signalling’.
          • Line drawings, few words, and a rich library of colourful images and photographs make up the majority of Jobs’s slides
            • The McPresentation
              • ‘Snapshots’, stand-alone charts on lower left of the main sections (news, sports, money, life)
              • White space
                • The biggest mistake business professionals make is filling up every centimetre of the slide
                • Visual breathing room
                • Clutter is a failure of design
                • Empty space implies elegance, quality, and clarity e.g.

Picture superiority effect

Steve’s love of photos

  • One of Jobs’s presentation had 11 slides but only slide contained words. The others were all photos.
  • It takes confidence to deliver your ideas with photos instead of words. Since you can’t rely on the slides’ text as a crutch, you must have your message down cold.
  • Jobs delivers his ideas simply, clearly, and confidently.

Simplify everything – Einstein’s theory of simplicity

‘If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.’ Albert Einstein

Plain English campaign

  • People go to a presentation to see you, not to read your words.
  • Instead of giving people the benefit of your wit and wisdom (words), try painting them a picture.
  • The more strikingly visual your presentation is, the more people will remember it.
  • “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” Leonardo da Vinci
  • When you discover this concept for yourself, your ideas will become far more persuasive than you could ever imagine.

Director’s notes:

  • Avoid bullet points. Always. Well, almost always. Bullet points are perfectly acceptable on pages intended to be read by your audience, like books, documents, and emails. In fact, they break up the text quite nicely. Bullet points on presentation slides should be avoided. Pictures are superior.
  • Focus on one theme per slide, and complement that theme with a photograph or image.
  • Learn to create visually aesthetic slides. Above all, keep in mind that you do not have to be an artist to build slides rich in imagery. Visit for a list of resources.

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