Emily Stewart recently brought my attention to a short animated video that she and her team produced for OnlineMBA that illustrates some of the key values that Steve Jobs and his team espoused when designing products for Apple.
The video is clever and is similar in style to the popular animated videos by RSA Animate. It is a creative way in which to enhance a presentation with images. Of course, because the drawing / writing is significantly speeded up, this particular format only works via media such as the Internet.
As I watched the video, it occurred to me that many of the principles that Jobs and his colleagues at Apple have embraced when designing their products hold true for a well-designed presentation.
1. “The quality has to be carried all the way through. … High quality design is all-encompassing.” A good presentation has a clear message, a strong opening, compelling content, an appropriate balance between logic and emotion, good supporting material and a strong conclusion. And it all fits together tightly. Remove even one of these elements and you will end up with weaker product.
2. “[You] must truly understand what the product is, how it works and how it will benefit customers or society …” For every presentation that you give, you must be able to answer these two questions: (a) What is my key message? (b) Why should the audience care? The answers must be absolutely clear if you hope to deliver a presentation that is in any way meaningful for your audience.
3. “Good design is produced by people who are motivated by failures and optimistic about change.” Not every presentation goes as planned. Do you learn from such experiences? Do you seek feedback? Do you act on the feedback that you receive? If you present frequently on the same subject, do you regularly update and refine your presentation? Are you always looking for ways in which to improve?
4. “One of Steve Jobs’ most well-known mantras was ‘Focus and Simplicity’. … It’s harder to design something that is simply beautiful than it is to just stuff a product that is full of bells and whistles.” So many presentations fall short of the mark because the presenter tries to cover too many points and crams every slide with too much text. A good presenter is like a sculptor; she works to remove everything that is unnecessary and extraneous to the key message. A good presenter focuses with laser-like intensity on her key message. Everything in the presentation supports the key message in some way. A good presenter keeps things simple. Simple is good; simple is memorable; simple works.
5. “Product design isn’t meant to stick out like a sore thumb, but rather seamlessly integrate with a high quality product that people come to recognize as an extension of themselves.” If a presentation is well planned, well structured and well delivered, people might remember certain parts of it; however, and more importantly, they will remember the key message and why it is important for them. And, one hopes, they will act on it.