Steve Jobs, CEO, Apple Computer, is known for his charismatic delivery of powerful and high-impact presentations that typically captivates and entices customers and audiences.

One trait common with speakers such as Steve Jobs – they don’t have slides littered with mind-boggling copy. Typically, their slides contain only a few words per slide, while they eloquently expound concepts at length. Such presentations come with a price – practice.

Actions: Reductionism

It takes a lot of practice to be able to reduce the number of words per slide to that level for any single speech. Although not too many of us have the luxury of practicing the same speech over and over again, it is a goal to work towards. So what can you do about your presentation slides the next time round?

First, find stories, themes or metaphors close to your heart. Think about personal experiences, rather than using published examples that you barely know about. In this way, you do not need to fill the entire slide with all the bullet points to remind yourself. All you need is a one-liner with a high-impact headline.

Second, if you are delivering technical content, reduce each slide to contain one key idea. Feel free to break that single idea into several short bullet points. Use the bullet points as cues for your presentation flow, but do not include the entire sentences verbatim. Otherwise, your attendees can well just read your slides and not attend your presentation.

Third, reduce the number of slides down to an appropriate level. Some novice presenters have 60 slides for a half-hour presentation, which means you will be cycling through slides at a dizzying pace! Think through your presentation, come up with a good theme or story, and use the story to lead through a few strategic key points, and end with a “bang”. Leave the audience wanting more, so that there will be opportunities for follow up. Never give away the shop with every conceivable detail on your slides.

Fourth – REHEARSE! Rehearse again and again in front of a mirror, observing your body language, and refine your slides as you go along. It is typical for a 30-minute presentation to require many days of hard work, including late night rehearsals in front of a mirror. You do want to convince and persuade your audience, don’t you?

Great presentations have succinct text blocks. It requires practice, and the end result always seems easier than when we try to deliver them. As with life, there is no short cut.

These are some writings we did in 2003 (published as “DotZen”, a paperback book that was widely publicized), and we extracted some which are still relevant today, in the areas of branding, marketing, sales, publicity, and business improvement. If we find some time outside that of helping our clients grow and taking a rest, we will try to write some more.

Copyright©2003 Seamus Phan & Ter Hui Peng. All rights reserved.