Link: Presentation Zen.
If you think we're entering a new Golden Age of presentations in the corporate world, where beauty and simplicy reign, check out this site and you'll see an interesting contrast of two styles of presentations: Jobs vs Gates. Microsoft vs Apple. Clutter vs Simplicity. Confusion vs Clarity.
Yes it's easy to poke fun at Bill. And we all know that often "less is more." But try getting that across to a room of engineer speakers in Silicon Valley. Several years ago when I created an advanced presentation skills course at Intel, we ran through several groups of engineers as part of the "pilot test." Much as we pushed to encourage them to reduce content, they resisted. "We know it looks better graphically," said one engineer. "But my boss is going to want to see the data on the screen or he thinks I'm not doing my job." We tried to talk them into putting the data on handouts, hoping to reduce the torture. But that went nowhere. We finally compromised on fewer bullets and an occasional visual slide.
Presentations are getting better across corporate America, including Intel. But progress is slow, and uneven. Some companies are still badly lagging. So it raises the question: Why hasn't the art and craft of PowerPoint presentations advanced more? One thing is clear: technology isn't the answer. Just as giving everyone a desktop publishing program back in the 80's didn't improve the overall quality of newsletters, giving everyone a laptop and the latest version of PowerPoint isn't going to turn everyone into a Steve Jobs presenter.
The solution is painfully simple. Teach people how to present better first--without slides. Then begin working with them with slides. I've mentioned Toastmasters before; it's a great place to practice stand up speeches (no slides). When I was at Intel each site had its own club. I watched mid level managers who could barely present, over time, become competent speakers. But it takes time, something in short supply. Much easier to just throw together some slides and "present" the data.
Eventually maybe we'll see a movement to turn the tide. For now, we have to take it in stride and do our best. Check out the "what if" Microsoft redesigned the iPod video (YouTube). This is a real classic, right up there with Gone with the Wind. Microsoft iPod video Thanks to Robert Scoble for finding this one, and Garth for posting the nice visual comparisons. Long live the iPod.