You have heard me praise the presentation skills of Steve Jobs many times before. He's the high priest of presentations. But there is another master communicator with a strong Apple history known for his engaging and charismatic presentations: Guy Kawasaki. Guy is a Silicon Valley legend of sorts. He first gained fame over twenty years ago as a tech evangelist for Apple, "leading the charge against world-wide domination by IBM." Currently Guy is Managing Director of Garage Technology Ventures and the author of many popular business books including his latest, The Art of the Start. He is a sought-after speaker because he brings the rare combination of experience, great content, and a wonderful engaging style.
Presentation advice from the frontlines
I recommend you buy Art of the Start for two reasons: (1) because it is a relevant, useful book for any business person, especially entrepreneurs or future entrepreneurs, and (2) because Guy devotes an entire chapter to the "Art of the Pitch" which contains solid tips and advice for making effective presentations to people who can help or invest in your ideas. And when you think about it, most presentations are pitches, are they not? Most presentations are (or should be) about selling your idea to get buy in, agreement, financial support, research funding, and so on. Great content is necessary, but it is not going to sell itself. Not usually. We've got to pitch or sell our data and ideas to be effective. So Guy's tips on "pitching" are applicable to most business or technical presentations.
Allow me here to highlight just one idea (among many) from Guy's chapter on pitching. "Pitch constantly," Guy says. Forget about the idea of "rising to the occasion" on the presentation day. If you shuffle badly through practice and give it a half-hearted effort in preparation, you will surely be lousy on the day of the presentation. The best musicians and athletes, for example, perform in practice just like they do during the actual concert or event. There are no shortcuts. Says Guy:
"Familiarity breeds content. It's when you are actually familiar and comfortable with your pitch that you'll be able to give it most effectively. There are no shortcuts to achieving familiarity — you simply have to pitch a lot of times.
"Twenty-five times is what it takes for most people to reach this point. All these pitches don't have to be to your intended audiences — your co-founders, employees, relatives, friends, and even your dog are fine auditors."
Guy takes a very "zen approach" to his presentations and the supporting PowerPoint. His talks usually evolve around ten key points, no matter the topic. His visuals, then, will consist of ten slides each with one key message spelled out. That's it. Simple. The visuals keep Guy on track and help him tell his story and give a strong feeling of organization to the tone of the talk. Guy kindly agreed to do a couple of presentations for me while I was at Apple. His 10-points/10-slides approach was very effective and allowed the audience to focus on his words, his face, and his personality...this made his content far more accessible. You can download slides from Guy's keynote presentation for the WOMMA 2005. In this presentation his visuals follow the 10-point/10-slides guide (though he includes an eleventh, "be a mensch" for good measure).
Brendon Wilson has posted transcripts of "The Art of Positioning & Presentation" talk from the Art of the Start Conference. Scroll to the middle to find the section on presenting.You can download the audio files from Guy's presentations (and others too) from the 2005 Art Of the Start Conference.
Business Training Direct has a good article featuring Guy's ideas on presentation simplicity. Cliff Atkinson also has a good, short interview with Guy worth reading. And here in an interview with Technation, Guy talks about "The Art of the Start" and many other things as well.
Guy talks often about being a Mensch — and from what I've seen he backs it up. When I first met Guy in his office at Garage in 2001, before I ever had a chance to ask if he'd like to present at one of our future Macworld events, he volunteered. He then accepted several other opportunities to give of his time to user groups. Guy can make a lot of money by public speaking, no doubt. But he also "gives it away" quite often. Now that's a Mensch.