I have just finished watching the Apple keynote presentation which saw the launch of a couple of new products, including the 4th generation iPad and the iPad mini.
Apple presentations are often delivered in a ‘Presentation Zen’ style approach, using lots of big pictures (“iCandy”) and few words to provide a picture background for the presenter. Apple uses this technique really well, as they show off great product or product use-case images, and use these images to tap into the emotional aspect of buying increasingly important, personal consumer items.
Steve Jobs was equally great at bringing out this emotional connection when he spoke, with the charisma, enthusiasm, and passion that really are essential to both establish and maintain an emotional presentation message for an hour or more.
Watching the iPad mini launch though, I must say that I was less than impressed.
I became very tired, very quickly, of hearing words like “beautiful”, “amazing”, and “incredible”. They were both over-used and used with no substance behind them.
Neither Tim Cook nor Phil Schiller captivated the audience, and there were plenty of painful moments in which both seemed to expect applause, but none came from the audience. I started playing Apple buzzword bingo. It didn’t improve things.
I was getting ready to switch off, when Phil Schiller started talking about the iPad mini. All of a sudden, he made a significant shift. His style moved from emotional to a more logical view point. His slides stopped being just big pictures, and started to use more animated diagrams. The talk wasn’t about ‘beautiful this’ or ‘amazing that’, but instead focused in on what made the iPad mini better than the best Android device.
He used comparison images, focusing in on things that people actually used. For example, showing that the iPad has more screen space and a more useful aspect ratio when viewing the web, which is the activity that most people use tablets for, and that the apps for iPad have been designed for a tablet experience, whereas those on Android have been designed for phones.
The slides showed me exactly what he was talking about once he moved from a ‘Presentation Zen’ approach to a ‘Dynamic Visuals’ approach. And the main thing with all of this is that it suddenly made me, an Android fan, realise that actually, Apple tablets may well be the better choice.
That’s quite an admission. It’s also a very interesting point about when it is appropriate to use emotional presentation styles, over a more traditional logical approach. Tim Cook and Phil Schiller are very successful, and leaders in their field. Neither are natural charismatic presenters like Steve Jobs was. It’s therefore difficult for them to try to copy his style and take an emotional lead in presentations. It is very difficult to train people to be charismatic. It’s not objective, but subjective, and requires a huge shift in personality and behaviour, which is a huge risk, and means that you may well not achieve your objectives.
On the other hand, logical presentations are based on objective, tangible, hard skills. If you have the right story, and Dynamic Visuals to support you, any presenter can do a credible job, and critically, compel the audience to pay attention and persuade them that they should follow the action laid out by the presenter.
If Apple are to continue to get their message out, and indeed everyone else too, I suggest that logical presentations are the way forward, as they can be delivered by anyone, consistently, and get results, unlike emotional presentations which put too much to chance. Much as their products are evolving, I hope that their presentation style evolves into something that both showcases the great benefits of the products that they offer, and helps and supports their presenters to tell the story effectively.