The PowerPoint gospel of Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs famously said, “people who know what they’re talking about, don’t need PowerPoint.*” Someone recently quoted this at me, and it’s now a mantra of the PowerPoint haters, those that don’t want to put in the time, would rather freewheel then apply structure to thinking, and prefer speaking off-the-cuff regardless of the blind turns, dead ends and side roads their tale takes.

The mantra-chanters forget a few key  points:

You are not Steve Jobs. Not even close.

The first — unless you started a couple of billion dollar companies of your own, increased the number of carpal tunnel cases by commercializing the mouse (and sticking to the ridiculous opinion that you don’t need right-click), changed the way the world listens to music, and inspired those appalling Michelob Ultralife commercials with swipes and gestures — you are not Steve Jobs.

Steve used “PowerPoint” pretty well.

The second, for any keen observer of Apple’s product releases and its stock price, is that Steve himself was a master of PowerPoint. Apple groupies the world over will point out that it was not the eponymous PowerPoint Steve used but in fact Apple’s Keynote. I use PowerPoint here in the same lazy, inaccurate, short-handed way I described my Dyson vacuum cleaner as a Hoover, and the Canon copier in the office as a Xerox. Steve had meticulously crafted and superbly staged presentations in-front of Keynote. He spoke in front of slides that worked well and reinforced the way he spoke. (By the way, I believe he was the type of presenter we call an Inventor)

Here he is introducing the iPad in January 2010.

The fanfare & pomp of the product launch, including Steve’s presentations, drove Apple’s stock.

He wasn’t talking about presenting anyway.

Third, according to Carmine Gallo, author of the presentation secrets of Steve Jobs, he was directing his ire at people who were coming to meetings and planning sessions. Occasions when, in Steve’s mind, people should roll up their sleeves, contribute and collaborate, not present. That’s the job of a white-board, pencil, paper, sticky-notes, a few grey cells and a collaborative frame of mind. If you want to get better at that, I’d recommend having a look at Gamestorming.

Let’s face it, PowerPoint is It’s the Swiss-army knife of software. It’s not a word processor, business dashboard, Wireframe and UI mockup program, a collaboration tool, nor is it particularly a Creative tool.  It’s used for all those things, but that’s not what it is. When people misuse it, poor old PowerPoint gets the blame. So if you are in that place where you think you don’t need PowerPoint, I’d say that a) you are delusional, or b) I would like to buy some of your stock please.

* A fuller quote, to give context. “[…] and they would come with thirty people and try to show PowerPoints, which Steve didn’t want to see,” Schiller recalled. One of the first things Jobs did during the product review process was ban PowerPoints. “I hate the way people use slide presentations instead of thinking,” Jobs later recalled. “People would confront a problem by creating a presentation. I wanted them to engage, to hash things out at the table, rather than show a bunch of slides. People who know what they’re talking about don’t need PowerPoint.” from the Walter Isaacson Biography, Steve Jobs.

Further Reading.


Gavin_Animated-GifGavn is a founding partner at fassforward consulting group. He blogs about PowerPoint, Presenting, Communication and Message Discipline at makeapowerfulpoint.com. You can follow him on twitter @powerfulpoint.

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  1. Janet Williams | September 19, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    I enjoy the part when the letters in NETBOOK were falling apart and dropping dead!

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