Friday, June 15, 2007

Good presentation / Bad presentation

Two very different presentations, two very different presenters.

First, Thomas Barnett talking at TED in 2005. And his slides suuuuuuuuuuck! But his content is superb and his delivery is just stunning. Even when he walks up to the big screen to use his fingers as pointers, even when he walks in front of the projector ["I'm Eclipse Boy!"] it simply doesn't matter. He uses the most vomit-inducing animations I have seen for years and his graphics [frequently introduced with PowerPoint sounds - yay!] are just dire.

But his presentation is utterly compelling.

His subject matter is huge and visionary, his thinking is all-encompassing, and his total conviction reverberates out of every word he utters. Plus he's funny as hell. Treat yourself.

[For RSS readers, for some reason you have to click through to the post to see the presentation. It's a TED thing - sorry.]
On the other hand Steve Jobs stood up on Monday June the 11th at the WWDC in San Francisco and gave a very ho-hum performance. Not (for me at least) because his content was weak - the Leopard stuff was very interesting, even though I can't buy it tomorrow. And certainly not because his slides let him down - they were as beautifully rendered as ever. But his delivery just lacked a certain something. He has set the bar so high for himself with past performances that this one just felt ... flat to me.
  • His words didn't flow as well as they might have.
  • His vocabulary was even more repetitive than usual.
  • He kept looking down at his playbook during the Demo sections.
  • His bridging from section to section was just ... flat.
Maybe there was to be a truly major 'One More Thing' announcement and they had to pull it at short notice and Steve was a bit off as a result. Maybe the rumour sites had raised everyone's expectations that there would be some hardware goodies announced and a Leopard run-through, excellent as it was just wasn't wowie-zowie enough. But whatever the reason, it didn't quite gel. Even Fake Steve thought that it hadn't gone too well.

The link to the presentation is on the Apple website here.

The style / substance debate has raged since time immemorial. Both sides could use both of these presentations to make very convincing arguments in support of their point. This isn't a cut-and-dried case of a CEO giving a god-awful, head-down, reading-from-the-4X6-cards presentation. But one of these presentations rocks and the other just doesn't. Visual folk can watch Steve with the sound muted and enjoy the pwetty, pwetty slides. Content heads can try and shield their eyes from Thomas' ghastly PowerPoint but enjoy his antics and revel in his delivery.

Over to you - what do you think?


Alfons said...

He's a military guy and I think his slides are perfectly appropriate. The slides look like all the slides I've seen while studying at university. It's the standard. Look at school books. These slides are the most beautiful work of genius compared to the design of most school books.

Rowan Manahan said...

Hi Alfons and thanks for the comment.

You are right - Dr Barnett's slides are very much the norm, the average for a military or academic guy. that's kind of the point. He even ruefully acknowledges my good-natured criticism on his website.

I guess my point is that his preso is great despite the appalling slides and Steve's (on this occasion) was pretty poor despite the great slides. You are the presentation. Your ideas and how you express them are the presentation. Pretty slides will not help you if your energy if 'off' on the day of your talk, and yukky slides will not really matter if you are firing on all cylinders while delivering a humdinger of a talk like Dr Barnett.

Wouldn't it be great if we could enjoy talks from every sphere that were as brilliantly constructed and delivered as Dr Barnett's and as magnificently illustrated as a Steve Jobs Keynote address? That's a pretty big ask ...