Learn How to Present Like Steve Jobs & Simon Sinek

By Ron Pereira Updated on February 12th, 2016

Over the last few years I’ve started to do more and more keynote presentations in front of live audiences.

And, while I love doing these live talks it’s much different than shooting a video in our studio or on the road during a Gemba Academy Live! episode. And, quite frankly, I want to get better at it.

As such, I’ve been researching what makes for outstanding keynote presentations. And this research lead me to two of the best, maybe the best, keynote presenters of our time – Steve Jobs and Simon Sinek.

I’ve seen both of these men present many times… and even saw Simon Sinek (who we had on the Gemba Academy podcast last year) speak in person. He’s incredible.

So, what I want to share in this article are some of the techniques these men follow. So, no matter if you’re going to be a keynote presenter or you just want to nail that next presentation in front of your boss or colleagues… these tips will help.

Steve Jobs

First, let’s focus on Steve Jobs. My good friend, Paul Akers, recently told me about an excellent book that summarizes many of the principles Jobs followed. It’s called The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience.

I’d encourage you check it out to learn more about what made Jobs such a great presenter… but, in case you don’t, here are some of the key takeaways.

1. What’s the one big idea you want to leave with your audience? It should be short and memorable.

In short, what’s the one thing you want folks to remember once your talk is over?  For Jobs most of his keynotes focused on new devices, or technology.  This may not be the case for you… but, whatever your big idea, or theme, is make sure you drive it home and make it memorable.

2. Write out the three messages you want the audience to receive, and develop metaphors and analogies in support.

Jobs was famous for sharing things in groups of 3.  Go back and watch some of his old keynotes and you’ll see this again and again.  So, do your best to share key themes or ideas in groups of 3 when it makes sense.

3. Include a demonstration or video clip if your topic lends itself to such. 

Did you recently lead an awesome kaizen event?  If so, shoot a short video showing the improvements and play it during your presentation.  Videos rule!  Just try to keep the video clips to less than 3 minutes.

4. Invite partners and customers to participate.

And, for that same kaizen event, ask some of the team members to help you with the presentation.  You may be good… but bringing others in to help can make your presentation even better.  Or perhaps a key customer is willing to come in and help you out… that, I promise, will make people lean in and listen!

5. Answer the “Why should I care?” that’s in the audience’s mind. Have a passion for creating a better future.

Ah, yes.  The why.  People may understand what you mean and how to go about doing what you propose… but until they understand why they should care you won’t make a lasting impact.

6. Having an enemy helps visualize ‘the problem’ you’re solving.

For Jobs his ‘enemy’ was usually competitors like Microsoft.  For you and me our enemy may be related to things like waste or other inefficiencies.  But, it’s really important to be clear about what you’re up against and what you’re trying to defeat.  Know thy enemy!

7. Simplify your presentation (and products).

An excellent book, that literally changed my life as it relates to presenting information, is called Presentation Zen.  In it you learn how to move away from “death by PowerPoint bullets.”  If you still use PPT bullets, I beg you, please read Presentation Zen.  The people you present to in the future will thank you from the bottom of their heart.  Really.  I mean this.

8. Make numbers meaningful – eg. “Stores 1,000 songs,” not “5 GB memory.”

In other words, don’t tell me about what the P value is unless you also explain what it means and why I should care.

9. Practice, practice, practice – and ask for feedback.

I recently delivered a keynote and really wanted to nail the opening… so I recorded myself doing the opening and then played it back many times.  It really helped… so grab your smart phone and record yourself doing parts (or all) of your next presentation.  It will really help.

Now, obviously, these are only a few of the tips shared in the book… but they give you a good idea of what made Steve Jobs so good!

Simon Sinek

OK, now I want to talk about Simon Sinek.  I won’t lie… I believe Simon Sinek is the best presenter I’ve ever seen, or heard.  Even better than Jobs.  He commands a stage and literally pulls you in and doesn’t let go until he’s done.  And, when he’s done… your only wish is that he’d keep talking.  He’s that good.

Here are some of the lessons Sinek preaches.

 1. Don’t talk right away. Quietly walk out on stage, take a breath, wait a few seconds, and then begin.

Oh, goodness this is hard.  I tried to do this during my last keynote but still found myself cracking a little joke about the “walk up music” the audio folks played.  I then paused for a few seconds and began sharing a story.

Now, when Simon Sinek speaks he usually walks onto the stage… doesn’t say a word… stops in the middle of the stage and rubs his hands together as he stares down at the ground.  After a few seconds your heart starts to race since you think he’s forgotten how to start.  A few seconds later he calmly enters into some amazing story and you’re left breathless.

2. Show up to give, not to take.

If people show up to hear you share information, or any kind, you owe it to them to deliver the best presentation you can offer.  So, even if you’re trying to motivate others to do something… you must first seek to add value to them.

3. Make eye contact with audience members one by one. Don’t “scan and pan.”

This is also hard… especially if you’re on a stage with lights blasting you.  But it’s so important to connect with folks on a personal level.  Simon Sinek does that constantly.  You feel as if he’s talking directly to you.

4. Speak unusually slowly.

Yeah, this is also hard for me!  I talk fast and know it.  And I’m really working hard to slow it down… so, if you’re like me, realize it’s not a race.  Slow down and speak intentionally.

5. Ignore the naysayers and focus on those visibly engaged.

I recently had a person attempt to “correct me” in front of a live audience.  This person was wrong in what he was saying… and I knew it… but I didn’t want to argue with him in front of a live audience.

Later that evening a man – who I soon learned was an officer of the same company as the naysayer – walked up to me while I was having dinner and explained how I was indeed correct and how impressed he was by how I handled that, extremely awkward, moment.  As they say… haters gonna hate. Don’t let them get you down!

6. Turn nervousness into excitement.

It’s most definitely OK to be nervous.  But channel that nervousness into passion for your topic.  If you’re passionate about what you’re saying people will forgive small mistakes.  But, if you’re boring, and lack energy, most folks will likely want to jab a fork into their neck 10 minutes in no matter how many degrees you have!

7. Say thank you when you’re done.

Tell people thank you and, most importantly, mean it.

Final Words of Wisdom

Lastly, something that’s really helped me is to simply sit back and watch old presentations of people like Steve Jobs and Simon Sinek.  Watch what they say.  Watch how they say it.  And watch how they interact with the audience.

In the end, you still have to be you.  So don’t feel as if you have to copy everything Jobs or Sinek do.  But, for starters, you can definitely “borrow” some of their techniques as you work to develop, and perfect, your own style.

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