Apple’s focus on creating amazing presentations has a history starting with Steve Jobs, who would often spend hundreds of hours in preparation for important keynotes, such as the announcement of the iPhone. This focus on perfecting public presentation naturally carried over to the internal culture of presenting polished keynotes to stakeholders.
Working at Apple initially as a data scientist on the launch of Apple TV+, and then later on personalization and search for the App Store, I got a first-rate lesson in creating and delivering effective presentations. For the sake of brevity, I’ll focus on three key lessons that you can start applying today to improve your presentations.
Know Your Audience and Their Motivations
During my two years at Apple, I would have the opportunity to present to everyone from VP’s to business line managers. In every single instance, the content and delivery would need to naturally change in order to fit your audience’s preferred style. For example, our CEO and CFO love seeing dense tables from which they can rapidly scan and make inferences. Others would roast you mercilessly if you tried to overwhelm them with a data-dense table. As such, it’s important to understand who will be in the meeting, and what type of presentation styles resonate most.
Create a Compelling Story
Stories have a purpose, as should your presentation. In my first few weeks I spent some time doing an analysis and putting together a presentation. After delivering it to our stakeholders, they had asked “So what?”. This was a question I hadn’t even considered, hoping instead that the analysis would lead to a flurry of ideas for applications. Instead I was left fumbling trying to come up with an answer. Rather than put yourself in this awkward position, focus above all on answering the “So what?” question.
Once you’ve identified your audience, their motivations, and answered the “so what” question, you can start creating an outline for the story you’d like to tell. People naturally gravitate towards stories, and the best way to communicate ideas and insights is to package them into something with a natural beginning, middle, and end.
Pay Attention To The Details
More than any other company I’ve worked at, Apple cares about the details. While it certainly felt like bike-shedding at certain points, especially when someone calls you out for using the wrong font (or font size), paying attention to even the smallest details does signal that you approach your work methodically and carefully.
I’ve both sat through and had my own presentations be derailed by missing a tiny detail, which to an executive can often throw into question your entire analysis. Rather than have your work be doubted, take the time to go through each slide and speaker note with a fine comb to make sure you didn’t miss anything important which may diminish your credibility in the eyes of your stakeholders.
Incorporating these three ideas into your future presentations will ensure that your audience can focus on your quality insights and drive action as a result.