What the iPad teaches us about presenting

Apple’s new iPad is the latest tech sensation, and while many expected it to bomb, its initial sales and reviews are extremely positive. So, you ask yourself, what has this got to do with a blog about presenting?

One of the greatest skills of a presenter is storytelling, part of which is the art of using analogies and metaphors to bring meaning to your message and create some emotional reaction in the audience which aids understanding and retention.

Therefore I am taking this opportunity to use the iPad to bring home four important lessons about presenting.

Firstly, people like the iPad because it is simple and easy to use. How many presentations are simple to understand and easy to remember? Not so many. Aim to make your presentations clear. If you try to catch too many rabbits, you won’t catch any – likewise, if you try to communicate too many messages or too much detail, you might not communicate anything for very long. Concentrate on the key 2-3 messages, or one if you can manage it; communicate them simply and clearly; and find ways to make them easy to remember.

Secondly, people like the iPad because it looks and feels cool. How many presentations look cool nowadays? Would Al Gore have had such success with An Inconvenient Truth if he’d used a typical corporate presentation rather than the cool and clear one created by Duarte Design (perhaps the best decision Gore ever made)? Don’t settle for a boring presentation – if it looks and sounds boring, your audience will be bored, and they won’t remember much except being bored.

Thirdly, people like the iPad because they don’t have to work too hard. They don’t have to worry about viruses, worms, malware, spyware, regular OS updates and patches, etc… it just works. Is it a good idea for a presenter to make the audience work hard to understand his or her intellectual language, or read that small text, or make sense of a complex graph? No – audiences don’t like to work hard, and they resent being expected to work hard. Make it easy for them – speak clearly, use everyday language and simple charts – and they will pay more attention, have more brainpower available to think about what you’re saying, and respect you more.

Fourthly, people like the iPad because it’s fairly small and light. Likewise, keep your presentations light. If it can be said in 10 minutes, don’t take half an hour. Often the shortest presentations are the best – as exemplified by Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, or TED where no talk is longer than 18 minutes. If you have to speak for longer, break it up with videos, exercises, Q&A sessions, or any other trick you can find to maintain the audience’s attention and avoid a 2-hour monologue.

    The iPad is cool, simple, light and user-friendly. Test your next presentation against these criteria, and you’ll be doing yourself – and your audience – a huge favour.

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