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The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: An Interview with Carmine Gallo

In this interview, Carmine Gallo talks about his new book, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience.


Carmine Gallo Carmine Gallo is a communications coach for the world’s most admired brands. His client list includes Intel, Chase, Barclays, IBM, Nokia, and many others. He is an Emmy award-winning journalist and former anchor, host, and business correspondent for CNN, Fox, CNET, and CBS.

He is a sought after speaker and author of the new book, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience.

Geetesh: Tell us more about yourself and what you do.

Carmine: I am a communications coach for some of the world's top brands in a wide range of industries: technology, banking, medical devices, health care, agriculture, retail, etc. For more than fifteen years, I worked as a broadcast journalist for Fox, CNN, CBS, TechTV and CNET.

Geetesh: What made you look at Steve Jobs as the subject of your book – was this a spur-of-the-moment aha moment, or an idea that built up over time?

The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs Carmine: Steve Jobs is the world’s greatest corporate storyteller. For more than three decades he has turned product launches into an art form. But when I saw the 2007 Macworld presentation when Jobs unveiled the iPhone, it blew me away. The presentation was astonishing from start to finish. It’s on YouTube by the way. See for yourself!

I wrote a short article about it for Bloomberg BusinessWeek and it became very popular with readers around the world. I realized that there was more demand for this type of content. Most professionals who "get it" want to be better presenters. Why not learn from the best? McGraw-Hill shared my enthusiasm and together we introduced, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience. I’m thrilled to report that it has become an international bestseller with translation rights already negotiated for more than one dozen languages. Analyst Rob Enderle has said it’s one of the best books written about Steve Jobs.

Geetesh: When I read your book, I felt that the research you did for this book was certainly as interesting as the book itself. What type of research did this book entail – tell us more!

Carmine: Thank you. I’m glad you noticed that a lot of research went into it. Every chapter reveals a technique that Jobs uses in every presentation. The reason why the technique is effective is usually based on some sort of science or theory, so I interviewed scientists who understand how the brain works and how it processes information. The content is also based on interviews with people who have worked at Apple or directly with Steve Jobs on his presentations. It’s as close as you’ll ever get to having the master himself speak directly in your ear as you deliver your next presentation.

Geetesh: If there’s one presentation of Steve Jobs that you refer to more than any of his other presentations in the book, it has to be the one where he announces the Apple iPhone. Considering that Steve is almost always amazing while presenting, what was different about this particular presentation that makes it a text book case?

Carmine: The entire presentation is a text book case in how to give a presentation. I’ll point out one thing that Jobs did well—he built up the drama. Nobody does that. Most people would have come out and said, “We have a great new phone to introduce today and here it is..” Instead, Steve Jobs told a story. He told the story of how Apple had introduced several revolutionary products in its history and that it was about to do it again. This time, he said, Apple would introduce three revolutionary products: a new iPod, a phone, and an Internet communications device. The audience was pleased and they applauded. Jobs repeated the three products again and the audience laughed and applauded. Jobs repeated the products again and this time the audience knew something was up. “An iPod, a phone, and an Internet communicator. Are you getting it? These are not three separate devices. This is one device and we are calling it, iPhone. Today Apple is going to reinvent the phone!” Job said. The crowd went nuts. It was so much fun—a presentation had become a theatrical event.

Geetesh: You did tell me that this book was software-agnostic and it did not matter if you used PowerPoint or Keynote. So what do you or your clients normally use – are there any particular advantages that PowerPoint or Keynote have over each other – or is it an even balance? Does it even matter?

Carmine: I’ve heard that 97% of presentations are done on PowerPoint. That sounds about right. PowerPoint is a tool and can be used atrociously or magnificently. The same goes for Apple’s presentation software, Keynote. Most of the techniques I reveal in The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs involve telling a story through your presentation. Yes, some of it involves displaying your story in a more visual form, but that can be done effectively in PowerPoint or Keynote. So the software program doesn’t really matter to me. It’s the story and how it’s displayed that counts. Having said that, Keynote, which Steve Jobs uses, is a very refined and elegant program but it must be played from a Mac. It’s not easily shared, although you can save a Keynote presentation in PowerPoint. However, PowerPoint 2007 is also a refined program that can help you create gorgeous presentations. It’s not about the software, it’s how you approach the story.

Geetesh: I loved your analogy in the book when you say: “Save your bullet points for grocery lists” – however everyday office staff has to use these bullet points. So how can they change to presenting without bullets – is that an overnight process, or can this be a gradual evolution?

Carmine: It’s not necessary to blow up your entire presentation template and start from scratch. Evolve slowly. Steve Jobs uses lists, but he usually has an image alongside the list. This is called picture superiority. People remember concepts more readily if the idea is presented as a picture, along with the text. Text alone, especially in bullet point form, is boring and gives the brain far too much information to absorb. One scientist said, The brain is a lazy piece of meat. In other words, the brain looks for ways to conserve energy. Don’t make the brain work too hard. Creating slides with 10 wordy bullet points is forcing my brain to work too hard! Replace that slide with an image of the product or concept and no more than three or four points alongside it. That’s an easy way to make your slides more engaging without turning the culture upside down.

Geetesh: In plenty of places in the book, you talk about how you helped your clients make better choices while creating and delivering presentations. So how do you work with clients – tell us about your life other than as a book author.

Carmine: Thanks for asking. Books are fun because I can help thousands of readers around the world who I otherwise would never be able to reach. But in my career, I really have a blast. I call myself “The communications coach for the world’s most admired brands.”My clients touch your life everyday – from the computers you use to the cars you drive and even to the foods you eat. They all have stories to tell and I help them tell more engaging and emotional stories whether it’s in front of an audience through a presentation or during an interview for the media. A story is a story. How you tell it has to be refined and tweaked for different platforms, but the story and key messages don’t change. I help clients refine their message.

Then, as a second step, we turn that message into a presentation or train spokespeople for a series of media interviews. We also work on delivery skills and body language, so I will videotape my clients and play it back along with analysis and feedback. The results are extraordinary, Geetesh. I just worked with a large consumer technology brand, one that all your readers would know, and helped seven of their executives prepare for a day-long series of presentations for the investment community. Every speaker hit it out of the park, investors gave the presentations an “excellent” rating, and the stock rose by a value of $100 million by the end of the afternoon. That gives me great satisfaction, although I think I’d better start asking for stock options!

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