Presentation Styles from Different Worlds at MacWorld 2007

For those who watched the iPhone keynote address at Macworld 2007, and even for those who didn’t, Steve Jobs had 3 different executives come up on stage to talk about their partnerships with Apple – Eric Schmidt (Google), Jerry Yang (Yahoo) and Stan Sigman (Cingular).

While Jobs was at the top of his game, and Schmidt and Yang weren’t too boring either, Stan Sigman stood out like the sore thumb he was, dressed in a suit and speaking from cue cards. Here’s what Presentation Zen thought of him (entire article here) :

I am tempted to call this the difference between “old school” business presentations (stiff, dull, cue-cards, etc.) and “new school” business presentations (passionate, interesting, conversational, etc.). But that would be a mistake because what seems like a “new school” approach is really not new at all. And what appears to be merely a conservative “old school” approach has never been recommended.

While the comment appears to be an affront to business school graduates like myself, I must sadly agree. Most presentations I have seen, (for those I stay awake at least), are the most boring shit I have ever seen. God help those companies who hire such boring speakers in jobs that require customer interaction or much public speaking. The old-school cue-card dependent presentation style is Jurassic-esque dead. I won’t try to act smart here but Presentation Zen nailed the point here:

Notes destroy fifty percent of the interest in your talk.
• Notes prevent contact and intimacy with the audience.
• Notes create an air of artificiality.
• Notes make the speaker look less confident, less powerful.
• Make lots of notes in the preparation of your talk, but use them only in the event of a total emergency.
• If you must use notes make sure the audience does not seem them. That is, “…endeavor to hide your weakness from the audience.”

If you watch the Stan Sigman section, in addition to perhaps any other section from Steve Jobs, you will notice why the audience will immediately switch off. Click on youtube clip below:

Here are the key points he failed on his presentation:

1. Eye Contact

Stan Sigman relied on his notes, religiously reading from them and minimising eye contact and thus interaction with the audience.

2. Hand Gestures

Due to the need to hold those cue cards, he was unable to use hand gestures to articulate his point. I almost feel sorry for the guy because even if u are the type who need cue cards, you can avoid many of the problems with Stan Sigman if you had a podium to put those cards on and free up the hands from mike-carrying duties.

3. Tone of voice

Stan was talking down into his mike and not projecting his voice across the auditorium to the audience directly. It doesn’t take a genius to know ur voice sounds like crap when you bend your neck downwards and try to speak.

4. Audio-visual

I always think of any presentation as a performance, where the audio-visuals have to simply be awesome. Or a theater production when everything from clothes to props to delivery of the content has to befit an enjoyable and entertaining experience, while maintaining the professionalism befitting a business environment. I don’t profess to be good but I am working towards that.

All in all, the entire body language of Stan Sigman turns off the audience. Compared to a presenter extraordinaire in Steve Jobs who was lively in voice and motion while engaging in content, Stan Sigman provided a horrific audio visual experience to the audience. His suit was inappropriate in the Silicon Valley culture of sartorial casuality. I also suspect his over-reliance in reading from his notes was a symptom of under-preparation for his speech. It was a bad way to portray Cingular’s image for the iPhone and their role in this partnership if the poor presentation was a reflection of their commitment.

I wonder how Terry Semel, another grandfatherly figure, would have fared if he had been presenting instead of Jerry Yang.

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5 thoughts on “Presentation Styles from Different Worlds at MacWorld 2007

  1. That’s definitely one thing I noticed when watching the Keynote too. Sigman was simply not cool. At all. Like a bad car salesman who isn’t sure of himself.

  2. Pingback: Presenting Skills « Raw Stylus

  3. There is not many ways to help a brand flourish than delivering a presentation that ouzes class, knowledge of a topic, confidence, humour, honesty, and story telling.

    What an opportunity to under leverage.

    No coincidence then that Google’s CEO, Dr. Eric Shmidt, followed by Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang simply nailed it.

    Chris, http://rawstylus.wordpress.com/

  4. Steve Job actually uses notes too. He always has huge cue cards on the table when he’s doing a technical demo.

    He had them when he was demoing the iPhone. The stack of cards are on the table top – he’ll glance at them very briefly before starting off on the demo.

    He didn’t rely on them too much – he merely use it as a visual checklist to make sure he covered all the bases.

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