Presenting Using Figures and Graphs the Steve Jobs Way Part 1 of 2

Today we are going to observe a great speaker presenting using figures and graphs effectively.

You probably know or have heard the name of Steve Jobs. His contribution towards technological progress gained him recognition from around the world before he passed away. Do you also know that he is one of the best presenters in the world? He gained the reputation of being highly skilled in providing complicated information in a simple way.

One amazing presentation skill which I wanted to learn was how he explained figures and graphs in a simple and very easy to understand manner. We sometimes have to show numbers and charts during our presentations. This is where my weakness becomes obvious. The main problem I face is how to display numbers and graphs so that it is easily understood by the audience quickly.

After learning from some writing experts and observing Steve Jobs in action I could finally understand that numbers and charts alone were not able to give meaning to one’s message unless they are compared or associated with other data. For example, when we give a presentation and say that sales are up by 10%, the audience will not be able to understand right away what a increase 10% may look or feel like. Was it 10% better than last year? Is it 10% better than our competitors? Does a 10% increase signify outstanding performance? Well, Steve Jobs was very good at answering these questions so the numbers and graphs were more easily understood.

One thing you need to realize is that not all audiences have the same knowledge. Therefore, your task is to create figures and graphs that are easily understood. Let’s look at the analysis of Garr Reynolds (author of Presentation Zen) of Steve Jobs’ presentation techniques:
Based on the picture above, if you are working in the finance department you should be familiar and able to read and understand the meaning of those graphs and numbers.

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The graph illustrates the iPod sales from 2004 to Q2 of 2005.

At first, the sales of iPods increased gradually and exceeded $5M in Q3 of 2004. Sales continued to rise to $10M in Q4. It rose again in Q1 of 2005 to $15M and hit $21.2M in Q2 of 2005.

If I were to do a presentation, I would stop there and attempt to explain the graph using my own words. This is much easier (for me) than struggling with the various animation functions of PowerPoint. However, for Steve Jobs stopping at this stage would certainly be out of the question.

Look out for Part 2 of this article next week and I’ll share what he did next to polish his presentation..

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