Edited launch video. Full version (1hr 20min) here.
Steve Jobs is rightly regarded as a master of the presentation universe. How many presentations get that level of global PR hype, both before and after the event?
Here are 10 lessons to draw from the iPad launch speech:
1. Open with an attention-grabbing amazing fact: in this case, that Apple has now shifted its 250 millionth iPod. Which tells the audience: we’re probably right about this new product too.
2. No jargon. Jobs uses none of the clichés that bedevil corporate speeches, particularly in the IT field. No “enterprise-class solutions”. No “best of breed”. Just a conversational chat the way any normal human would talk.
3. No excess information on the screen. No ever-present logo bars, event titling or other clutter. If you can take something away without it affecting the message, then do it.
4. Strong use of quality images. In the shot below, a single photo that sums up Apple’s unique marketing positioning. No extra verbiage required.
5. Don’t be afraid to create an enemy, in Jobs’ case the Netbook, which he says is just a cheap PC that doesn’t do anything well. A lot of people will tell you that all negative messages are bad. That advice is well-meaning and wrong. If your product is the solution to a problem, you’d better spell out exactly what that problem is. And remind everyone how much it pisses them off.
6. Perfect timing on the screen graphics. Nothing comes up too early to spoil the surprise, and nothing hangs around afterward as a distraction. Which comes from:
7. A huge amount of rehearsal. Anyone who’s demonstrated software will know the tremendous scope for things to go wrong. The more effortless a presentation looks, the more effort has gone into planning and rehearsing every detail again and again.
8. A distinctive look, where every detail is consistent. The Apple stage look is always designed for zen-like simplicity to match their products. Jobs’ clothes are always consistent – even if the jeans came straight off Seinfeld. It might not work for other companies, but it works for Apple.
9. He demonstrates the product sitting back in a comfy leather chair. The underlying message is: this is a product that isn’t just designed for work. You can’t kick back in a chair and read a laptop comfortably. With the iPad, you can relax and enjoy yourself. Good stage design can send messages like that.
10. Use of the blank screen. If there’s no visual that goes with the words at any point, go to blank. The focus is on you, the presenter, with no distractions. Then, when the images return, they have much more impact.
It wasn’t a perfect presentation. It wasn’t exactly a revelation to see the iPad “just go straight to the New York Times web site” and allow you to look at it, like every other web device on earth. Snipping out some of this filler would have made it shorter without reducing the impact. But these are minor quibbles in a presentation that generally acted as a showpiece of how to get a message across clearly.