Steve Jobs to Cupertino - I don't need your stinkin' technology

Last week, Steve Jobs gave another opening keynote at Apple's World Wide Developer's Conference in San Francisco. As always, it was a prime example of great presentation skill. As he shared the stage with a number of other presenters, the amount of preparation was evident. The presentation lasted nearly 2 hours and flowed smoothly, no doubt due to a lot of rehearsal. The slides were very well designed and showed constraint in the information that was included on each slide. You can see the entire presentation here: WWDC 2011 Keynote. In this post, however, I would like to draw attention to a different presentation in a different venue later that week. Steve Jobs presented to the Cupertino City Council to share design plans for a future Apple campus to be built by 2015. While this presentation was no doubt important, it doesn't compare to the larger announcements Apple makes which have a much greater visibility in the media. Nevertheless, the same amount of preparation was very evident in this more informal presentation. Steve had a plan and an outline for his remarks, and spent time designing effective slides to act as visual aids.

I would like to point out one particular example of this. In the video below, which starts about 4 minutes into the presentation, you see Steve direct the attention of the council to his slides for the first time. As he explains the current properties owned by Apple and the current buildings, he shows an aerial view with the areas mentioned highlighted with a green overlay. Those areas then change to show the new buildings that are proposed and the overlays fade away leaving everything but the new campus desaturated. It was a very effective technique to draw the viewers attention to the particular areas of interest.

In an effort to be overly helpful, the council chairman tells Steve: "You can actually draw on the screen, that's how high tech we are."

Steve's reply is gracious, but instructive:

"I don't really need to draw on the screen, you can see it clearly."

Steve knew that his slides were well designed with the viewer in mind. Rather than using a tiny laser pointer flashing across the screen, or even the high-tech ability to scribble all over the slide, Steve planned ahead and used some simple image editing to highlight the areas.

In the classroom, I understand the occasional need to draw on a diagram or add underlines when going over information (students always ask convoluted questions which are difficult to prepare and plan for). But, in general, lecture slides are used over and over each term in multiple sections of a course to introduce the same material, so pulling focus should be built into the slide design with simple highlights and smooth transitions.