Steve Jobs and the Art of the Swordsman

As noted in Chapter 5, Steve Jobs had a simple yet remarkable approach to the art of presentation. His slides, for example, were always devoid of clutter and highly visual, and he used them smoothly and seamlessly, advancing all slides and effects by himself without ever drawing attention to the fact that he was the one advancing the slides. His style was conversational, and his visuals were in perfect sync with his words. His presentations were built on a solid structure, which gave them an easy feeling of flow as if he were taking us on a small journey. On stage he seemed friendly, comfortable, and confident (which make others feel relaxed too), and he exuded a level of passion and enthusiasm that was engaging without being over the top.

It all seemed so automatic and natural. It all seemed so easy that you’d be tempted to think it just came naturally to Steve, and that it was a pretty easy task for him to use his natural charisma to woo a crowd. But you’d be wrong. While it is true that Steve Jobs was a charismatic figure, I’m not sure giving presentations with multimedia support, and even giving live demos (how many executives do that?), comes naturally to anyone. No, the reason Steve Jobs’s presentations went so well and were so engaging was because he and his team prepared and practiced like mad to make sure it looked “easy.”

Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.

When Steve was on stage he was an artist. And like any artist, through practice and experience, he perfected his technique and form. Yet, also like a trained artist, there was no thought of technique or of form, or even of failure or success while performing the art of presentation. Once we think of failure or success, we are like the swordsman whose mind stops, ever so briefly, to ponder his technique or the outcome of the fight. The moment he does, he has lost. This sounds paradoxical, but once we allow our minds to drift to thoughts of success and failure or of outcomes and technique while performing our art, we have at that moment begun our descent. Steve Jobs’s approach to presentation reminds us today that engagement can be enhanced by being nowhere else but completely here in the moment.

To see videos of presentations by Steve Jobs, go to the Apple website:

Steve Jobs

Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works. Creativity is just connecting things.