For Winning Presentations, Be Steve Jobs, Not Mark Zuckerberg

Last Updated Jul 11, 2011 3:31 PM EDT

You know the cliché: People are more frightened of public speaking than rabid dogs or even death. Yet your presentation skills are essential to being a success with employees, investors, partners, and customers. What kind of presenter are you? As CNN recently pointed out, you can learn a lot from watching top CEOs present -- especially when the results are less than stellar.

Last week, Mark Zuckerberg keynoted a Facebook media event in which he introduced Skype integration for the social network. But some notable slip-ups can teach us how Steve Jobs is still the master we want to emulate when it comes time to start up PowerPoint.

Control the pre-meeting messaging. Steve Jobs -- and the entire Apple PR machine -- is typically mum about the content of Jobs' addresses before the event. That builds excitement and enthusiasm for the presentation. Zuckerberg, on the other hand, treated the event like a Hollywood movie premiere by saying that Facebook would be announcing "something awesome." The hype set expectations too high, and attendees walked away underwhelmed.

Don't be slick. Make no mistake: Jobs prepares meticulously for his presentations. But he comes across as somewhat extemporaneous, with a casual and laid-back demeanor. Zuckerberg, on the other hand, started his presentation with an anecdote about how, when walking around his neighborhood just that very morning, a neighbor asked him for Skype-like video chat for Facebook. Really? That felt exceedingly disingenuous; does anyone really think that Zuckerberg takes a stroll around his neighborhood? Or that someone petitioned him for video chat? The very morning of the press conference? The whole story sounded manufactured and cynical.

Know your audience. If you've ever seen Jobs talk, you know he understands his audience. He talks about how people's lives can be enhanced through the capabilities of Apple products. Zuckerberg? His presentation lacked any sort of self-awareness. Showing a chart about Facebook's projected growth, he said that data was a "logarithmic-normalized graph." The Twitterverse was quick to pick up on this, cattily critiquing his presentation with tweets like: "Logarithmic graphs? Jesus Christ."

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