Jeff Bezos And The End of PowerPoint As We Know It

The next time you deliver a PowerPoint presentation that matters—a product launch, investor pitch, new client meeting— take a cue from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and ditch the bullet points. When Bezos unveiled the all-new new Kindle Fire HD this week, his presentation slides were light on text and heavy on images. This style of delivering presentations is fresh, engaging, and ultimately far more effective than slide after slide of wordy bullet points.

Since I wrote The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, I’ve noticed that many business leaders around the world are adopting the image-rich style including very famous CEO’s such as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, and even Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. The style works for any leader, in any industry. Ford CEO Alan Mulally even called me personally to thank me for revealing the techniques. Note—Steve Jobs used Apple Keynote software for his presentations, as do current Apple executives. However, since most people use PowerPoint, I use “PowerPoint” as a synonym for presentations. While there are differences between Keynote and PowerPoint, effective storytelling techniques apply equally to both. And no, Steve Jobs did not invent the style. He just happened to use it very effectively.

Now back to Bezos. The typical PowerPoint slide has forty words. It was nearly impossible to find forty words on ten slides of the Amazon presentation. Bezos told the story behind the new products in images and text. I’ve discussed this technique before in more detail but in short, it’s called Picture Superiority. It simply means that the brain processes information more effectively when the information is presented in pictures and words instead of words alone. Neuroscientists have also found that when a slide (or advertisement) contains pictures and words, it’s best to have the picture on the left side of the page or slide and words on the right. This is exactly what Bezos did for a majority of his slides.

For example, Bezos introduced the new Kindle Fire HD with a series of slides that just showed images of the products features and services (movies, games, photos). He also played a new video ad (most people don’t use enough multimedia in their presentations. Video clips are engaging and memorable. Just keep them short). On the final slide where Bezos revealed the price, he included a picture of the device on the left side of the slide and these words on the right:

Kindle Fire HD 7” 16GB $199

Earlier in the presentation, Bezos unveiled the Kindle Paperwhite, an e-reader with a higher resolution display and patented built-in light. Bezos said the battery lasts eight weeks. Most presenters would have added “8 weeks battery life” to a long list of bullet points/features on one slide. Instead Bezos showed a picture of a calendar with the months September and October. September 6—the day of the presentation—was highlighted in red and Bezos told the audience that the battery would last until the end of October. That’s memorable. People will recall the text—8 weeks battery life—much more easily because it was connected with the image of the calendar. I know I will. That’s picture superiority—a little text and a lot of pictures.

I know what some of you are thinking—it works for Bezos because he’s revealing products that people can see and touch. Let me be clear—picture superiority works in any presentation, even for the most complex ideas. I recently gave a presentation on the topic of communication and storytelling to scientists at one of America’s largest nuclear labs. One person implemented the techniques immediately and sent me an email, saying it helped him deliver one of the most persuasive presentations of his career.

In no way am I advocating that you ditch PowerPoint. I am recommending that you ditch PowerPoint as we know it—dull, wordy, and overloaded with bullet points. Image-rich presentations work effectively because pictures appeal to the right hemisphere of the brain—the emotional side. You can have great ideas backed up by data and logic, but if you don’t connect with people emotionally, it doesn’t matter.

Carmine Gallo is the communications coach for the world’s most admired brands. He is a popular keynote speaker and author of several books, including the international bestsellers The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs and The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs. His new book, The Apple Experience: Secrets to Building Insanely Great Customer Loyalty is the first book to reveal the secrets behind the stunning success of the Apple Retail Store. Follow Carmine on Facebook or Twitter.

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