Mark Zuckerberg is no Steve Jobs, and we probably knew that already. But for those of you that watched the livestream update from Facebook HQ last night (or yesterday afternoon, depending on where you were), and saw the recent Apple Keynote, or have ever seen Jobs present you will understand what I mean when I say that regardless of the content, packaging and delivery are vitally important – and this is key to every business, not just products, but also (and particularly for us) services, where the customer feels part of the intrinsic value of the product in the way that it is received.

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So rather than go into the details of the ‘new things’ that Facebook launched last night – there will be plenty of other articles and blog posts referring to that this morning (I will be sure to retweet a few comments) – I want to focus on what we can learn for our business, and this focusses not on the content but the way in which Facebook and Zuckerberg delivered it last night, and why when we compare it to Apple there is really no contest. One could argue that the group in the room at Palo Alto were much smaller to the auditoriums that Apple Keynotes bring in, but I am sure that this was not for want of invitations and for those of us that watched online, the ticker did reach almost 10000 viewers at one point.

In the recent times of pitch-mania, my senior colleagues and I have spoken a great deal recently about how we present to clients, this is after all the packaging and delivery of our business as intellectual capital, and it seems that across the board the quality of presentations by marketing and communications agencies is (on average) very poor regardless of the quality of the content. So let’s try and analyse where Mark went wrong (and right) to see how we can learn from this:

  • If the audience is waiting, let them know why and manage expectations. For those of us that like to be punctual we were sat looking at the video stream of the meeting room for quite a while with no sound until someone had the clever idea to put up a notice saying that ‘audio would be muted’ until they began. Strangely enough the background noise from the room was exactly what the group online wanted to hear, if the idea of live streaming is that you can be ‘there’ even when you aren’t there, then we need to deliver the whole experience or have a damn good reason not to… and communicate it. When Zuckerberg did finally start he sauntered in from the corner and suddenly started speaking. So the first moment of truth was a little lost in the experience and not necessarily controlled and delivered – the opening is everything and we as presenters need to manage that to the best of our ability. When I see agency teams walk into a meeting room, they tend to all run to the screen and spend a while messing about with laptops, cables and projectors; it might be nice to think about coming in and having one person handle the technology whilst the others give the real ‘first moment of truth’ to the client in a controlled way that represents the brand.
  • Video needs to see what they can see. This isn’t the first time we have seen streaming online for a conference, and this isn’t a major new technology particularly the filming part it – I’m sure many of you watched the LeWeb conference on Ustream or follow-up on Keynotes via YouTube. So why was the majority of the screen showing the back of the audience heads, and little or no coverage of the screen itself, particularly when each of the presenters kept looking back to see what was being shown. When we are presenting we must think about the experience for the viewers and this across all the senses – you may well have read and re-read your PowerPoint 137 times before walking into the conference room, but to the audience everything about what they see and hear is new to them, so give them the chance to ingest what is on the screen and listen to you – and remember that these two things aren’t always easy at the same time, particularly when the content is vastly different (Mark did a nice job of flicking back and forth over slides trying to find out what he was talking about, personally this makes me seasick).
  • The next couple of items are classics – know the structure of your content and what you are going to show and make it look right, this is after all the packaging for your product. What happened with the slideshow? Not only was it difficult for those of us online to see, but even when we did get a look at the slides on the screen there seemed to be very little structure to the overall presentation, and this was amplified by the fact that it seemed that Mark (and some of the other presenters) were seeing it for the first time with us. If they don’t have confidence in what they are showing, then how can I have confidence reading it? I won’t go into the actual layout of the slides, or the content of his deck since we couldn’t see it well enough and this is surely a topic for discussion in and of itself.
  • Finally, if you are presenting as a team, be team. Know who is going to say what and when, where they are in the room and who is coming up next, the fumbled baton hand off of the microphone works well in relay races but not quite as well in presentations.

These points may simply be very basic guidelines for presentation and public speaking, but much as we train our staff and give them exposure, only a very small percent (somewhat like friend lists on Facebook) are actually taking it on board. When our business is image and communications, let’s please make sure that we work on ourselves… dentists need good teeth.