Nerd Guru

Because technical people need good soft skills to get ahead.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

PowerPoint Tactics: Part 2 - Apple anecdote

The tale of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak is an integral part of Silicon Valley legend. Wozniak’s knack for reducing the number of chips needed for a computing task was second to none in the early 1970’s. Jobs’ ability to project the usefulness of technologies and extend their use into our homes has changed the way that people process information in a many different of ways. Despite their brilliance, even “the two Steves” had trouble pitching their idea for personal computers to the executives at the Hewlett-Packard Company.

Most of this story is very well known to anyone who has read about the genesis of Apple Computer. In the early 1970s, Wozniak was an electrical engineer in HP’s extremely popular calculator division. In his spare time, Wozniak created a prototype of what would eventually become the Apple I computer, which he showed to his fellow computing hobbyists at the Home Brew Computer Club. Convinced that he was on to something special, Jobs got involved with his friend to sell the idea to Wozniak’s current employer.

You probably know what the end result of the presentation was since the ultimate manifestation of the idea was the Apple I computer. Jobs and Woz were unable to convince HP executives to develop the personal computer and had to go elsewhere to develop their collective dream. Here were two guys who, as history would bear the out, had the right idea at the right time but they were still unable to convince a group of powerful people of its merits. So much so that one of the men on the executive panel rather famously said, “What would I ever use a computer for?” -– a notion that seems ridiculous today but was a little more reasonable in an age where many cities did not have a computer in them, let alone one on every desk as we are used to now. You could argue that it was not the presenters who were at fault here, but that the people receiving the message were not open-minded enough to see its merits. The fact remains, though, that Jobs and Wozniak did not get the funding they sought from HP and had to sell their beloved car and calculator, respectively, to create the nest egg for Apple Computer.

The point is that two of the most intelligent guys on the planet had an idea that ended up literally revolutionizing the way people conduct business and behave in their personal lives, yet they failed to convince the folks who controlled the money at a major corporation to give them some in order to make it all a reality. No matter how smart you are and no matter how good your idea is, it still might not matter if you cannot present it it effectively. This series of posts will give you some basic tactics that will increase your odds of getting your point across with PowerPoint presentations.

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