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Top 10 Best Presentations Ever

Top 10 Best Presentations Ever

by Frank Roche on August 21, 2006

in Presentations, Top 10

Hi. Welcome to KnowHR. Many of you come here every day to read this post about the best presentations. If you like it and would be interested in practical, straightforward advice about HR and communicating, would you consider subscribing? You can sign up to get KnowHR by email by filling on that little box on the right. (We’ll never share your email address. Ever.) Thanks a lot for stopping by!

Here are five stories you might want to look at:
10 Tenets of the New HR
1,001 Canned Responses for Self Evaluations
Get Out of the Obfuscatorium
65 Things I Believe about HR
Subterranean HR Blues

Sarah and I were talking about great presentations we’d seen or heard about and she came up with an idea for a Top 10 list. Here’s our take on the Top 10 Best Presentations Ever (in no particular order…and if you have others to add, we’d love to hear about them):

Steve Jobs introduces the Macintosh in 1984. Back then, Steve dressed like Tucker Carlson circa 2006, but black tee shirts and jeans or double-breasted jacket and bow tie, this Macintosh unveiling rocked the house. Steve has perfected the sense of theater, and none is better than this one. Check out how he pulls the 3.5-inch floppy from his jacket pocket. Flair, baby.

Dick Hardt’s Identity 2.0 presentation at OSCON 2005. Hardt’s preparation and energy sets the standard for presentation quality. He uses hundreds of slides in this 20-minute, high buzz work. Heck, I didn’t even care about virtual identity and still watched this one five or six times. It has a chance of becoming my presentation Dirty Dancing (which I’ve seen 100 times), where “nobody puts baby in the corner.”

Guy Kawasaki’s Art of the Start speech at TiECon 2006. In the 40-minute presentation (PDF of slides here), Kawasaki talks about innovation and business evangelism. When he talks about “Make Mantra” it’s well worth listening to. The beauty of his speech is that he uses a Top 10 approach and is unafraid to speak plainly and with great humor (which is sadly lost in public speaking).

Dr. Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech in 1963. Who can argue that Dr. King’s speech in Washington on August 28, 1963 was anything but brilliant and changed the trajectory of America? But the rheotrical beauty of this speech is also unparalleled. At a time when our language has been reduced to the common, it’s essential to look upon the preparation and thought that Dr. King used for this monumetal speech.

Lawrence Lessig’s Free Culture talk at the 2002 Open Source Conference. The master of the simple slides shows us how it’s done. And since, as he says, this is his 100th time for this talk, he has this bad boy down solid. Even though this talk is from 2002, his slide presentation style is still as fresh today as Axe Body Spray.

Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink presentation at TED. I’ve seen Gladwell talk a couple of times in person, and he’s brilliant. He talks fast and he makes points by telling stories. He doesn’t lecture, he paints a picture. All this from one of the foremost thinkers of our age. Gladwell makes the points, “We can do more with less. And there are real dangers in giving people too much information.” Hey, that reminds me, Where are his slides? Oh, he’s presenting without slides. How about that?

Tom Peters presents A Ham Sandwich in 1990. Peters know presentations. And he has energy. Remind yourself of that when you stand in front of people to give a speech.

Seth Godin talks about Marketing at Google in 2006. “Technology doesn’t win, but it sure gives you a chance at marketing.” Godin knows the story, lived it, and tells it. He also uses slides to his advantage to persuade his audience that he’s right. Check out the slide he calls “No one cares about you.” Is there anything wrong with getting people to laugh and think at the same time?

Andy Kaufman sings along to Mighty Mouse on SNL in 1975. Mies van der Rohe would have been proud, because Kaufman showed the essence of “less is more” in this Saturday Night Live skit. I’m not suggesting that your presentations should be filled renditions of superhero songs, but negative space is important, and this presentation was both ahead of its time and pointed in its simplicity.

Rupert Everett sings I Say a Little Prayer for You in MBFW in 1997. Okay, this is just one of our favorites and isn’t exactly a “presentation.” In fact, it’s from a movie – My Best Friend’s Wedding. But isn’t a lot of what we do a “presentation” designed to persuade people to believe our story? The beauty of this one is the lead-in and then the music. Oh, the power of music. And if you haven’t seen this movie, the last scene is just fantastic.

UPDATE: The readers have spoken! And in addition to KnowHR’s Top 10 Best Presentations Ever, we now have Top 10 Best Presentations – The Reader’s Choice. Click on over and have a look at 10 more great presentations.

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