The visual transformation of Bill Gates the presenter | Presentation Zen

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Many years ago I began pointing to the presentation style of Steve Jobs as a good example of how to present with visuals on a large stage. Often I would contrast Jobs’ presentation techniques with those of Bill Gates. Bill Gates is a man with a big heart and a big brain. I’m a fan. Yet, in spite of all his talents and contributions, delivering effective presentations ? especially if slides were involved ? was not one of his strong points. Things, however, started to change in early 2009. When I attended TED in Long Beach that year, I witnessed an engaging presentation by Bill Gates. Even his visuals were better than the usual cluttered and bullet-point filled slides, though they still had a ways to go (pics). Bill’s TED talk in 2009 got a lot of attention. Improvement continued: Bill and Melinda Gates (October, 2009)

In October of last year, we began to see much more improvement in Bill’s delivery, and especially in his visuals. In this presentation in Washington, D.C. last October, Bill and Melinda Gates explained why they are “impatient optimists.” They clearly illustrated in this formal keynote that they are optimistic because they have seen first hand that the investments are working, yet they are impatient because more needs to be done soon. They used a good mix of data and real examples to make the case that the world is getting better, but (1) not fast enough, and (2) not for everyone. And that’s what they mean by “impatient optimists.” With the help of high-impact visuals and video clips, Bill and Melinda did an effective job of showing the good news about how real people have been transformed. Telling the stories of how investments are indeed paying off and making big differences, though you rarely see this in the media, is a way to generate even more aid. The visuals in this presentation were the best I have ever seen in a Bill Gates presentation by far. (Yes, Bill is still a bit stiff and looks at the monitors too much, but it’s not a bad keynote.)

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