Bill Gates: Never surrender to complexity
Passion and the courage to "tell it like it is"

Bill Gates "rocks" CES

OK, this is getting weird. Two days in a row that I am praising a Bill Gates presentation. Yesterday his June Harvard speech, and now today his annual keynote presentation at CES. Bill Gates's various presentations over the years (those supported by a multimedia background or PowerPoint at least) have usually been pretty dull affairs, often including bouts of "death-by-PowerPoint" visuals. But today I thought I'd give Bill another shot, and I am happy to say that Bill did a very good job *and* his visuals augmented his spoken word well and were used quite smoothly. I also loved the way he used self-deprecating humor throughout the keynote. I won't long remember much of the content of his CES 08 keynote, but I will remember this important lesson by Bill Gates on leadership and communication: Take your message, your job, and your cause very seriously, but do not take yourself so seriously. I respect a leader tremendously who can laugh at himself (or herself).

One example of Bill poking fun at himself was this video below which was part of the keynote. It takes a confident leader to put himself in such ridiculous situations. My favorite part was Bill in the gym—hysterical!

Is it finally the end of "really bad PowerPoint"?
From what I could see, Bill Gates's final big CES keynote address did not have a single bullet point (gasp!) and he did a pretty good job of it. This was not Bill's final presentation to be sure, but let's hope in future that he continues to either present with no slides at all or with a screen that is more visual like the one he used at CES. No more excuses for us now: If Bill Gates says it's OK to present to an audience backed by an attractive display sans bullets, clutter, and bad clip art, then what is our excuse (except habit)? Even the demos by Bill's supporting cast were pretty good. The only real weak part was the ending; I thought Bill should have been the one to thank everyone and wrap it up on a high note. But all-n-all I'd say this was the best I have seen Bill perform with a remote control in his hand on stage. Watch the entire webcast on Microsoft's site.

Who are you and what have you done with Bill Gates?
Yes, they are different occasions, but Bill's presentation in 2005 introducing Live was a real bullet-point filled snooze fest. Quite a contrast in visuals too as this small sampling below illustrates. I like the 2008 version of "Bill Gates the presenter" a lot better.

2005 ("Live" unveiling)
Live1    Live2
2008 (CES keynote)
Ces1    Ces2

Below are a few more shots to give you a feel for the visuals backing Bill's talk.
Bill3

Bill8_2

Bill1

Bill4

Bill9

Comments

Paul M.

Garr, I liked Bill Gates Last Day CES Clip. Quite funny in some moments. And the new slides are much much better. They learn, Garr. They learn... but they will always be behind :)

Andrej

The people over at techcrunch seem to disagree: http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/01/07/the-truth-that-dare-not-speak-the-ces-keynote-sucked/
They don't mention the slides, but i don't think they agree with the statement that bill rocked.

Pop

Garr looks at the style of the presentation and the clarity of the message.

Tech folks, on the other hand, are commenting on the lack of substance. People were left asking "where's the beef?" mostly frustrated because there was no substantial product announcements, which is what CES-goers look for, and the reason the conference exists in the first place. So lacking interesting product announcements always means certain failure, and in that respect Bill failed miserably.

I guess both sides of the argument are right: maybe he did a good job presenting... irrelevant stuff.

Same applies to Steve Jobs. The expectations are very high for his keynote at Macworld. But regardless of his stage prowess, he will still need to deliver huge news for most people to say he did good.

Marc Duchesne

Hi Garr : Either you're so exhausted after the creation of your new book that your reality-distorsion field gets weird itself, either Mr. Gates (or someone of his staff) reads your blog ;-)
Now, if the second option is the right one, this is really weird though. Because it would show that Microsoft is able to learn from competition.

Patrick

That video is a direct rip-off of the one Bill Clinton did back in 2000, right before he left office. I don't find the Gates version very funny, and I certainly agree with the other posters here that the presentation is less than stellar. I, too, am surprised by your assessment of Gates' performance.

Garr

Can't an Apple guy say anything nice about Bill Gates? :-)

I did not use the word "engaging" nor did I say his keynote was "stellar" or "great." The words I used were "pretty good" and "best" as in "the best I have seen Bill present with visuals." Maybe Bill Gates is getting better...what would be wrong with that? Yes, I could have focused on his size XXXL sweater, his cracking voice, and his Mr. Burns posture or the lack of "wow" in terms of content in the keynote, but this has already be done (many times before).

My point was to try to have an open mind and look for improvement...I saw improvement. It was not great, but it was better, certainly better than I expected. Bill Gates may never be able to be the keynote presenter that Steve Jobs is—Jobs is my favorite—but the world may be just a little better if Bill himself becomes a better presenter.

mark ivey

I haven't seen the presentation, but the video is hilarious. Just the fact that Gates has moved beyond bullet points and bone-dry PPT presentations is something. Why not give him a little--and what Garth said was little--credit? Message to Gates' critics: chill out.

Rajan Rishyakaran

I guess the lack of any new product to announce actually forced Bill and Microsoft to work on their presentation. Imagine bullet points *and* no products. Now that would be disastrous.

Heiko J Schick

This videos is also available with better sound quality.
See:
http://www.presentationzen.com/presentationzen/2008/01/test-here-video.html

Heiko J Schick

Sorry, I've pasted the wrong link. The correct link is:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3HA4lSUhlbw

wendy

The best part had to be the celebrity cameos!
http://www.webcastr.com/videos/technology/bill-gates-at-ces-the-final-keynote-big-pimpin-w-jay-z.html

Alexei Kapterev

Thanks for the review, here's my humble opinion on this:

http://realtimestrategy.ru/?p=100

Michel Jansen

He still has the whole "Mr. Burns" thing going on though ;)

Kreshna Aditya

Garr, I know this is an old post of yours. But I post the comment here because you need to see Bill & Melinda Gates' recent talk called Impatient Optimists. Their visuals are simply... effective. I will wait for your post on this latest version of "Bill Gates the presenter". :)

http://www.gatesfoundation.org/livingproofproject/pages/impatient-optimists-speech.aspx

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