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)
2008 (CES keynote)
Below are a few more shots to give you a feel for the visuals backing Bill's talk.