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Steve Jobs: "People who know what they’re talking about don’t need PowerPoint"

HashingOne thing we need to constantly remind ourselves is that slides and other forms of projected visualization—no matter how "cool" they may be—are not appropriate for every context. Multimedia is great for presentations before large groups such as keynote addresses or conference presentations, but in meetings where you want to actively discuss issues or go over details in depth, slides—especially the snooze-inducing bullet-point variety, which are never a good idea—are almost always counter productive. I stressed early on in the first version of Presentation Zen four years ago—and ad nauseam on this website long before that—that PowerPoint (and other forms of multimedia projected on a screen) are not appropriate for every kind of presentation, or even for most kinds of presentations. This was a point that was made too by Steve Jobs in several of his interviews with biographer Walter Isaacson in his book called simply Steve Jobs. (In the 2nd edition of Presentation Zen, which just started shipping, I expand a bit more on Steve Jobs's ideas concerning presentations).


"I wanted them to engage..."
Steve-jobs-bookEven when I first started working at Apple in 2001, I overheard someone in my department say that you should never show up to a meeting with Steve Jobs with a deck of slides. Jobs's aversion to people using slides in meetings was well known inside Apple. “I hate the way people use slide presentations instead of thinking,” Jobs told biographer Walter Isaacson when describing meetings upon his return to Apple in 1997. “People would confront a problem by creating a presentation. I wanted them to engage, to hash things out at the table, rather than show a bunch of slides. People who know what they’re talking about don’t need PowerPoint.” Jobs preferred to use the whiteboard to explain his ideas and hash out things with people. Former Senior Vice President of the iPod Division at Apple Tony Fadell confirmed Jobs's disdain of slides. "Steve prefers to be in the moment, talking things through," Fadell says in Isaacson's book. "He once told me, ‘If you need slides, it shows you don’t know what you’re talking about.'"

There is a difference between a keynote and ballroom style presentations (and TED and TEDx talks, Ignite presentations, Pecha Kucha and similar events, etc.) and a meeting around a conference table. Most productive meetings are a time for discussion and working things out, not simply going through a bunch of slides. Each case is different, of course, but in general consider saving the multimedia for the larger presentations, and never resort to using slideware and other forms of computer-generated visuals simply out of habit.



Even for large conferences... many bulletpoints are killers, and snooze inducers. Then those that read their bulletpoints, word for word, should be walked out on (I do it regularly).

One of my consistently best reviewed talks on Social Network Analysis consists of slides with just a Year and a Client Name. I then proceed to tell the story how each client applied SNA in an interesting/useful way... no other pics or lists.

Talk, interact with your audience, tell them a story, ask them for theirs!


These are valid points. But PowerPoint has been ingrained in people's minds and many of us find it an easy way to absorb information -- a very familiar format. Agreed there are the standard pitfalls, but there is something to be said for good utilization of a standard communications mechanism.

Michael Hughes

I agree with Roscoe, I get tired of PowerPoint bashing. It's a good enough tool, get over it! I just don't understand the rationale of the Steve Jobs quote. I've attended many many presentations by people who knew what they were talking about who used PowerPoint and communicated their points well.


Is there a iPad version?


Misleading title or confused article? Title makes it sound like using slides if for people who don't know what they're talking about but at the end it's clearly about meetings. Sure, PowerPoint presentations don't make sense in a brainstorming session that's requires all participant's interaction to solve a problem but they are useful in talks.

Even Steve Jobs used slides in all his product launch announcements.

Don't twist quotes around outside their context.


If you think PowerPoint works, sit down an hour after a presentation and write what you learnt. I've started asking questions to colleagues after presentations and the level of information transfer is dismal. Now do this after a meeting of "hashing things out".

I think PowerPoint has been around for so long that it has lowered our expectations. We have simply forgotten what it is to have a good meeting or even a good presentation. I think Steve Jobs is right: if you know what you're talking about, just sit with your colleagues and talk about it.

Fred E. Miller

Good reminder, Garr.

For larger groups, slides, when composed and used correctly, can help the audience GET IT!

Thanks for the Post!

Doug Weeks

Yes, good post. I get it. The boards encourage collaboration and interaction. Nice.


Anyone thinking that PowerPoint is a 'good tool' or a 'bad tool' from this post doesn't get it.

Mr. Job's 'aversion to slides' had nothing to do with the tool itself, but how it was used.

A hammer is a tool, but you don't want to use it to crack an egg or open a glass jar.

If you are giving a lecture or presenting something for viewing and not discussion, a GOOD presentation can help. 27 slides of bullets only in a font size of 8 is not a good presentation.

For a meeting that requires discussion and hashing out ideas, a white board and blank flip charts may be better tools.

Tools are only as good.... or as bad... as their users.

I agree with the idea of knowing one's subject. But you also need to know the objective, the audience, the venue and how best use the tools to meet the needs of the preceding.

Nitesh  Ahir

I think he's talking about two different things: the disease of using PowerPoint inside companies for decision making and making publication presentations. One does negate the other.

Prof R Panchanadhan, India

We cannot be slaves to the ppt. The ppt is used only as a pointer. The person has the power to translate the pointer into information. If a picture could speak thousand words, a picture on the ppt will help us use 1000 words to speak about. The importance of ppt cannot be discounted through such a sweeping statement as that of Jobs. It is similar to saying, "Those who can, do; and those who cannot, teach" This is derogatory to the teaching profession. Just for the heck of it, will they accept this statement: "Those can, use ppt; those who cannot, talk against its use"!!

Vince Delmonte

Agree with the sentiment about Power Point only being 1 of many tools, and that it may not always be the right tool for the job.

John Steele

In my public speaking classes, I use Jobs's product launches -- done with slide decks! -- as examples of the best way to use PowerPoint in a speech.


I think we've taken the ppt to the extreme, where every presentation is with a powerpoint! Because there are so many ineffective speakers that do not utilize this tool appropriately, it is starting to get a bad rap.

Jake Hackl

The use of PowerPoint can form a wall of silent submission in the audience and make it more of a walk-through event rather than an engaging one. More effort needs to be make the slide interactive and open and the presenter has to make more effort to bring out the audience.

The use of ppt is a cultural one but sadly the education in this post isn't as widely known as it should be...yet!

Thanks for the post.


Just one of the MANY things Jobs was wrong about. Whiteboard, PPT--what's the difference? They're both tools. The issue is how you use them. I've seen just as many pathetic, boring "chalkboard" classes as I have bad PPT presentations. A good presenter can encourage engagement with PPT just as easily as with any other tool.

Isaacson's book has really opened my eyes to Jobs, who now seems to me mostly to have been a rude, uncouth bully.


Well, I agree with him upto a certain level, but it cannot be denied that nowadays, going into a meeting for a presentation with a powerpoint presentation is almost unimaginable.

Marc Siegel

I tend to agree with Roscoe as well. PowerPoint can add value to a presentation, but not every presentation or meeting should have slides. When PowerPoint takes center stage, then there is often very little room for discussion and collaboration. But when the presenter is strategically using visuals to support the discussion/presentation, the information conveyed becomes more memorable. In other words, it's not the clubs, it's more likely the golfer at fault when a presentation falls flat.

Marc Siegel


Yeah I think the title is a little misleading too. I believe Walt Mossberg said it before that there was always a rule at their D conferences of people not using slides. And Steve Jobs wanted to use them anyway. It was only when Walt insisted that Jobs then backed down. Although at one of the D conferences they made an exception because he was unveiling iTunes at the time.

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