In the foreword to her best-selling book on presentations, slide:ology, Nancy Duarte states that "every presentation is high stakes, and every audience deserves the absolute best."
A recent presentation by Sony introducing the PS4 will likely go down as one of the worst business presentations ever. It was certainly high stakes, given the company's bet on the PS4. However, it can safely be said they did not feel their audience deserved the absolute best.
From Wired, "Sony held reporters hostage for two hours Wednesday." GamingBolt called the presentation "horrible, poorly managed, and generally unfocused." Techcrunch called it "interminable and boring." They added "Sony, the next time someone tells you it might be fun to run a two-hour presentation with nothing to present? Don't do it."
The most famous business presentation of the last 30 years was Steve Jobs' 2007 introduction of the iPhone. Apple built up anticipation for the event, Jobs teased the product to the audience for about eight minutes, and then showed the actual phone and how it worked. His full presentation lasted about 51 minutes.
Sony's presentation lasted 140 minutes. And they never showed so much as a picture of the PS4. They showed videos of gameplay, and listed specs, but they never showed the product. Wired asked:
"Why now? With no prototype console on display, with no hands-on opportunities after the presentation, with nothing but assurances that more details would come later in the year, why not wait until later in the year to introduce the system? Why bring 1,200 journalists and fans from all over the country to New York in the dead of winter to show a video that was livestreamed around the world?"
You know your presentation has flopped when videos quickly appear ridiculing it. And go viral.
The purpose of most presentations is to persuade. Jobs succeeded in persuading us into buying tens of millions of iPhones. Sony persuaded the audience of nothing, and they committed the cardinal sin of wasting the audience's time. They made themselves the object of scorn amongst the very people they are depending on to get the word out about their product. If they ever have a product. Or even a picture of it.
None of us are Steve Jobs. But we can certainly emulate his presentations:
Respect your audience and their time. Get on stage. Make your assertion. Support it with visual evidence. Repeat your assertion. Leave the stage.