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July 26, 2006

As Good As Steve Jobs


When I posted my entry about the speakers at TED, I did not highlight any of them. Now I’d like to specifically suggest that you watch the video of Majora Carter because there’s a lot we can all learn from this magnificent performance. You can watch it online here or download it here. Again, kudos to TED for making this content available online.

She is every bit as good as Steve Jobs. (Maybe better when you consider she doesn’t have a dozen minions supporting her.) Heck, she’s even a MacArthur Fellow (aka, “genius award”)! On the one hand, I would hate to speak right after she does; on the other, it would be a wonderful challenge. She is the rare speaker who makes meaning and exemplifies the spirit of the 10/20/30 rule of PowerPoint. Here’s what I learned from her speech.

  1. She wastes no time and immediately sucks you into her speech by arousing your curiosity with a story about her dog. (:59) One wonders, “What’s a dog got to do with urban renewal?”

  2. She immediately provides a clear problem statement. (1:00-2:00)

  3. She personalizes her story all the way through the speech. Sure, there’s all the heart-wrenching stuff, but I loved how she discussed her engagement (2:45) and caps off this story with a great use of humor and double entendre: “pressing my buttons...” (2:47)

  4. Her pictures and graphics are highly effective and emotive. For example, she uses a stunning picture of a kid when she discusses obesity in her neighborhood. (3:49) She uses very little text.

  5. She uses vanity in a charming way: “incredibly good looking.” (4:44) She does this in a way that no rich white man could ever hope to.

  6. She shows raw emotions and unveils a piece of her soul when she breaks into tears when talking about her brother being gunned down. (5:10)

  7. She capitalizes on alliteration: “pimps and pushers and prostitutes” (6:50) and repetition: “economic degradation begets environmental degradation which begets social degradation” (7:24) in Martin Luther King-like fashion.

  8. She flaunts a conference rule against pitching for money and then immediately begs for forgiveness. How can you not like a person who has the ovaries to do this? (10:39)

  9. She exhibits excellent coordination with the person who is advancing her slides. I assume this is her fiance doing this. If I find out that they didn’t rehearse this at least twenty five times, I’ll switch to Windows.

  10. She is brilliant and buff. Her presence exudes power and confidence without a trace of arrogance, fear, or condescension (You’d be amazed at how often this ironical combination exhibits itself in most speakers.) She has great teeth (public speakers should get their teeth whitened—I did a few years ago) and shows them by smiling a lot. She animates and emphasizes her points with powerful hand movements while walking around the stage.

  11. She used a Countryman E6i wireless mike (the world's best mike, in my opinion). The conference folks probably provided these mikes to all the speakers, but you can’t do her level of animation with a handheld mike or standing behind a podium. Here’s a subtle piece of irony: she’s using a “white” flesh tone Countryman. It is available in black too. When I bought my Countryman I was asked if I wanted a “yellow” one. :-)

  12. She speaks rapidly—bordering on too rapidly, but she is articulate at all times. And she slows her cadence for her most important points. You can tell that she’s trying to observe her time limit—communicating that she respects the audience’s time.

  13. She uses notes and reads from them in places. Generally, you shouldn’t do this, but all that counts are the end results, so this is a non-issue in her case.

  14. This is an inconvenient truth, but she dissects Al Gore in a wonderful, non-threatening way. It is a priceless juxtaposition of an old, rich, and powerful white man and a black woman from the Bronx. It reminds me of the scenes in samurai movies where a master swordsman decapitates his opponent, but it takes a few seconds for the victim to realize what’s happened. (16:45)

  15. She ends with an insanely great call-to-action: “Please don’t waste me.” How can you top this? (17:57)

I would love it if my daughter would grow up to be a warrior like Majora. Heck, I would love if my sons grew up to be a warrior like Majora. At the very least, anyone with a daughter should watch this video.


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» As Good As Steve Jobs from Blog
Guy Kawasaki wrote to tell me about his post on this fantastic speech given at Ted Talks. This woman is dynamite. When you go over to read the full post, be sure to look at the comments. The comments only support her point that so many people (even Al ... [Read More]

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I want to thank Guy Kawasaki for his July 26th blog post. It was the inspiration for synthesizing some thoughts that I've had in my head for some time. === From The Mailbag Oops. We received a piece of your... [Read More]

» Guy, The Mailbag, and Why Authenticity Rules Radio Advertising, Too from Radio Sage Blog
I want to thank Guy Kawasaki for his July 26th blog post. It was the inspiration for synthesizing some thoughts that I've had in my head for some time. Radio advertising - all advertising - is about influence. === From... [Read More]

» Inspiring Speech On Urban Renewal from Random Thoughts
I just watched the speech that Majora Carter from Sustainable South Bronx gave at this years TED conference. She talks about her commitment to environmental justice and her vision for a renewed South Bronx1 and it is everything tha... [Read More]

» As Good As Steve Jobs? from A Bob's Life
Guy Kawasaki posted about a speech at TED by Majora Carter (which you can watch here).  He writes that her speech is as good as one done by Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple Computer and Pixar.  Her speech is good; more importantly she is discussing a vit... [Read More]

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I'm loving Guy Kawasaki's blog lately. It's just full of insightful, smart & funny musings on business and other stuff. Recently he has been blogging quite a bit about public speaking, and a few days ago he posted a piece on Majora Carter, the Executiv... [Read More]

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I simply want to hear new voices rather than presentation deliveries. I am sick and tired of presentations but I am not tired of people who make a real difference to their community, a real difference to their families or their workplaces. I invested this time in listening to Mejora Carter and my take away is that she demonstrated pride in her community and she knows how to work with people. I am guessing from the body language that she is fully capable of giving someone like me a good verbal whipping if I demonstrate no idea of street smarts.

Words like charismatic are meaningless to me, try real. Mejora Carter is as real a person as I have ever witnessed or seen in my life; and the reason I consider her a vocal minority isn't because of the colour of her skin but the vocal majority who get behind any mike who are as fake and unnatural as any hair color product can be. When she turned around to Al Gore to clear up a point, this moment in the video wasn't a routine or a sketch or even a rehearsed delivery, for I could see by Al Gore's look of surprise that this was a genuine moment of exchange and that he had a visible respect for her.

IMHO to turn any person into a presentation demonstration puts the wheel of judgment in motion and I don't think that Ms.Carter's views need to be ratified like some Miss Congeniality beauty contest. The age of treating presentations like a Nadia Comaneci moment of perfection and excellence was great when it was on the TV, when we had nothing better to do than watch life being glorified a series of 10 scores - but today we live in an interactive age, one where we are not supposed to be pasted to our couch, one where we don't have to escape to a local bar to exchange whatever tidbit of time passing entertainment that will fall into our laps.

What I saw (and I don't give a flootin-tootin what anybody else saw, since I don't write this stuff out as an amusement for others but for myself); is a woman, who, seems to me, has plenty of butt-kicking pride about her community; someone who you can replace the word "holistic" with the words "that gal knows what she is talking about". I write this, because I can see what she is talking about; and she is a vocal minority that actually serves to make a significant difference in the lives of those people of her village, her people, her world. That is good enough for me, for there are plenty of people who can learn to sell, but that there are far less who have learned to love.

I chucked inspiration in the river a long time ago when I realized how "quo" the status quo can be. For what have I ever learned from the predictable vocal majority that has served to elevate my sense of a life and transformational value. I can smell authentic nature wherever and whenever it is, for I have a prescriptive nose for that. The most ironic twist of all is that the silent majority who have the most authentic nature in our world are also the most trustful, the most loyal, the most believing, the most incorruptible people on G-d's earth.

These are the people who Mejora Carter represents, ordinary folk, decent folk, folk that don't judge, don't measure, don't pontificate (unlike me) but they humbly accept what life throws at them, they do whatever it takes to survive in the worst conditions imaginable, and in so doing have very little thought capital left over to raise imagination to a level of those who have the time to score presentation techniques. Now wonder these environments create the very helplessness that serve to deafens a world of planners, politicians and Pavlovian officials to blueprints of human imprisonment.

That is what is changing now and that is the true significance for me of this particular video; that we can sit witness to what can being unearthed from the rubble of human experiences. What is the essence of this human experience other than a simple promise, to make life a home not a demolition job.

So on Earth would I be remotely compelled about how Mejora weighs up against another human beings showmanship; especially when I have never met the lady face to face, when I got no bone with her, when all I can see is another human being trying her best to create a human environment rather than an urban zoo of disconnections, where the word "BEST" still has to be delivered as an acronym. Do I need Mejora's acronyms or alliterations. No. Do I need to sit back and absorb the value that I am witnessing in a human being that actually talks like a human being. Yes.

It is this personal value that these fingers of mine are always typing away online to improve; and for the most part all my words above are simply a bath time. For I have read all the comments and these comments don't represent my life or even remotely close to how I view or see my world. So I pour out these extra paragraphs because they cleanse me of words that do not belong to my life. They also remind me that as I think out aloud, that I had the pleasure of watching a clear video delivered free, witnessing heart not just script, of a fine lady that accompanies me to a worthy nights retirement.

The closest I have ever come to the world Mejora Carter describes is when I traveled between Penn Station and Newark Airport; and there on that journey is a bit in the middle which represents a part of New Jersey forgotten between premier destinations. I was looking for a word to describe the intuitive sense I have when the train passes through a few of these New Jersey neighborhoods. That word, is the one I found tonight, it is the word "Mejora".

I saw a bit of New Jersey in transit that was missing its "Mejora". The fact that I go to sleep tonight knowing that there is a different part of New York that has "Mejora" in it, means there is an ounce of something special being shone on that place. For I have heard it read "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love" - and so for me to go to sleep after any presentation that even remotely looks like these words, is a worthy moment of self indulgence.

My takeaway tonight, is that I need to be far less self-indulgent and simply wake up tomorrow morning with the knowledge that "something special" has less hiding places than it ever did in human history; that this something special today is around every corner, every thoughtful observation, every personal choice when we become determined to find it, to realize it, to awaken it - and so I take this gift so given to me tonight and I merely welcome it with a purer heart. I can't think of a better way for me to go to sleep than that.


Dear Sir,
Your solution
Business model
Underlying magic/technology
Marketing and sales
Projections and milestones
Status and timeline
Summary and call to action
Since I am new to the topic of powerpoint presentations can one elaborate on the following with examples?

Damn! She blew me away! So much I want to say but what I think is most important is the fact that she has everything I miss from the politicans in my country. She is down right passionate and honest about her quest. Passion! Honesty! Quest! She makes you care about something I honestly didn't care much about before I watched her. And that is saying a lot!

André Hedetoft
Just created a game where you get to play with my real life over at http://www.andrehedetoft.com

As good as Steve is your question? Can she code? grin

Majora Carter is the Woman, while Steve Jobs is the Man. They both are passionate about what they believe in and although they are much different, they both desire to take back our country. While one wants to create environmental justice, the other desires entertainment integrated into computers. They both beat a drum that sets a stage that makes listeners into fans. You can’t compare great ones against each other.

In common is their desire to bring people together, as one wants the streets covered with people and the other wants people covered with digital communication. I think it is their sincerity, compassion, and beliefs that make them share the same frequency.

If you think about the people that walked the streets 100 years ago and made this Country, it truly was leaders like Majora Carter and Steve Jobs.

Can you imagine our country today if all politicians shared Majora Carter’s knowledge and passion.

gotta post a comment as I just can't believe that people can actually sit there & say this woman is damaging her cause!

she is a wonderfully passionate, committed woman who is putting herself on the line for something she totally believes in.

once you nay-sayers grow the balls to speak in front of a huge audience (1000 of the best thinkers on planet no less!), when you haven't be trained to do so, when you're up against some very big names & experienced speakers

and to show soooo much heart!

how can you not be utterly amazed by this presentation & this woman?

utterly fabulous!

guy, to restate another comment 'thanks for not wasting her'

go majora!!

I think the keyword is 'potential'. She is already a brilliant speaker, and has sooo much potential it makes me cry.

Is she better than Steve Jobs, as to this moment? My answer is "We could discuss this to Christmas, simply because we got different taste, we react differently on the same situation (and in this case speech) - in other words: it's about talking to the people you want to have listening to you. If you didn't like her speech as much as you enjoy a Steve Jobs keynote, maybe you're not the one she wants to talk to?".

I don't know if the above is true, but one thing is for sure, she has potential to beat Steve Jobs. Lots of it.


Are you joking? As good as Steve Jobs?

I see the same issues that you saw - speed and reading - but I think they're way more important than apparently you did.

Say less, communicate more.

Dreadful speaking style. I had to switch her off. It was that irritating. She damages the casue she's speaking for - not aids it.

A great speech, no doubt about it. As good as Jobs? That's questionable. I think the criticism in the comments isn't about her speech, its about Guy's comparison to Jobs. She'll be in that league with time and practice. And yes, she'll get it. She got herself a seat at Al Gore's table! The person who thinks she didn't write it, though...that's just plain wrong. If she hadn't written it, she wouldn't have had the passion.

I don't know that I would use the term moron, but I have to agree with his point. Making this thread all about race instead of speaking technique seems to be some sort of political agenda.

Interesting point about Guy and polarization, I remember that slide, also.

Speaking of Guy's slides, can anyone please explain to me about the hotel that had a laundry on each floor? I didn't quite understand what Guy was getting at with that one.

Hey Kal, how come it's OK for people like you to bash, oh say, Christians, but it's not all right for others to give a reasoned critique about a speaker who happens to be a black female? Guy's post was obviously meant to polarize (hence the title - listen to one of his talks, its one of the points) and he succeeded.

Then you come along and make it all about race. What a moronic contribution. Of course with your type, it's "not surprising".

Fascinating. I'm not talking about the presentation but rather the reader reaction to your posting. Given the opinionated comments and the unusually low user rating of your post, it seems that many people take serious issue with you lauding your normally reserved praise on a black female after directly comparing her more favorably to a white male (Steve Jobs). Fascinating...but not surprising.

One other point:
-Garr Reynolds, who writes a respected blog on presentation- http://presentationzen.blogs.com/ - had this to say about Majora's TED presentation: "Ms. Carter did a fantastic job...She connected. Majora delivered the goods. Powerful stuff."


Thank you so much for bring the video of Majora Carter to our attention and then, may be as importantly, sharing your thoughts of what you learned from her speech in such a detailed manner (love the provided timecode). Majora has some weakness as you pointed out (speaks rapidly, uses notes and reads from them in places) but, like you say, I think she completely got her points across and effectively.

I honestly thinks the world need more female role models. My personal favorite is Louise Arbour ("Chief Prosecutor of War Crimes" turned "Supreme Court of Canada Justice" turned "UN High Commissioner for Human Rights")
With a lady like her, I am so proud to be Canadian.

As a man, I think this world will be a better place (more integrity, less war, less conflict) If we have more strong and smart females in politics. Witness #14 when Majora dissects Al Gore in her "wonderful, non-threatening way". (smile)

P.S. I should thank Sean Wise in encourage this newbie to start exploring this wonderful world of blogging. I somehow wandered to this site from his.


I think Steve Jobs is far and away a better speaker.

Majora looks at the floor and speaks way too quickly as if she is reading from a script. Steve connects with the audience by looking them in the eye. Steve also does not rush to see how many words he can get out in each breath.

Also, as far as content, Majora stretches the truth and passes off assumptions as truth. She also makes environmental wrongs an issue of race. Another example of passing off assumptions as truth is her assumption that obesity among inner city blacks is caused by an environmental problem. Actually, obesity is caused by, among other things, eating too much, not the bus/people ratio.


Thanks for not "wasting" her...

I haven't watched the video yet, but according to the post and the comments, Majora calls the audience to action. If this is her goal, then that's the variable by which the power of her presentation should be measured. Otherwise, what follows is simply an audience talking about the latest thriller in the box office. That may generate awareness, but awareness is not the same as response.

Sure, she used a script and talked fast: so what? Did you find it hard to understand her message?

Simply put: passionate + articulate = compelling.

She's good, but Steve is better.
My points: She speaks to fast, it's like running through her speech, and I dislike her looking at a teleprompter (or the floor?).

It's all about passion. And man - is she passionate.


To those who say "stop picking on the details of her performance, it's the passion/sincerity/content that matters," I'd like to point out that Guy didn't limit his effusive praise to Majora's passion/sincerity/content. If he had, I suspect there would be precious little argument -- certainly none from me.

In the real world, the quality of the presentation matters at least as much as the content, regardless of how much we might wish it to be otherwise. Guy knows this to be true.

Not sure if "Guy" at 11:23 is Guy Kawasaki (what's up with "Guillaume Gete"?), but I'd like to point out that in both cited examples, Majora's flaws are briefly acknowledged, then excused. Again, the real world doesn't work that way. Certainly, if one is already passionate about a subject (or the presenter), one will make allowances for just about anything. But if one is trying to influence an audience (change their position), it's naive and misguided to expect the audience to overlook the neglect of fundamental principles of verbal communication.

To those who say, "of course Majora's presentation is less polished -- Steve's had more experience, has better support, is a rich white man, etc.", I must again point out that Guy's comparison of Majora to Steve is unqualified. That means he didn't say, "Majora is better in a couple of areas." He didn't say, "Majora would be better than Steve if she had the same support and 20 years' practice." The title of his post is "As good as Steve Jobs." And nothing in the body of the post gives the impression that he is qualifying the comparison.

I think we can all agree that Majora's presentation could be much better than it already is, if the cited fundamentals were improved.



If you read the blog, I didn't say she's better than Steve at all. I said she's as good:

"She is every bit as good as Steve Jobs."

The place where I qualified what I said is: "Maybe better when you consider she doesn’t have a dozen minions supporting her." That is, if you factor in that she doesn't have an entourage, she might be better.


I'm grateful that you've shared Majora's presentation.

The point here isn't the "performance" element of her presentation.

The point is that as humans we all yearn for authenticity. We yearn to be moved on a level deeper than the business world's ever-evaluating voice will allow for.

Majora's authenticity was moving. Her passion was palpable. She risked vulnerability. she showed her human-ness. These things transcend the cultural values we bow to in business.

Majora gave a gift to her audience. It's up to us to be in touch with our humanness enough to receive that gift. If we're not, the loss is most certainly ours.

The presentation is a call to action, a call for us to find our sense of urgency, to shake us up. She is not "corporate" she is "real"; she is not "profesionally presenting", she is presenting what "professionalism" has done to her, her family, her community. This is one of the most inspiring presentations I have seen, because her story is inspiring. I never, ever send clips to people. This one I sent.

I guess the issue here is not if Miss Carter is as good as Steve Jobs or not, but how Guy can see the really good points of her speech but forgets to discuss her visible weak points (reading too much and sometimes too fast). But it does not remove the fact that she has indeed some power when delivering, more because of the message itself than the way she delivers it.


Did you read this part of the posting?

"She speaks rapidly—bordering on too rapidly, but she is articulate at all times. And she slows her cadence for her most important points. You can tell that she’s trying to observe her time limit—communicating that she respects the audience’s time."

"She uses notes and reads from them in places. Generally, you shouldn’t do this, but all that counts are the end results, so this is a non-issue in her case."


What I saw in Majora was a "full-contact" presentation. Even watching from a bitty video screen, I could FEEL the blood pumping through her veins and the passion in her heart. Could she have polished up some of her "technical" preso skills like not reading the notes, slowing down and looking out more frequently into the audience like she did a few times to great effect? Of course. But what I took away was that who she was spoke much louder than what she said. Based on where she came from, that moment had to have been cathartic, and nothing short of spiritual. Amidst that, who else would have the ovaries, let alone huevos to chide the Vice President in public?

I used to teach presentation skills to salespeople in Silicon Valley and would pose the very simple question as a topic to work on during class "I am passionate about ..." You would be amazed how many blank stares I got around the room. NONE were passionate about their work, and most had to really dig deep to discover something besides golf that stirred their soul. All the technical coaching in the world could not make these people into great presenters unless they found meaning in their soul. Can you imagine how horrifically boring their sales pitches were? (I am sure you can Guy, as you have sat through many of them)

Give me a presenter like Majora anytime over a hyper-coached, slick willie. I want to be MOVED as a result of listening to someone speak, and I would much prefer they show their true self rather than execute the technical details perfectly.

I personally think Steve Jobs speaks very well. I have seen multiple MAC world presentations, his NEXt Demo etc. However he failed to impress me during his commencement address at Stanford. I was impressed when I read the speech, but when I heard Steve speak, it was well below his standards. He was reading from a piece of paper and pretty much forcing some expressions out. Clearly his other speeches are way better.


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