The Speaking Secrets of the Great and Powerful [Steve] Jobs

A lot has been said about the presentation style of Steve Jobs. Numerous books have written about it, blogs, articles and other media are continually discussing and deconstructing his finesse, his charisma, his ‘get-to-the-point’ delivery. And with good reason. This man knows how to launch a product.

Most of us are used to this more ‘typical’ product launch presentations given by a ‘business speaker’: “Here’s our new product. These are the new features… These are the improvements on the old features… Here are the benefits… Here’s the price. Please buy it.” But Jobs does what many business speakers have a hard time doing. He intrigues his audience. He has them in the palm of his hand. He turns them into passionate Apple brand advocates.

Steve Jobs is much more than a talented, above-average business speaker. He’s a product evangelist. Not content to just launch a product or persuade us of its value, he makes us salivate for it. Beg for it. He makes us HAVE to have it – NOW.

I looked at two of Jobs’ presentations – the introduction of the iPad in January 2010, and the introduction of the iPhone 3G in 2008. Both are very similar in style, so we can see that Jobs knows what type of presentation style works for him and sticks with it. So let’s look at four techniques that the Great and Powerful Jobs uses to bring his audience to their knees, begging for his product:

  1. Simple slides. His slides are beyond simple. They tell us exactly what we need to know, and nothing more. No excessive data, text or charts. And his speaking synchs perfectly with the visuals.
  2. Passion & enthusiasm – He’s not afraid to emphatically describe how much he loves his product. “We’ve taken everything we know, and created the iPhone 3G, and it’s beautiful.” “It feels even better in your hand, if you can believe it.” “What this device does is extraordinary.” He puts it out there and shows the love. Most speakers will not get so personal about their feelings for a new product, but his enthusiasm and passion comes through powerfully. And best of all, it comes across authentically and sincerely. So the lesson to us mere mortals? Get enthusiastic about your presentations.  Put your personality in. Rave about your products. If you’re enthusiastic them, it’s likely that your audience will be too.
  3. Conversational, informal style. His speaking style is so casual, it almost seems like he’s just chatting with a group of friends at a coffee shop, not in front of a capacity crowd at these conferences. In the excellent public speaking blog Presentation Zen, Garr Reynolds sums up a part of his speaking style perfectly: “The secret is to communicate in front of a large group the same way you do when you are talking with your spouse or your best friend down at the local Starbucks. The key is to look at presentations as conversations.”  But heed this warning:  Don’t be fooled into thinking that he’s so comfortable that he’s speaking off the top of his head. According to Carmine Gallo, author of The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience: “Steve Jobs cannot pull off an intricate presentation with video clips, demonstrations, and outside speakers without hours of rehearsal. I have spoken to people within Apple who tell me that Jobs rehearses the entire presentation aloud for many hours. Nothing is taken for granted.”
  4. He uses words sparingly. Like his slides, Jobs doesn’t get overly wordy in discussing features or benefits. He makes the assumption that his audience has a basic understanding of the product, and he uses only a few words to describe them. Short and sweet. We can rest assured that no one is falling asleep during these presentations.

It would be nice if we could get Steve Jobs to give our presentations for us — but in the meantime, we can learn a lot simply by watching him in action!

Which of his speaking techniques do YOU think stand out?

Showing 3 comments
  • John White

    Sorry, but I find Steve Jobs a dull speaker. It’s a drag that the paragon of our industry rarely budges from the safety zone of monosyllables and generally avoids the near occasion of eloquence and wit.

    His presentation is wrapped in a silvery haze of audience anticipation about the products he unveils. Like toddlers waiting for the lollipop, we sit there: “Sure, Uncle Steve. We’ll listen to whatever you say. Just give us the lollipop.”

    Still, the market looks to him for his ability to make decisions, not for his articulateness, and I can live with that.

  • Suzannah Baum

    Thanks for your comment, John. True, not all speakers appeal to all audiences. But you can’t deny that when a speaker has such strong business credentials to fall back on, it’s easy to forgive any imperfections in his speaking style. You may not love it, but like his audiences, we still all wait with baited breath to hear what he’s going to say next.

  • Ralph

    Great article!
    Honestly, I think Steve Jobs was one of the best public speakers in the world. In fact, his (sales) pitches might be even better.
    I analyzed Steve Jobs’ pitching skills and found 8 things we can learn from him. It would be an honor if you could give your opinion on this. ?

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