How to Present Like Steve Jobs

The late Apple CEO Steve Jobs (1955-2011) was well known for his electrifying, inspiring and entertaining presentations. It was Jobs’ unique presentation style — which fans referred to as a “Stevenote” — that helped make his keynotes so impressive. He was equally impressive when he delivered his Stanford commencement speech. The aim of this blog post is to examine the various tools and techniques Jobs used to captivate and inspire his audience. These methods that can readily applied by anyone. Steve Jobs was a hard act to follow but once you start adding the elements below to your presentations, you’ll be hard to forget. So let’s get started!

Present Like Steve Jobs

Here is Steve Jobs unveiling the iPhone in 2007:

Every presentation that Jobs gave followed a specific formula that can be used for:

  • Webinars
  • Product Videos
  • Launch Events
  • Presentations

This post outlines 7 techniques used by Steve Jobs in the original iPhone unveil.

1) Create a Pathway

At the start of the iPhone launch, Steve Jobs set the scene by announcing that he was going to introduce three revolutionary new products as part of his keynote:

  1. A wide screen iPod with touch controls
  2. A revolutionary new phone
  3. A breakthrough internet communications device

Moments later when he revealed he was in fact going to be talking about the iPod, phone, and internet browser all in the same device, the audience was immediately thinking about what’s ahead. Jobs created a pathway and a sense of anticipation for the audience, who were instantly drawn to the rest of the presentation.

Steve Jobs

Set the theme early in your presentation.

He set the theme for the entire presentation early on:

Today Apple reinvents the phone.

Once he announced this theme, he referenced it throughout the presentation. He went on to use a simple structure that has been effective time and time again:

  • Tell them what you’re going to say
  • Tell them
  • Tell them what you’ve said

2) Have A Purpose

Steve Jobs always considered the purpose of his presentation. A clear purpose leads to a clear message. When you present, your listeners are always asking themselves, “What’s in it for me?”

Answer the question. Don’t make them guess.

Often a presenter will expect the audience to connect the dots between why a feature was built and how it solves a problem. Jobs never wanted to take the risk. People left a Steve Jobs keynote knowing exactly why a product was built and how it solves the audiences’ problem. This was achieved by creating a personal message with a higher sense of purpose. You too can create a higher sense of purpose by talking about what your audience wants and how you are offering it to them.

Steve Jobs

Create a higher sense of purpose.

When Steve Jobs unveiled the iPod he didn’t say that Apple had built an easier to use MP3 player. Instead he said that Apple wanted to put “1,000 songs in your pocket”. Simple and effective.

3) Identify 3 Ideas

Steve Jobs understood that the number “3” is indeed a magic number in presentations.

He divided his iPhone presentation into three sections.

Today we are introducing three revolutionary products. The first, a widescreen iPod with touch controls. The second, is a revolutionary mobile phone. And the third is a breakthrough Internet communications device.

Are you getting it? These are not three separate devices, they are one device and we are calling it iPhone!

A person can only retain small amounts of information in their short term memory. For this reason most of Jobs’ keynotes were broken down into three parts and his product demos were broken down into three features.

Use the rule of three in your structure.

You too can use the “rule of three” in your presentations. The biggest challenge for many is narrowing down a speech into the 3 key messages they wish to convey. And that task takes place during the preparation phase.

Steve Jobs

4) Tell a Story

Every Steve Jobs presentation told a story. At the launch of the iPhone, Jobs told a story of Apple’s history, before the main event.

In 1984, Apple introduced the first Macintosh. It didn’t just change Apple. It changed the whole computer industry. In 2001, we introduced the first iPod. It didn’t just change the way we all listen to music. It changed the entire music industry.

As he moved onto the unveiling, he began by introducing the bad guy i.e. the problem that his audience faced. Steve Jobs unveiled a slide featuring the Motorola, Blackberry, Palm, and Nokia. He then went on to list the problems that current “smart phones” have.

This is a great way to build empathy. By relating to the problems faced by the audience on a daily basis you can set the stage for the big reveal. When you reach the unveil your audience will know that you completely understand their frustrations with the status quo, which gives you much more credibility as a speaker.

Once he had put a villain in front of the audience in the form of current competitor limitations, Steve Jobs went on to reveal his product as the hero and educate the audience as to why their lives would be better (see”What’s in it for me?” above).

Steve Jobs

At the end of every Steve Jobs presentation he told you how you can live happily ever after with Apple’s new product in the form of a sales pitch. He announced the cost, ordering details, launch date and shipping information.

5) Make it Visual

While most speakers fill their slides with data, text, and charts (check out Death By PowerPoint), Jobs did the opposite. There was very little text on a Steve Jobs slide. In fact, in the first three minutes of Steve Jobs’ iPhone presentation, he used a grand total of nineteen words (across 12 slides). Most of his slides simply showed an image. Inspiring presenters are short on bullet points and big on graphics.

Learn more about the secrets to creating powerful visual aids here.

6) Practice Relentlessly

Steve Jobs was legendary for his preparation. He would rehearse on stage for many hours over many weeks prior to the launch of a major product. As a result the presentation was delivered flawlessly.

He knew every detail of every demo and every font on every slide. The introduction of the iPhone lasted about 80 minutes. But being so well rehearsed, Jobs didn’t need any notes. A Steve Jobs presentation looked effortless because it was so well-rehearsed. His entire presentation was coordinated. To be the best you can possibly be, aim for a similar level of preparation in every presentation you deliver.

Steve Jobs

 7) Show Passion

Steve Jobs was passionate about Apple. No question. He enjoyed unveiling new products and wore his enthusiasm on his sleeve. During his presentations he used words like “extraordinary,” “amazing,” and “cool.” If people turn up to watch you speak they are automatically giving you permission to show enthusiasm. And if you are not passionate and enthusiastic about your content, how do you expect others to be?

Finally, Have Fun!

In the moment Steve Jobs announced that his presentation would focus on a new iPhone he put up a picture of an iPod with an old-fashioned rotary dial on it and said “Here it is.” The audience got a kick out of it, laughing and clapping.

Later in the presentation when his clicker malfunctioned, Jobs didn’t panic or stress. In fact he was as cool as a cucumber as he sidetracked into a story about the early days designing the Mac. This moment brought some levity to the keynote, the problem was fixed, and Jobs effortlessly moved along. No big deal.

So don’t sweat minor mishaps. Relax and have fun when you deliver your presentation.

Present Like Steve Jobs

As you prepare for your next speech or presentation just remember that you too have an opportunity to electrify, inspire and entertain your audience in the same way that Steve Jobs did. Follow the 7 techniques outlined in this article and set yourself up for success.