How Steve Jobs Changed How We Present

When I ask business communicators which presenter they most admire, many still point to American entrepreneur and Apple Inc. co-founder, Steve Jobs. Particularly, they mention the January 9, 2007 informative presentation at MacWorld where Jobs introduced the original iPhone (1st Gen./2G).  In this blog, we’ll dissect three core presentation patterns and techniques from this memorable, uplifting, and legendary speech.

Strategic Use of Pacing and Emphasis

One of Jobs’ many presenting strengths: his expert use of pacing to hook, then, retain his audience. From the speech I hyperlink to above, let’s look at specific examples where Jobs built suspense and retained/delighted his audience by building on each element. (I’ve italicized the words he emphasized.)

At the 1.21-1:30 minute mark, he stated:

“Well, today, we’re introducing three revolutionary products of this class.”

At the 1:33-1:39 minute mark, (a full three second pause later) he introduced the first component:

“A widescreen iPod with touch controls.” A full 11 seconds (right at 1:50 minutes) he announced the second:

“A revolutionary mobile phone.” The crowd went beserk as he paused a full 10 seconds before he announced (at the 2:06-2:13 minute mark) the third component:

“A breakthrough Internet communications device.”

Supreme Use of Repetition

After announcing the three components of his breakthrough, Jobs then expertly used repetition to drive his point home to the MacWorld attendees (i.e. that these components all exist in the iPhone—this one splendid, revolutionary device.) Let’s pull apart that pivotal point of the presentation.

At the 2:16-3:01 minute mark, he started:

“So, three things: A wide-screen iPod with touch controls. A revolutionary mobile phone. And a breakthrough Internet communications device. (Pause). An iPod. A phone. And an Internet communicator. (Pause). An iPod. A phone. (Pause). Are you getting it? These are not three separate devices. This is one device. And we’re calling it: iPhone.” 

Executive Use of Eye Contact and Open Body Language

Jobs enraptured his audience also with expressive hand gestures, walking the stage and not reading a teleprompter or script. Hand gestures massively boost the popularity of presenters and help make us appear grounded, conversational—more real. A few examples show Jobs’ expert use of this tool:

  • From the 7 minute mark where Jobs broke down how the iPhone works, he used expressive hand gestures, usually with his hands at a 45 degree angle and palms opened up. (This step shows openness and harmony with the audience.)
  • Jobs gestured with his hands to emphasize points and in a fluid, gentle vs. robotic way. At the 8:00-8:10 minute mark, he stated: “And each of these revolutionary user interfaces has made possible a revolutionary product.” (Where I’ve italicized, he used hand gestures for emphasis.)
  • At the 9:19 minute mark, Jobs continued to break down the software breakthroughs and stated: “And it’s got core animation built in…” At this point, he had both hands apart, palms facing the audience as a grand gesture pose. When he asked rhetorically earlier: “Are you getting it?” He used this same God-like pose. (He also used his index finger to count “one” phone in the statement: “This is one device.”)

We all have our favorites. However, Jobs’ expert use of pacing, repetition, and hand gestures make it clear: Eleven years on from this epic informative presentation, we can still point to this business presenter as a master.

More blogs on presenting live here.  




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