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Seven secrets of a Steve Jobs presentation

Carmine Gallo
Carmine Gallo is a communication coach, speaker and author, most recently, of The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs is considered one of the greatest corporate storytellers on the world stage. Jobs inspires intense loyalty and also scares the heck out of his people. But there is no question he has transformed the typical dull, plodding, technical presentation into a theatrical experience. Here are 7 techniques that Jobs has learned about inspiring his audience; tips that you can use to wow your employees, customers, investors, or anyone else you need to motivate.

Sell dreams, not products. Steve Jobs' mission is to change the world, to put a "dent in the universe." True evangelists are driven by a messianic zeal to create new experiences. When he launched the iPod in 2001, Jobs said, "In our own small way we're going to make the world a better place." Where most people see the iPod as a music player, Jobs sees it as tool to enrich people's lives. It's important to have great products, of course, but passion, enthusiasm and emotion will set you apart.

Create Twitter-friendly headlines. Steve Jobs offers a headline, or description, for every product. Each headline can easily fit in a Twitter post. For example, when he introduced the MacBook Air in January, 2008, he said that it is simply "the world's thinnest notebook." You could visit the Apple Web site for more information, but if that's all you knew, it would tell you a lot. If you can't describe your product or service in 140 characters, keep refining.

Introduce the antagonist. In every classic story, the hero fights the villain. The same holds true for a Steve Jobs presentation. In 1984, the villain was IBM, "Big Blue." Before he introduced the famous 1984 ad to a group of Apple salespeople, he created a dramatic story around it. "IBM wants it all," he said. Apple would be the only company to stand in its way. It was very dramatic and the crowd went nuts. Branding expert, Martin Lindstrom, has said that great brands and religions have something in common: the idea of vanquishing a shared enemy. Creating a villain allows the audience to rally around the hero--you.

Stick to the rule of three. Neuroscientists are finding that the human brain can only absorb three or four "chunks" of information at any one time. It's uncanny, but every Steve Jobs presentation is divided into three parts. Jobs even has fun with the rule of three. In January, 2007, he told the audience he had "three revolutionary" products to introduce--an iPod, a phone and an Internet communicator. After repeating the list several times he said, "Are you getting it? These are not three separate devices. They are one device and we are calling it iPhone!"

Strive for simplicity. Apple's products are easy to use because of the elimination of clutter. The same philosophy applies to Apple's marketing and sales material. For example, there are forty words on the average PowerPoint slide. It's difficult to find 10 words on a dozen Apple slides. Most of Steve Jobs' slides are visual--photographs or images. When are there words, they are astonishingly sparse. It's not uncommon to see slides with only one or two words. Steve Jobs tells the Apple story; he slides compliment the story. Marketing experts say "simplicity" is the marketing mantra of 2010. Jobs has made it his mantra since he co-founded Apple in 1976.

Reveal a "Holy Smokes" moment. There is always one moment in a Steve Jobs presentation that is the water cooler moment, the one part of the presentation that everyone talks about. These showstoppers are completely scripted ahead of time. For example, when Jobs unveiled the MacBook Air, what do people remember? They recall that he removed the computer from an inter-office manila envelope. It's the one moment from Macworld 2008 that everyone who watched it--and those who read about--seem to recall. The image of a computer sliding in an envelope was immediately unveiled in Apple ads and on the Apple website. The water cooler moment had run according to plan.

Share the stage. Few companies are as closely associated with their founders as Apple is with Steve Jobs. But on stage Steve Jobs is far from a one-man show. Jobs introduces partners or customers in every major presentation. If they can't physically share the stage with him, he will roll video clips and testimonials about Apple's products. He also introduces employees who deliver sections of the presentation. Whether it's designer Jonathan Ive or marketing chief Phil Schiller, employees with particular expertise in one area often share the stage with Jobs. Your audience craves variety. Give it to them. They also want to see teamwork. Show it to them.

By Carmine Gallo  |  November 4, 2009; 4:49 AM ET  | Category:  Communication skills Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

Could you some how screen out commenters that have psychiatric disorders....? Please! There's already enough drama in reality TV.

Posted by: d2barrett | November 5, 2009 10:30 AM

Hunt for a column where your stupid commments are somewhere near on topic, Hunter340. SPAM!!!!!!!

Posted by: leajones99 | November 5, 2009 5:37 AM

The crazy radical liberals, like Obama, are trying to make villains out of successful business owners and CEOs like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and so many others who provide the majority of America's jobs.

Posted by: hunter340 | November 5, 2009 4:11 AM

LMAO at comments like " but the key is to not make it like a Steve Jobs "

He single-handedly turned around Apple, took over Pixar and made it a huge success.

Do I smell envy?

Posted by: kkrimmer | November 4, 2009 8:41 PM

This was on the CIO.com web site ... A MONTH AGO!!! .... http://www.cio.com/article/503993/Q_A_with_Author_of_The_Presentation_Secrets_of_Steve_Jobs_

Slow people, slow.

Posted by: MarineBugler | November 4, 2009 6:50 PM

You can make a business presentation be better than boring, but the key is to not make it like a Steve Jobs presentation. They are irritating.

Posted by: Comunista | November 4, 2009 5:07 PM

Very thoughtful analysis.
Steve Jobs is doing nothing new--he is following principles of good communication, but for most executives it is something very difficult to learn. That is why most corporate presentations are so uninspiring and waste of time.

Posted by: ithinker | November 4, 2009 4:43 PM


Posted by: cmecyclist | November 4, 2009 9:30 AM

Make that eight secrets. Number one, get yourself a product to which you can apply the other seven secrets.

(Does anyone believe any, or all of these "seven secrets" would do a damn thing if the product itself is garbage?)

Posted by: emendis | November 4, 2009 8:05 AM

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