Captivate your Audience Like Steve Jobs
February 21, 2020
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Whether he was introducing the new iPhone or delivering a commencement address, Steve Jobs was a commensurate communicator that knew how to engage and electrify his audience. Some even credit Apple’s success to Jobs’ showmanship and extraordinary gift as a speaker.
What was the secret to his success when he took centerstage?
Although Jobs’ presentation style had many elements, the one principle that made him stand out was his ability to tell a story that inspired every one of us. Carmine Gallo, author of “The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs”, argues that Jobs transformed the presentation from a dull, technical, plodding slideshow to a theatrical story “complete with heroes, villains, a supporting cast, and stunning backdrops”.
Steve Jobs knew and leveraged the power of the story.
As we’ve written before, stories are one of the most powerful presentation tools to captivating your audience. Some people understand by visualizing or imagining; others by hearing; and others by feeling or experiencing. Stories appeal to all three, which is why Steve Jobs used them to great effect.
So how do you tell a story the Steve Jobs way? Here are three critical elements.
1. Know your your message and keep it simple
When Steve Jobs first unveiled the iPhone at Apple’s Macworld Expo in 2007, he started off his presentation with a simple message: he was going to introduce Apple’s new revolutionary products. “An iPod, a phone, and an Internet communicator,” he said. “An iPod, a phone … are you getting it?”.
To tell a good story, you must first know the critical point you want to make and you must deliver it simply. This is no time for drawn-out, turgid academese. Draw a clear roadmap. Any information that doesn’t support your main message only serves to distract and lose your audience.
2. Choose a story with contrast
Jobs knew how to tell a story with contrast—a story with a hero and a problem or villain to overcome. The hero was often Apple’s products and the villains ranged from Microsoft to obsolete operating systems to Apple’s suppliers that could not deliver on time.
As we’ve written before, you want to tell a story that creates a tension that must be resolved; what is versus what could be, the good versus the bad, the old versus the new.
3. Create a higher sense of purpose
Ultimately, a story must evoke a higher sense of purpose and inspiration from the audience. When Steve Jobs introduced the iPod, he did not say “we’re creating a better MP3 player” or “we’re creating a better device to listen to music”. Instead, he used aspiration language, saying “I’m going to put music in your pocket” and it’s “1,000 songs in your pocket”.
Similarly, when the MacBook Air was released, he declared it the “thinnest, lightest notebook in the world”.
These were not mere slogans, but an integral part of Jobs’ desire to tap into the audience’s sense of purpose and their need to be a part of a movement bigger than themselves.