How to Present Like Steve Jobs: Lessons from his Apple iPad Presentation

January 29th, 2010 by lewis

A few weeks ago, McGraw-Hill sent me Carmine Gallo’s new book, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs. Gallo is a top presentation-skills coach; he’s also one of my favorite columnists on

Apple just launched the iPad, a new tablet computer. The McGraw-Hill PR team suggested that I compare the iPad presentation to Gallo’s points on Jobs’ presentation secrets. Timely idea! Gallo’s new book identifies 18 characteristics of a successful Steve Jobs presentation. In the analysis below, I highlight a few from Jobs’ iPad presentation.

“Create Twitter-Like headlines”
In the past, Apple used Twitter-friendly headlines to introduce new products including:
  • MacBook Air. The world’s thinnest notebook.
  • iPod. One thousand songs in your pocket.
Here’s the Twitter-friendly headline for the new iPad:

iPad is our most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO.

In the book, Gallo tells us that effective headlines are concise, specific, and contain a personal benefit. The iPad headline wins points for brevity, but it fails the specific and personal benefit criteria. Here’s why:
  • Not specific. The iPad press release makes a marketing 101 mistake, It does not tell the reader what the “device” is. For instance, the press release does not mention the term “tablet computer.” The press release says the device is “thinner and lighter than a laptop or netbook,” and as a reader, I tentatively deduce that the device is a computer.
  • No credibility or personal benefit. The MacBook Air and iPod headlines are grounded in fact. World’ thinnest notebook. 1,000 songs in your pocket. The iPad headline proclaims that it is “magical and revolutionary.” Magical devices do not convey personal benefit to me, especially without concrete reasons to believe.
“Develop a Messianic Sense of Purpose”
Steve Jobs loves the Messianic moment, and this Wednesday’s presentation was no different. One of the early slides highlighted the following Wall Street Journal (WSJ) quote:
Last time there was this much excitement about a tablet, it had some commandments written on it.
(Interestingly enough, Jobs could have followed the WSJ quote with a self-effacing comment. Instead, he embraced the Messianic comparisons with an indifferent “Before we get to that…” The curious remark wasn’t lost on the audience; they chuckled in the background.)
“Rule of Three”
Jobs loves to describe things in three’s, and he used this technique again and again. Here are a few examples:
  • Apple is a three product company: iPods, iPhones, Macs.
  • Apple has three competitors in the mobile devices category: Nokia, Samsung, and Sony.
  • There are three devices in the Apple lineup: iPhone, iPad, and Mac.
“Introduce the Antagonist”
Early in the presentation, Jobs calls out the villain: netbooks. Jobs identified the netbook’s shortcomings:
  • “They’re slow.”
  • “Have low quality displays.”
  • “Run clunky old PC software.”
Jobs concludes his three point analysis with the following, “(Netbooks) aren’t better. They’re cheaper.”
I liked this segment. Jobs makes it clear who the competition is, and we begin to understand why they’re better.
“Use ‘Amazingly Zippy’ Words”
According to Gallo, Jobs likes to use words that are “fun, tangible, and uncommon.” Here are a few examples from the iPad presentation:
  • “It’s the best browsing experience you’ve ever had.”
  • “It’s a dream to type on.”
  • “It’s that simple.” (Repeated multiple times)
  • “It’s wonderful.”
  • “It’s terrific.”
  • “It screams.” (In reference to the 1Ghz Apple chip)
  • “It’s remarkable.”
“Dress Up Your Numbers”
At the beginning of the presentation, Jobs shared some general Apple updates. Here are some of the numbers he shared:
  • “Sold 250 million iPods since 2001”
  • Opened “284 retail stores”
  • “50 million visitors last quarter”
  • “140,000 (iPhone) applications”
  • “3 billion applications downloaded”
As Gallo mentions, these numbers are specific, relevant, and contextual. Jobs could have described his company’s performance using terms such as “same store sales” and “YoY growth.” Instead, he chose descriptions that are easier to understand.
Other thoughts
Jobs’ iPad presentation includes several other techniques identified in Gallo’s book:
  • Few, if any, ah’s and um’s
  • Excellent pacing
  • Frequent pausing for theatrical effect
Lastly, I liked Jobs’ use of props, especially the leather sofa. Watching Jobs on the sofa, using the iPad, I could easily envision myself using the iPad during my off-hours. The prop was an effective, non-verbal way of convey that the iPad is a personal, not business, device.
As a new product, the iPad is underwhelming; industry pundits have called the iPad a “large iPhone.” Nevertheless, I enjoyed analyzing Steve Jobs’ presentation skills. Gallo’s thoughtful, well-researched book was an invaluable guide in learning how I could be an insanely great presenter in front of any audience.

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One Response to “How to Present Like Steve Jobs: Lessons from his Apple iPad Presentation”

  1. January 30, 2010 at 9:41 am, DC Jobs said:

    I like the analysis in terms of his past presentation pattern. I especially like the explanation of how he handled the WSJ comment.