How to Present like Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs’ presentations have become the stuff of legend.

Inspired by his presentations, customers flocked to Apple stores waited in line for days to be the first to buy the newly released product. And his presentations left the media salivating over his every word.

You may not have the huge fan base or the media clout of Apple, but you can still use several strategies that Steve Jobs employed to kick-start your product launch.

Every presentation that he gave followed a specific formula that you can use for your:

  • Webinars
  • Product Videos
  • Launch Events

First, you need to build the structure of the presentation. Then you need to incorporate a powerful message. And finally, you need to tell a memorable story that your audience wants to hear. Let’s get into the details of how Steve executed this wonderful presentation recipe…

1. Build the Structure

A Steve Jobs presentation followed a very specific structure that left the audience with no choice but to focus on the message being conveyed. Each presentation began with a roadmap, he broke every segment into three parts, and he never spoke on one topic longer than ten minutes.

Create a Roadmap

Near the beginning of his presentation, Steve Jobs always revealed what he was going to address. This gives the audience a visual guide for what to expect.

In the beginning of the iPhone launch, Steve Jobs announced that he was going to introduce three revolutionary new products:

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

Eventually, he revealed this isn’t three products, but one product called iPhone. Not only was this dramatic, but it also set the stage for what the audience was going to see for the remainder of the event.

Unfortunately, too many presenters don’t reveal a roadmap and fail to heighten the sense of anticipation that the audience felt when they decided to attend the event.

When it was first revealed that Steve Jobs was going to be talking about an iPod, phone, and internet browser all in the same device, the audience was beside themselves wondering how this whole thing was going to work.

And the same thing would happen to your audience too. When you reveal the features of your new product, your audience is going to wonder with excitement how the features are going to solve their most pressing problems.

By increasing the level of anticipation in your audience, the more attentive they will be for the remainder of your presentation.

The Power of Three

A person can only retain small amounts of information in their short term memory. That’s why a Steve Jobs presentation always had three or four message points. However, the number three was more common than four because he discovered that the “Rule of Three” is one of the most powerful rules of communication theory.

Most of Jobs’ presentations were broken down into three parts and his product demos were broken down into three features.

The “rule of three” can be leveraged by every presenter. One of the hardest tasks you’ll have to do when building your presentation is narrow your message down to its core.

Build your presentation around the three most important ways your product solves your customers’ problems.

This will allow your audience to retain the information that you give them and increase their likelihood of purchasing the product at the end of the presentation.

Timing

Steve Jobs broke up his presentation every ten minutes because he understood that’s the approximate length of a person’s attention span.

During one of these intermissions Jobs brought Paul Otellini, the CEO of Intel, onto the stage wearing the bunny suit worn in Intel’s sterilized facilities.

In another intermission, he demonstrated the iPhone by making the first “public call” on an iPhone to Jony Ive.

Chances are, you won’t be able to entice the CEO of Intel to wear a bunny suit on stage, but you can still break up your presentation every ten minutes. During one intermission, you can have a happy customer speak about the benefits of using your product. In another intermission, you can have a live demonstration of a new feature.

The point is to make sure your audience remains attentive to you throughout the entire presentation.

2. Create the Message

People left a Steve Jobs presentation knowing exactly why a product was built and how it solves the customers’ problem. He did this by creating a message with a higher sense of purpose, focused his features on the people, and made sure that all data and specs were tangible.

Create a Higher Sense of Purpose

When Steve Jobs announced a new product, he didn’t say: “We have built an easier to use MP3 player.” Nor does he say “We’ve built a cooler phone.”

Instead he had a powerful theme that captures the imagination of his audience. Apple wanted to put “1,000 songs in your pocket” and “reinvent the phone.”

These aren’t just slogans. These are the foundation for the story that Apples customers and the media in attendance spread to the rest of the population.

You might not be able to reinvent the phone, but you can create a higher sense of purpose by talking about what your customer really wants.

For example, the most successful SaaS companies on the web have a mission about them. 37Signals aims to build simple products that people can learn to use in 5 minutes. When they launch a new product, you can be 100% certain it is easier to use than any product in its category.

Joel Spolsky at Fog Creek Software wanted to create a company where engineers were treasured employees and loved to come to work.

By creating this higher sense of purpose, these companies have been able to create a cult like following on the web.

Focus on the People

When Steve Jobs introduced the scroll wheel on the iPod, he started by explaining the problem that buttons can have when trying to find a specific song in your playlist.

Before the iPod, you had to click a button dozens of times in order to find the song that you wanted to listen to. This was both tedious and a waste of time.

Only after clearly explaining the problem with how it was in the past to build empathy with his audience, did he go on to demonstrate how easy it is to navigate your playlist with the scroll wheel.

Often, a presenter will expect the audience to connect the dots between why a feature was built and how it solves a problem.

Steve Jobs never wanted to leave this to chance.

When you are giving your presentation, tell the story about why the feature was built. Talk about the problem that this creates, and how the problem has impacted the audience’s life in a negative way.

And when you reveal your feature, it will look like a hero that saves the day!

Make Sense of Your Numbers

The original iPod had a 5 Gigabyte hard drive and was .78 inches thick. To the average person, that is extremely unimpressive. Outside of engineers, few people can fully grasp what 5 Gigabytes is, and few people can understand why a music player that’s .78 inches thick is important.

When Steve Jobs introduced the iPod, he didn’t introduce it with engineering specs. Instead, he pulled the device out of his pocket and told the audience that it holds a thousand songs.

Having a device that fits into your pocket and stores the entirety of your music collection is tangible. Everyone knows what that means.

Have you ever noticed that when a company wants to highlight how secure the network is, they don’t talk about their 128 bit encryption? Instead they will tell their audience that their company uses the same technology that Bank of America uses.

That’s because saying that a software is as secure as a national bank is extremely tangible to an audience of all demographics.

When you are selling particular features, make sure that you convert your data and numbers into a language that’s relevant to your audience.

3. Tell a Story

Every Steve Jobs presentation told a story. First, he introduced us to the bad guy or the problem that his audience faced. Then he revealed his product as the hero and educated the audience as to why their lives would be better. And finally, he told the audience how they can live happily ever after.

Introduce an Antagonist

At the beginning of the original iPhone presentation, Steve Jobs had a slide that showed all of the competitors of the day. He had a slide featuring the Motorola Q, Blackberry, Palm Treo, and the Nokia E62.

Then, he went on to list all of the reasons why these products stunk. First, he said the keys are fixed in plastic and exist whether the application needs them or not. Every application wants a slightly different user interface and wants buttons that are optimized for it.

Then he talked about the problems of having a stylus. You have to get them out, put them away, and you might lose them.

And he continued telling the audience about all the problems that current “smart phones” have.

When the presentation started, the audience didn’t know they had a problem with their smart phone until Steve Jobs told them how bad it was.

And while you don’t want to call your competitors out by name, you can certainly build empathy by describing in vivid detail the types of problems they face on a day to day basis.

This way, when you reveal your solution, your audience will know that you completely understand their problems and their frustrations which gives you much more credibility.

Reveal the Hero

Once he put a villain in front of the audience in the form of current competitor limitations, Steve Jobs then introduced the hero.

It’s not that the hero always has to slay the competitor, but it does have to make the audience’s life better in some way.

When he launched the iPod, he gave a very specific example of a problem that many people face:

“How many times have you gone on the road and realized you didn’t bring the CD you wanted to listen to? But the coolest thing about iPod is your entire music library fits in your pocket. This was never possible before.”

By reinforcing the point that it was never possible to fit your entire playlist in your pocket before, he made it appear as though Apple has come to save the day.

And creating these use cases is a perfect way for you to reveal the hero for your product too.

By interviewing your beta customers and revealing extremely specific stories about how your product saved the day, the audience attending your presentation will be able to envision exactly how their life is going to be better.

Happily Ever After

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 told you how much the product costs, and when you can start placing orders, and he told you when the product is going to officially launch and ship.

Chances are, you will be introducing and launching your software on the same day, but don’t assume that your audience is going to know what it is you want them to do.

If you want them to sign up for a free trial, then make sure you give them the link in both the presentation and in an email after the presentation is complete.

Think Jobs

The next time you’re facing a due date to get your next webinar, presentation or product video done – ask yourself, “How would of Steve approached this project”? You might save your piece from boring your audience to death, and turn them in to excited customers for life!

About the Author: Greg Digneo is the author of the blog Sales Leads in Thirty Days shows SaaS companies and Software startups how to drive traffic to their blog and convert traffic into more sales.

  1. Great post and great blog, thank you for your work.

  2. Many thanks for sharing!

  3. Daniela Grech Apr 07, 2012 at 2:27 am

    Great post! Thanks for this.

  4. Excellent and informative post!

  5. Great post! Steve Jobs has always been greatest inspiration!

  6. Great article Greg, really interesting seeing how the presentation is broken down.

    I also read the Rule of Three article on Wikipedia and will definitely apply it, Apple use to apply this rule in all its “product slogans”, short and very effective.

  7. Great, will help a lot of us!
    Thanks

  8. This entire post has been copied Carmin Gallo’s book “The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs.” The info is fantastic, but not the authors…

  9. I have a presentation for a business plan competition on Thursday. would be my first ever pitch and I’ve been practising to present like Steve Jobs(who is my profile pic on fb) already, but this article broke it down for me perfectly.

    Introduce The Antagonist
    Reveal The Hero
    Happily Ever After

    Great Stuff. will mos def be using kiss metrics in the future:)

  10. Great post, very informative and helpful tips!

  11. Hi,

    Thanks for taking effort to share this amazing insight,there’s a lesson to learn here.The blog with hyperlinks to the terms and names which people might want to know about makes the blog all the more informative.

    keep sharing more!
    cheers

  12. This was a great read; very informative.

  13. I hope to use some of these tips in my next presenstation, as it is something I tend to struggle with. I am much stronger on sorting out the databased and focusing on data quality. You have to be multi talented now in marketing it seems.

  14. Great Post! :)

  15. Jitesh Navlani May 20, 2012 at 9:39 pm

    Great Post!!!!!

  16. Hi Sir Greg,
    Our boss found this article and we are interested to include this in our Internal Newsletter (will be distributed inside the company). I would like to ask you if it’s okay to republish this article — with all credits to you, of course — OR if not, perhaps we can write a synopsis or summary (still with reference to you and this blog)…?
    Thanks and I would appreciate your immediate response!

  17. Very useful article Greg, thank you! I’m just preparing one presentation right now and your article was great inspiration for me.

    Btw, we are just launching a simple app, which would solve the follow-up issue you described at the end. You can check it at http://www.sli.do, I would love to hear your feedback.

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