How to Give a Presentation Like Steve Jobs

What differentiates successful contemporaries from the rest? They are better at telling their story. Steve Jobs is an example business schools and motivational speakers continuously refer to.

He was an extraordinary storyteller. It is through his speeches and great presentations that Apple is the leading global brand we all know and love today.

Lots of people are full of ideas. Ideas which can change the world. Some share them and make something out of it. Others just keep it to themselves. But not everybody who shares their ideas are successful in executing them.
Let’s say you have the greatest idea in the world which could change lives. However, you cannot convince other people to use and invest in it. It does not matter how great an idea it is. You need to communicate the vision of your business, to sell your ideas effectively.

Communication mattered a lot to Steve Jobs, and he had a unique way of speaking. The techniques he used are being adopted by many large companies today to communicate the vision for their operations.

Here are four presentation techniques inspired by Steve Jobs:


Passion is everything. You simply cannot inspire others unless you, yourself are inspired. For Steve Jobs, passion played a critical role in the running of Apple. In 1997, when Jobs returned to Apple after a 12-year absence, the company was close to bankruptcy. He held an informal staff meeting (in a pair of shorts) and spoke deeply about the passion that drives the company and him. He famously said, “People with passion can change the world for the better.” The meeting revitalized the Apple brand.

The reason this inspiring talk worked is because passion is contagious. It starts with the leader and the entrepreneur who starts the company. You do not have to be passionate about a product or service, but a set of values. Richard Tait, as the creator of the Cranium board game, he is passionate about making sure everybody is having fun, not board games. His passion is so contagious that it has passed on from the fun-loving employees to their customers. He said, “We sold a million games with no advertising.  Customers are our best sales force.”

Ask yourself what you are passionate about. What values does your business stand for? It’s not always the obvious ones but the message behind your product or service. When the CEO of Starbucks talks about what he sells, he rarely mentions the word ‘coffee’. Starbucks is selling a workplace that treats people with dignity and respect. Happy employees equal happy customers. When you show the people what you are passionate about, you make emotional connections with them. Even if the world laughs at you, persevere with the idea that ignites passion.

Your brain creates meaning before details. To better understand what somebody else is talking about you need to know what the big picture is behind the details before the details are even mentioned. Tell people what your product or idea is in very simple sentences that give the big picture. Make it simple and visual, in the form of a headline. If you want people to remember, then declutter your slides except for the one thing, the main thing, that you want their minds to absorb.

It takes courage to be simple. Steve Jobs was a master at having slides with very little text and one or two gigantic images to enhance the sentence. Grab attention by communicating simply.

Introduce the antagonist

Craft a narrative. People like stories that keep their attention going. Steve Jobs did this when IBM entered the personal computers market. Jobs painted IBM as a villain taking over the world in a presentation, defending Apple as the only company to make the world safer for creative people.

Tell your audience what benefit lies behind your idea, product or service. Educate them on all the problems they are facing in the form of a villain and glorify your solution as a hero. Sell the benefit. Let customers know why they need it and how it will improve their life.

The best way to deliver a talk is to inform, educate and entertain.

People mostly care about ‘what’s in it for me?’ So straight up give answers to their questions before starting the slides. Ask yourself why should my audience care about this thing I am going to be talking about, and address it straight away. Don’t leave them guessing.

When you tell people the benefits, don’t just list them in bullet points. Inspire and drive the audience towards buying it. Say all you have to say in smaller sentences which essentially sums up the gist of it.

Bring numbers to life

Numbers can be boring. Jobs would never bring in a statistic or data into his presentation unless it were in a way that people could understand. When he introduced the iPod, he did not say ‘this device has 5 GB.’ He interpreted it as “this device has 1000 songs which fit into your pocket.” Define the numbers in a way that makes your audience interested and inspired. Put numbers into perspective by using it in a situation that is relatable in our lives. Try and avoid saying numbers but say it instead in words that are easy to grasp.

Think visually.

When information is delivered verbally, people remember 10% of the presentation. Add an image, and retention goes up to 65%.

Keep slides visual. It’s not so much about the software you use but the story using the software. Microsoft PowerPoint forces you to be mediocre using title slides and bullets. Be creative and break the structure. Avoid using too many words as it is difficult for the brain to process. The brain interprets every letter as a picture. So when there’s a lot of text, the brain basically chokes on it. It cannot process reading and listening to somebody at the same time. Which is why there should be minimal text on your slides.

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