By now we have all heard hundreds of technology and media experts talk about how brilliant and talented Steve Jobs was and the profound legacy he leaves behind. Quite simply, we listen to music and communicate with each other in ways no one could have imagined, except, of course, for him.
I have always admired his ability to speak in public – on a wide stage with no notes and no lectern. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of his remarkable skill set is the amount of time he devoted to preparation. One of my students who worked at Apple told me that he was famous for parsing every word in the presentation. He was a master at what Dan and Chip Heath call “sticky language.” For example, when introducing the iPhone, his second sentence was, “Every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything.” And then he paused – silently. And the momentum built from there.
In addition to preparation was his commitment to practicing, to rehearsing every aspect of his delivery – from where he would stand during each phase of the presentation, to timing his words with his visual aids. What impresses me most is that he could have just as easily decided to wing it because he was too busy. Many entrepreneurs have brilliant ideas, but they dismiss the value of this kind of focus and care to the words they choose and the manner in which they deliver them.
Finally, he was a master at knowing his audience. He persuaded us to buy an iPod and listen to music that we downloaded from his company website at a time when we were all still buying CDs and walk-mans. He did this by knowing exactly what would get our attention and he always answered the question “What’s in it for me?”
Luckily for us, many of his most memorable presentations are available online so we can continue to learn from the 21st century’s sensei of public speaking.