A Master Class from Steve Jobs

by R. L. Howser on June 27, 2011 · 2 comments

Would you like to watch a master communicator at work?

When Apple first entered the mobile telephone business, it faced a difficult challenge. It was up against several well-established companies that dominated the mobile phone market and many wondered how a computer company could expect to compete in such a crowded, cutthroat business.

So Apple had to do what it always does; create a new category that it could dominate. The iPhone was a new kind of telephone; far more powerful and flexible than its rivals, but that wouldn’t be enough to crack the market, unless it was perceived by the public to be new and different.

That was the task that Apple’s Steve Jobs faced, when he walked out on to the stage to introduce the iPhone at the 2007 MacWorld. He had to convince the audience, the media and the world that the iPhone wasn’t just another mobile phone. It was like nothing they had ever seen before.

Take a look.

This is just part of a much larger presentation covering several different products and issues, but there is so much to learn from this one short clip that I could build a full-day seminar around it.

First of all, look at how calm and patient Jobs is. He’s in absolutely no hurry to start. He knows his audience will wait as he slowly strolls across the stage. There’s no better way to communicate power and authority than to move and speak slowly, as if you have all the time in the world.

Look at how bare and simple the stage is. There is nothing there to take attention away from Jobs. It’s just him, the spotlight and a few simple graphics, words or numbers displayed behind him (in his case, undoubtedly, by Keynote). The display doesn’t dominate or lead the presentation, as it so often does. Jobs is unmistakably the star of the show.

Listen to how he teases the audience with his opening line, “This is a day I’ve been looking forward to for two and a half years. (pause)” You can almost feel the crowd surging forward, thinking, “Wow, this is going to be big.” He speaks deliberately, pausing to build the anticipation and to let the audience reflect.

He lays out the narrative that, several times before, an Apple product didn’t just change Apple, it changed the whole music industry or computer industry, anchoring that idea with images of tangible, groundbreaking products – the Macintosh and the iPod – until we’re already prepared to accept that Apple has done it again, before we even know what IT is.

Even when he stumbles, as he does when he gets ahead of himself and has to backtrack about how he would have been “Fortunate to get to work on just one of these”, he doesn’t get flustered and he doesn’t apologize. He just continues as coolly as ever.

He whips his audience to a fever pitch, unveils the iPhone and then he hits us with his message; the one clear, simple sentence that he wants us to hear, understand and remember – “Apple is reinventing the phone.”

Jobs entire presentation is built around planting that one message in the minds of his audience. It encapsulates his whole purpose of his presentation; to convince the world that the iPhone is not just another telephone. And it worked.

If you do a search of tech magazines and blogs of the time, you see the same headline again and again; “Apple reinvents the phone”, “Apple reinventing the phone” and “Jobs says, Apple is reinventing the phone.” Jobs didn’t leave up to the journalists to figure out what he said, he wrote the headline for them.

The result? We now have a completely new category of mobile phone – the smart phone. And who dominates that market? Apple, of course.

None of this can substitute for actually having an innovative, well-designed product to introduce, but there have been dozens of failed companies that had brilliantly innovative products or services. They failed because they weren’t able to differentiate themselves from the mediocre pack. Steve Jobs did that in just five words – “Apple is reinventing the phone”

Steve Jobs may have thought he was just introducing a product, but to us, he was giving a master class in effective corporate presentation.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Fred E. Miller July 5, 2011 at 5:39 am

Thanks for the Post.

It’s always great to see a master practice his craft.

He epitomizes the presentation rules of simple and clean, and exudes confidence in his competence.

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