Steve Jobs was a really good presenter. People went crazy for his keynotes. Products flew off the shelves as people learned to want things they never knew they needed. Carmine Gallo even wrote a book about it.

But you aren’t Steve Jobs, or even his heir. You shouldn’t copy his presentation style. It was great for him, but it won’t work for you:

  1. Most of your presentations aren’t given from a stage, and certainly not one in the Moscone Center to a room of 1000s. As Andrew Abela argues, different rules apply for ‘ballroom’ presentations.
  2. You aren’t as comfortable as Steve Jobs was when it comes to giving a speech. You probably aren’t as good at it. You aren’t Churchill or Martin Luther King Jr either. Some people can hold a room with the power of their voice, their charisma, their presence. For the rest of us, there are visual aids that actually help us to tell our stories.
  3. You aren’t (well, most of you aren’t) talking about relatively simple consumer products. You can’t just show a photo of a shiny gadget if you are selling insurance products, or diagnostic tests, or business services. There is no photo to show that makes people want your IT infrastructure support services. No, an attractive model smiling in a glass office won’t do.
  4. Your audiences aren’t your fans. They are colleagues, rivals, sceptical prospects, and disinterested buyers. They don’t feel that your company’s offering defines their identity. They don’t put your stickers on their cars, or get tattoos of your logo. You might want to build that kind of loyalty, but chances are, you haven’t and you never will (sorry). Your audiences – particularly your prospects – don’t desperately want you to succeed – you need to win them over.
  5. You can’t build your narrative arc to a crescendo after an hour, unveiling the really exciting stuff at the end. People aren’t going to keep listening, or even stay in the room, if you don’t grab them from the start.
  6. You can’t use hyperbole, and call your products “amazing” all the time without offering anything by way of proof. Your B2B buyers won’t camp outside your offices for two days to be first to give you an order just because you state that your solution is “awesome”.
  7. You can’t always take the high ground, ignore the competition, and assume that nobody else in the market matters. You aren’t always launching new categories of product. Often, you are being evaluated against competitors to win deals. You aren’t always selling something unique.

None of this is to say that you have nothing to learn from Jobs’ presentation style. He used minimal text on his slides. His slides looked great. He made numbers sound meaningful. He used props really well. He practised properly. He did lots of great things. But his presentations weren’t like your presentations. It’s not just that you aren’t as good – you are trying to do something different.

Your presentation style shouldn’t be based on Steve Jobs’ presentation style. If you deliver sales presentations to small groups, for heaven’s sake, don’t model your approach on someone who was great at doing something completely different. Find a presentation style that works for you – but start by thinking about the kind of presentations that you actually deliver.

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Joby Blume

Director

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  1. Image of Kamran Khan Kamran Khan says:

    I’m surprised if this article was really that disappointing that no one dared to comment?

    Well, I’d agree. While the article is so true, I’d say “be yourself” who knows you might turn out to be better 🙂

    Steve Jobs was an inspiration to me, he still is. Get inspired, but don’t copy.

  2. Image of Joby Blume Joby Blume says:

    Disappointing? Maybe everyone just agreed 😉

  3. Image of Kevin Young Kevin Young says:

    Ah, a realist! Good advice. At risk of sounding heretical, I will say I never found Steve Jobs’ presentations that compelling. Certainly they had great moments, and certainly he is a huge inspiration, but I have never been able to sit through a full address from him except for his commencement address. Of course, if I could have been in attendance at a product launch I’m sure that would have been different–the group chemistry would have really ramped up my emotions and I’m sure I would have been enraptured.

  4. Image of meme meme says:

    This is a good article. I do meetings for corporate decision makers and I don’t have the lattitude to be Jobs. Also, I don’t know the answer to this, but I struggle with the issue of having data filled slides as leave behind versus the presentation slides.

  5. Image of John John says:

    I think you make some decent points, but I find your basic argument and tone irksome. Yes, it is silly to try to mimic tactics of someone else to be great. I also do believe that a cold dose of reality can be helpful to some people sometimes. But who exactly are you communicating to with this piece? Are you assuming that we are all idiots who don’t know our own limitations? Who would be charmed by a post like this, I wonder?

    The truth is that everyone has the potential for communication greatness in their own way. The confidence and charisma of Steve Jobs is available to anyone (in their own way) when they build their life around discovering their core passion and creating business success around it. Not sure why it would give you such a thrill to tell people that they don’t have innate charisma unless you are just frustrated because you seem to find yourself around a bunch of people who you view as charisma-less twerps.

    One thing for sure: even if that’s the case, you certainly aren’t demonstrating charisma by telling everyone that that they don’t have it. This communicates cynicism that is off-putting.

    What made Jobs and MLK, Jr so charismatic and powerful is that they communicated from a position of wanting to share their deepest life passions with others. They were coming from a position of generosity and caring (in relationship to their work at least) that lifted others up and created transcendant experiences.

    We all have this potential.

    Skills and tactics and natural personality factors really don’t matter when we share our true voice–because we aren’t thinking about that stuff. All we’re thinking about is giving the best of who we are to others.

    That’s why a guy like Gandhi–not a naturally charismatic communicator by any stretch–was able to make people listen and achieve unthinkable success….He was sharing his voice with a heartfelt desire to contribute to others.

    The enemy of charisma is cynicism.
    My hope is that all of you realize your own deep creative potential and express the unique genius within by shedding the shackles of cynicism and having the courage to embrace your true passion.

    If you do, you will be deeply charismatic no matter what kind of slides you use or don’t use.

  6. Image of Joby Blume Joby Blume says:

    @Kevin – thanks.
    @meme – try using a leave-behind that’s formatted using Word or something other than PowerPoint. Your leave behind needs to be self-explanatory, and your slides shouldn’t be (because if they are, you are redundant).

    @John – I’m trying to communicate with the 10s of 1000s of people who are given advice about ‘The Presentation Style of Steve Jobs’ and about how Steve Jobs’ product launches were the greatest presentations ever and something to be copied.

    If all you have taken from my article is that most people have less charisma than Steve Jobs then you haven’t understood it. People also give different kinds of presentations – meeting room vs ballroom, to a skeptical audience vs fans, about things like insurance and finance vs about phones.

    Yes, I said that most people are less charismatic than Steve Jobs. Not to be malicious, not to be cynical, not to stop people realising their inherent potential – but to get people presenting better, by adopting a style that’s more appropriate for what they are doing and who they are at the time.

    If someone reading this goes on to become MLK or Ghandi, then great. You may think that the only thing stopping people is belief. Great. You may be right – although the statistics say otherwise. But in any case that’s fine. Once you become Steve Jobs like – adopt his presentation style.

    Until then… If you have been exposed to the commonplace advice people are giving about copying Jobs, then at least stop to work out if that’s a good idea.

  7. Image of Prasad Prasad says:

    Hi,

    Apparently I just finished reading a book ‘ the presentation secrets of Steve jobs’.
    I kind of agree that not everyone can give presentations like Steve jobs cause everyone is different. Everyone is not in the same business as that of apple. But what one can learn from Steve jobs is the art of getting people to listen to him and to get influenced by him. Remember that he did this right from the days when he was nobody. The fundamental thing because of which he is so admired is because he starts his presentations with WHY he does what he is does and not the other way round which is done by most of the other presenters. His passion for what he does is the most important part of his character and that is what comes out in his presentations. And as rightly said by John , if people are presenting what they are passionate about and use steves principles then I think they can definitely present the way Steve jobs does.
    Also remember that Steve jobs products were never completely innovative. They were more of imovative ( imitative + innovative) and because he like challenging status quo right from his early days, because he was passionate about challenging things he was able to influence people. He was also very clever in knowing about how human brains work and hence his presentations did exactly what the human brain craves for ‘ small piece of information saying a lot and hence able to recall’.
    So the moral of the story is ‘ define lay know the secrets of steves presentation’ but use it for what you are passionate about Not to impress others, otherwise you will fall flat’

  8. Image of Pablo Farmoni Pablo Farmoni says:

    Uh, your arguments are ridiculous and you are really not getting it…. Are you someone that reads off power point , with millions graphs, number that put you to sleep after 30 seconds, and is locked in a button down process?…
    Do you find yourself lost without the process and concrete numbers? Do you think you can possibly sell copying Steve Jobs?
    I am sorry for the directness of my tone…You have no clue about his methods and the way you described them is overly simplistic.
    I am Engineer and Technical consultant that sold millions , of incredibly complex solutions copying Steve Job methods.
    Before that, I was relying on Power point and corporate slides with bunch of unnecessary stuff, just like you…
    I learned to tell a better story! I learned it all from SJ
    Steve Job presentations are ABOUT Story telling.
    I don’t care if you build a rocket and have a PHD in Mechanics of fluids, the main and ONLY point is to tell a better story than the other guy. Essentially who answers best the “So what? ” question wins…
    P.S. Another wrong fact…Steve Job Audiences were programmers, coders and bunch of partner geeks. They are NOT simple minded as you eluded, but yet they LOVE a great story…Why would you want to complicate your life?

    1) make it simple (NOT simpler as you wrongly seem to think it is…)
    2) find and antagonist (Just see political ads and you will get it…)
    3)tell a better story than the other guy (answer the so what better as , you are dealing with humans not cyborgs)
    4)Goodnight

    People that are locked in black and white thinking , process oriented and locked in button down approach to presentation cannot comprehend what Steve Job did. Those they feel that it is “too simple”, but they miss the point as ,their glasses can only distinguish black and white, and thus cannot possibly comprehend the much bigger meaning and Genius of presenting like Steve Jobs…I would suggest , change glasses and see things in all their angles, not analytically but in a quantum way..That is why not everyone can get it…And certainly the author of this article missed the point completely.
    I would suggest to meditate, learn to be humble, put the ego aside and give it another try.

    • Image of Joby Blume Joby Blume says:

      Pablo, thanks for sharing. I’m not sure you understood everything I said, or perhaps I haven’t understood what you are saying.

      I agree, tell a story, and yes, ‘start with why’ if you must. Great. But now what? What do your slides look like? What else do you need to do?

      Nobody disagrees with those bits of advice, but they aren’t sufficient. My point is that there are many different types of presentation, and many different presenters. What to do next – how to fill in the detail – isn’t the same for everyone. By all means be inspired by watching a Steve Jobs keynote presentation. But I humbly suggest there are limits to how far many people will get from mindlessly attempting to imitate.

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