How to Present Like Steve Jobs at Apple Developers Conference


Although the thought of public speaking fills as much as 77% of the population with dread, it’s often an inevitable fact of building a successful career, especially for high-profile executives who act as the go-between for their company or product and the rest of the world.

So it’s perhaps not surprising that some of the most admired business leaders aren’t just acknowledged for their visionary minds, problem-solving ability or decision-making skills — but for their presentation prowess.

Apple co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs was one of them. Over the course of his leadership at the now trillion-dollar technology company, Jobs had to communicate effectively with an audience of consumers and investors — sometimes about ideas or products they’d never encountered before.

Related: I Attended an Ivy League University’s Most Popular MBA Leadership Class and Learned How Steve Jobs Became a Better Leader in 10 Minutes

Thirteen years ago, on June 6, 2011, Jobs did just that when he gave his final keynote, colloquially referred to as a “Stevenote,” at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference. He took the stage to introduce iCloud, the service allowing users to store and sync data across Apple devices, to the general public for the first time.

Jobs used three public speaking power moves to make an impact with his last presentation, and anyone who hopes to improve their own communication skills — regardless of audience or subject matter — can learn from them.

1. Jobs always came prepared and understood that practice was the key to success

As Jobs started his presentation on iCloud, it was clear that he knew exactly what he wanted to say to his audience — yet was well-versed in it to the extent that it appeared almost off-the-cuff and effortlessly smooth. Of course, Jobs was the ultimate evangelist for Apple products, and that passion also helped convince listeners who were eager to hear what he had to say next.

Practicing the delivery of material under the same conditions you’ll experience on the day of helps you “mimic” the feeling of the high-pressure moment and better prepare for success, cognitive scientist and president of Dartmouth College Sian Beilock told Entrepreneur in 2022. Accounts from people close to Jobs reveal he used that strategy.

Ken Kocienda, who served as a principal software engineer at Apple for 15 years and worked on the original iPhone, told Inc. in 2018 that Jobs wouldn’t even wait for the presentation to be finished before he began rehearsing it in the auditorium on the Apple campus. Then, on the Saturday and Sunday prior to the event, he would do an on-location “dress rehearsal,” clad in his trademark black mock turtleneck and jeans, and run through the whole presentation twice each day.

Related: How Steve Jobs Misled a Room Full of Tech Media and Changed the World

2. Jobs knew the story he wanted to tell — and didn’t rely on overloaded slides to tell it

Jobs didn’t just hop on stage and start throwing technical jargon at his audience. Instead, he told a story that allowed people to connect to what he was saying and better understand the product’s implications. Studies show that if you share a story, listeners are often more likely to be persuaded, as you take them from one perspective to another, per the VMware Women’s Leadership Innovation Lab at Stanford University.

During his final keynote, Jobs established the need for iCloud by first describing a relatable problem: the arduous process of moving photos, files and more across various Apple devices. Then, he unveiled the solution. With iCloud, people don’t have to worry about moving photos from their phones to their iPads or laptops because the technology does it all automatically.

Throughout the speech, the slides behind Jobs only displayed simple images and minimal text. To demonstrate the simplicity of iCloud, the cloud symbol flashed at the top of the screen, with iPhones belonging to “Mom” and “Dad” below it; lines sparked from one phone to the cloud to the other phone, and vice versa, highlighting how the technology made a calendar event move seamlessly from one device to the next — to the crowd’s applause.

Related: These 5 Steve Jobs Keynotes Will Inspire You to Better Sell Your Ideas

3. He didn’t take himself too seriously, which adds an element of humor and builds trust

Jobs wasn’t afraid to make jokes at his (and Apple’s) expense. Before iCloud, the company rolled out MobileMe, a $99-a-year subscription-based collection of online services and software that launched in 2000 and was discontinued in 2011. It was one of Apple‘s “rare product flops,” with a difficult sign-up process, an initial delay that prevented people from accessing their data, and several outages, CNET reported.

So Jobs used it as fodder for his presentation. After giving an overview of iCloud, which read as a more sophisticated version of its flawed predecessor, Jobs quipped, “You might ask, ‘Why should I believe them? They’re the ones who brought me MobileMe.” Cue uproarious laughter and applause.

Related: Steve Jobs’ Most Famous Speech Is Totally Overrated. Here’s Why.

Not only did Jobs’ injection of humor lighten the mood and entertain the audience, but it also served a practical purpose: We know we messed up with MobileMe and that you’re probably drawing parallels between it and our new product, Jobs essentially said — and that self-deprecating admission helped people trust that Apple really had done better this time.

These days, anyone remotely familiar with Apple products knows the company delivered on that promise — it might be hard to recall a time when the now ubiquitous iCloud didn’t keep all of a user’s devices in sync.

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