Our communications coach mines Jobs' introduction of the iPhone to offer five lessons for making an unforgettable pitch
After a gorgeous afternoon of golf a few days ago, my nephew seemed anxious to get home, even skipping out on my invitation to dinner. He's a graduating high school senior, so I assumed he wanted to hang out with friends. I was partly correct. He wanted to hang out with friends in line for the new iPhone.
Leave it to Apple (AAPL) Chief Executive Steve Jobs to create a frenzy that gripped every gadget fan in the country. The hype, however, started with what I consider Jobs' best presentation to date—the introduction of the iPhone at the annual Macworld trade show in January.
After watching and analyzing the presentation, I thought about five ways to distill Jobs' speaking techniques to help anyone craft and deliver a persuasive pitch.
1. Build Tension
A good novelist doesn't lay out the entire plot and conclusion on the first page of the book. He builds up to it. Jobs begins his presentation by reviewing the "revolutionary" products Apple has introduced. According to Jobs, "every once in a while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything…Apple has been fortunate to introduce a few things into the world." Jobs continues by describing the 1984 launch of the Macintosh as an event that "changed the entire computer industry." The same goes for the introduction of the first iPod in 2001, a product that he says "changed the entire music industry."
After laying the groundwork, Jobs builds up to the new device by teasing the audience: "Today, we are introducing three revolutionary products. The first is a wide-screen iPod with touch controls. The second is a revolutionary new mobile phone. And the third is a breakthrough Internet communications device." Jobs continues to build tension. He repeats the three devices several times then says, "Are you getting it? These are not three separate devices. This is one device…today Apple is going to reinvent the phone!" The crowd goes wild.
Jobs conducts a presentation like a symphony, with ebbs and flows, buildups and climaxes. It leaves his listeners wildly excited. The takeaway? Build up to something unexpected in your presentations.
2. Stick to One Theme Per Slide
A brilliant designer once told me that effective presentation slides only have one message per slide. One slide, one key point. When Jobs introduced the "three revolutionary products" in the description above, he didn't show one slide with three devices. When he spoke about each feature (a widescreen iPod, a mobile phone, and an Internet communicator), a slide would appear with an image of each feature.
Jobs also makes the slides highly visual. At no place in his presentation does the audience see slides with bullet points or mind-numbing data. An image is all he needs. The simplicity of the slides keeps the audience's attention on the speaker, where it should be. Images are memorable, and more important, can complement the speaker. Too much text on a slide distracts from the speaker's words. Prepare slides that are visually stimulating and focused on one key point.
3. Add Pizzazz to Your Delivery
Jobs modulates his vocal delivery to build up the excitement. When he opens his presentation by describing the revolutionary products Apple created in the past, his volume is low and he speaks slowly, almost in a reverential tone. His volume continues to build until his line, "Today Apple is going to reinvent the phone." Be an electrifying speaker by varying the speed at which you speak and by raising and lowering your voice at the appropriate times.
Jobs makes presentations look effortless because he takes nothing for granted. Jobs is known to rehearse demonstrations for hours prior to launch events. I can name many high-profile chief executives who decide to wing it. It shows. It always amazes me that many business leaders spend tens of thousands of dollars on designing presentations, but next to no time actually rehearsing. I usually get the call after the speaker bombs. Don't lose your audience. Rehearse a presentation out loud until you've nailed it.
5. Be Honest and Show Enthusiasm
If you believe that your particular product or service will change the world, then say so. Have fun with the content. During the iPhone launch, Jobs uses many adjectives to describe the new product, including "remarkable," "revolutionary," and "cool." He jokes that the touch-screen features of the phone "work like magic…and boy have we patented it."
I think speakers are so afraid of over-hyping a product that they go to the opposite extreme and make their presentations boring. If you're passionate about a product, service, or company, let your listeners know. Give yourself permission to loosen up, have fun, and express your enthusiasm!
Now please don't say, "This sounds great, Carmine, but I'm not as charismatic as Steve Jobs." Well guess what—Jobs worked at it and is far more engaging today as a presenter than he was many years ago. We all have room to grow and to improve the way we pitch ourselves and our products. Good luck!
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