After almost 30 years of inspiring others, ill health has forced Steve Jobs to step down from his role as CEO of Apple. And there is little doubt that they will miss his extraordinary ability to captivate audiences with his visions.

But why is he so lauded as a public speaker – so much so that his annual product launches were referred to as ‘Steve-note’ instead of Keynote addresses? And what can you learn from his approach to connecting with others?

In addition to paying meticulous attention to detail when preparing and practicing a speech, consider adopting some of his favourite techniques:

1. Use stories to connect with your audience

According to Ronald Tobias, there are 20 basic plots that drive almost all stories.

Steve Jobs has always been a consummate story teller and most commonly favoured a ‘Quest’ plot structure – plying an against the odds story of Apple taking on behemoths (Vs IBM in the past and Microsoft recently) and winning.

This is a great tactic to get an audience riled up and feeling part of a vision, where it’s possible to win despite being the little guy – using a brains beats brawn argument.


2. Sell through aspirational messages

When learning the trade of how to create TV advertisements, I learned a valuable lesson – people will gravitate more towards images of where they ‘would like to be’ than where they ‘may be right now’. In others words, aspirational messages – where you sell dreams – create more resonance.

Steve Jobs has always focused on this idea, helping audiences to visually experience how things ‘could be’. He encourages his audiences to join him on a journey to what is possible and listen to their inner voices.

“And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”, Steve Jobs

3. Focus on audience experiences and making things simple

The Chicago Tribune recently referred to Steve Jobs as a Willy Wonka of product design with an eye for detail (  But how has he achieved an almost Pied Piper ability to enthuse others with his dreams over 3 decades?

Simple, he has always centred both his product design and speeches on accentuating audience experiences (what you see, hear and feel) through simple ideas, well told. Anything that doesn’t add to the quality of your customers’/ audiences’ experiences, or detracts from them, should be stripped away.

“That’s been one of my mantras — focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” Steve Jobs Quote – Business Week, May 25, 1998

4. Show versus tell

And last, but not least, Steve Jobs has always favoured demonstrating new products and ‘what you can do with them’ visually. He lets images of what is now possible speak volumes, instead of boring people with lists of bullet points.

Remember, showing is almost always more memorable than telling.


Public Speaking Master, Eamonn O’Brien is the founder of The Reluctant Speakers Club and an internationally recognised speaker on communication skills. Based in Dublin, Ireland, The Reluctant Speakers Club can help you to make speech making easy. To learn how we can help you to inspire others and conquer fear with confidence, email or visit:
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