The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs

"Stay hungry, stay foolish."

- The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, page 215

Steve Jobs was hungry.  Always hungry to learn, advance and excel. His philosophy was to do what you love, view setbacks as opportunities and dedicate yourself to the passionate pursuit of excellence. This applied to all aspects of his life, and perhaps never more so than when he was preparing to present on stage.

Many think Steve Jobs was a genius. However, what he demonstrated when presenting is mastery.  He put in countless hours and demanded the best from those who supported him.

The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs by Carmine Gallo covers everything from the basics of presenting, including structure and concepts on slide design, through scripting and all the way to the detailed dress rehearsals that set Jobs up for success.

The book is organized into three “acts”, as follows:

Act 1: Create the Story. Here we find the surprising revelation that when planning to present, he started on paper! Presentations were written with the media in mind, by creating attention-grabbing headlines.   Jobs created stories with tension by introducing antagonists and heroes, playing off against each other to a dramatic conclusion.

Act 2: Deliver the Experience. The Zen aesthetic that Apple is famous for was reflected in Job’s slides.   He created an interactive and fun experience by using demonstrations, props, jokes, videos and by inviting other presenters to share the stage.

Act 3: Refine and rehearse.  Steve Jobs would spend days rehearsing, getting feedback, testing technology and lighting. His natural delivery may have appeared to be off-the-cuff, but it was the result of many hours of planning and preparation.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

Do What You Love

"Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life."
- The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, page 217

The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs is not just another presentation skills book. It also contains life and success lessons along the way.

Steve Jobs had purpose and passion. He felt the work he was doing made a big difference. He got the big picture right first by finding what he loved to do in life.

Are you doing what you love with your life? If you are passionate about what you choose to do for work, you will be able to convey that passion when you present. You will truly believe your own message.   How would you deliver a passionate performance if you’re not excited by what you’re saying? Start with the big picture first by doing great work–work you love.

Steve Jobs used his passion to convince others when he spoke. In 1983, Jobs wanted to hire John Sculley, then PepsiCo president. Sculley was unconvinced by the offer–though he was excited by what Apple was up to, he didn’t want to move his family or earn less money. Steve Jobs challenged Sculley to come on board by asking:

“Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?” Sculley said that those words were like a blow to the stomach and the words would “haunt” him until he joined Apple.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Tell Me a Story

" …a Steve Jobs presentation is very much like a dramatic play – a finely crafted and well-rehearsed performance that informs, entertains and inspires."
- The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, page xv

All good stories have a beginning, middle and an end. Steve Jobs would tell the audience what he planned to cover in his presentation by giving them a verbal roadmap. There were no agenda slides in Job’s presentation. Instead, he would tell the audience what he was going to tell them. He would often begin by outlining three points that he was going to cover. For example, when he introduced the iPhone in 2007, he told the audience that he was introducing three revolutionary products: a widescreen iPod, a phone, and an internet communications device.

To create your own verbal roadmap:

  • List the key points that you intend to cover in your presentation
  • Group those points into three main messages
  • Write a script that briefly introduces the main messages, to use at the start of your presentation

To create drama in a story or presentation, we need a villain or a problem. What problem does your product or service solve? Describe the situation in detail–let people feel the pain! When Jobs launched the iPhone, he set up the villain as every other smartphone on the market. He took the time to explain the various problems: smartphones were complicated, buttons were fixed, and it’s too easy to lose a stylus.

Now you’ve set the scene and the audience is feeling the pain. Enter the conquering hero! How does your product or service save the day? Remember that your audience is not really interested in your product–they are interested in solving their problems. Jobs dramatically described how the Apple would solve all current problems with smartphones: by introducing the fast, flexible and easy-to-use iPhone.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Prepare to Amaze

"Jobs had literally crank-called a Starbucks as part of the demo."
- The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, page 143

How can you use variety and staging to make your presentations exciting?

With perfect lighting, large screens and cheering fans, Steve Jobs was more like a rock star when presenting than a CEO. He worked hard to create that excitement, by creating a well-staged presentation, changing the format regularly and appealing to the different ways that members of the audience learn.

Steve Jobs prepared for his presentations with full rehearsals of every aspect of the presentation. He paid attention to how he could create excitement for Apple’s products through the use of:

  • Picture-rich slides
  • Sound, video and lighting
  • Product demonstrations

Jobs knew that the audience would start looking at the clock after 10 minutes if he didn’t keep it fresh and exciting. So, he introduced a variety of different formats to keep the audience interested. When demonstrating how Google Maps worked on the iPhone, he searched for a nearby Starbucks and said “let’s give them a call”, doing so by using the device on stage. He then placed an order for four thousand lattes to go, before admitting that he was kidding and hanging up!

Other ways that Jobs would change things up in his presentations:

  • Inviting other presenters to share the stage
  • Appealing to different senses by passing out product examples for people to touch and hold
  • Playing Apple advertisements

What different formats can you use to keep your audience engaged?


Steve Jobs was fiercely passionate about the ability of Apple’s products to change the world. He was committed to excellence in his presentations so he could share the message that he so strongly believed. Through telling stories, creating drama and well-rehearsed staging, Steve Job’s presentations delighted audiences and left the media buzzing.

How can you use The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs to create your own stunning success?

Consultant or Coach? Take our Fit Assessment to find out if partnering with Actionable is right for you.
Susan Gregory

ABOUT Susan Gregory

I am fascinated by what motivates people, how we communicate with each other and we can perform at our best. As a corporate trainer, I love to learn and share techniques to help people to build skills in communicating effectively, managing work and priorities, and thinking creatively...
Read More
blog comments powered by Disqus

Back to summaries