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This post was originally published in Feb 2018 and updated on Jan 19, 2022. Team presentations can change the fortunes of a business. Fifteen years ago now, on January 7, 2007, an audience of tech journalists, influencers and industry luminaries wait in hushed silence as the lights fell in San Francisco’s Moscone Center. For months, rumours had swirled of a new tech product that would revolutionise the industry. Into a single spotlight walks one of the most famous men in tech history, wearing his signature blue jeans and black polo neck. And, as they say, the rest is history! So, here’s how to present like Steve Jobs.
Steve Jobs launched the first iPhone to the world at least 18 months before the technology was ready for primetime. Jobs and Apple were selling their audience on an unproven idea and a glorious vision. In fact, the path Apple charted to becoming the world’s most profitable business was really defined by a series of unprecedently high profile team presentations. The world had never seen anything like the buzz surrounding a new product launch, and the launch presentations for Apple’s new consumer devices became legendary!
So, when you’re planning on presenting as a group, there is still, quite possibly, no better team to learn from than Apple.
Yes, You Really Can Distort Reality
The Steve Jobs “reality distortion field” was a widely noted phenomenon. His presentations inspired such huge excitement that journalists, and even competing companies, often failed to notice that the product being launched was a few steps behind the curve, and much more expensive than the competition.
But the persuasive powers of Steve Jobs, and his team, weren’t magic (even though you may only now remember Steve Jobs, it was a team effort and each member of the team was essential to the overall power and impact of the message that they left with the audience). The presentations were the effect of a solid and well-tested team presentation structure. Every major Apple team presentation, from the original Mac, through iPhones, right up to the iPad mini, has used the same model. And while it’s not the only way to wow an audience, it’s a great way to learn the principles.
Tell Great Stories
Apple started as two guys in a garage soldering computer kits. The first Mac’s design abilities were inspired by Steve Jobs experience of calligraphy. Apple computers empower people creatively. These are stories about Apple that billions of people remember, because Apple tells them, at every given opportunity.
Stories are how we turn the dry facts of a company’s history into the compelling and memorable material of its public identity. A great team presentation tells a great story about your business. Some of the stories most commonly told in business presentations include:
- the overarching story of how the business was founded.
- a product-specific brand narrative.
- a story that evokes the values a business stands for.
Who Are The Narrators Of Your Story?
Apple today employs about 147,000 people. But only a handful regularly talk in public.
Of course, if you’re a startup of three people, your own forward-facing team is self-selecting! But for small businesses, divisions within large businesses, or the executive tier of a multinational, your forward-facing team will be the ones who the particular audience you are presenting to most wants to hear from, whether that’s the founder(s), the CEO, CFO, a Divisional Head, an Account Manager, Customer Service Team Lead, Product Engineer, Production Line Manager or Designer (so not necessarily always your most senior people, but the ‘key’ people for that audience).
No matter what the size of your business, your audience(s) want to understand your organisation through its human face, and this is made easiest for them by being able to relate to just a relatively small number of people. These will be the narrators of your story. In Apple’s case, there are invariably just three.
Each narrator plays a very important role in the presentation, delivering a specific kind of information.
1. The Voice Of Experience
How do we decide what to believe? The first and most powerful criteria for most people is the experience of the person telling us. We know we don’t have the knowledge to make every decision ourselves, so we defer to those with first-hand experience. Every team presentation needs one or more narrator who has the authority of experience.
At the time of the iPhone launch, Steve Jobs was the ultimate authority on consumer technology. His word was enough to persuade an entire industry that touch screens were the future. But the presentation would, nonetheless, repeatedly reiterate the Apple CEO’s immense industry experience. The voice of experience might be the CEO, founder, or a major shareholder, but it’s essential to “sell” the value of their experience to audience members who might not know.
2. The Emotional One
Every great Apple presentation used to include a video of Jony Ive, the company’s world-famous chief designer. He was always pictured in a plain white room, talking about the latest product. These sections were very carefully constructed to do more than inform. They were designed to evoke very strong emotions of harmony, beauty and desire. Watch a Jony Ive video, and watch how it makes you feel.
Emotions are biochemical. They flood our body with dopamine and serotonin, coming before and overriding conscious thought. Evoking the right emotions in your audience can persuade them to believe your message even before they are consciously aware the decision is made.
Common emotions evoked in business presentations include:
- pride at the progress the business has achieved.
- desire for a product or service that the business offers.
- compassion for a cause or problem that the business works to solve.
3. The Tech Geek
Presentations can often go one of two ways: far too much technical detail, or far too little. Strike the balance by understanding the role these details play in a persuasive presentation. Technical information on its own is rarely persuasive. But it can provide the conscious justification for the unconscious decision-making process.
Craig Federighi is Apple’s ‘secret weapon’ narrator for technical details. The vice-president of software engineering has one job on stage – to provide a set of technical details that support the story told through experience and through emotion. Apple products often have a lower specification at any given price point than their competitors, but customers rarely care. Once roles 1 and 2 have done their job, technical details are almost a formality.
Present And Persuade As An Effective Team!
Experience, emotion and technical detail, when combined together, is one of the strongest ways to communicate a persuasive message. Apple mastered this team presentation format, but today you’ll find businesses of all kinds use it to wow their audience.
For nearly 20 years we have been the Business Presentation Skills Experts, training & coaching thousands of people in an A-Z of global blue-chip organisations – check out what they say about our programs.
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Written By Belinda Huckle
Co-Founder & Managing DirectorRead Bio
Belinda is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of SecondNature International. With a determination to drive a paradigm shift in the delivery of presentation skills training both In-Person and Online, she is a strong advocate of a more personal and sustainable presentation skills training methodology.
Belinda believes that people don’t have to change who they are to be the presenter they want to be. So she developed a coaching approach that harnesses people’s unique personality to build their own authentic presentation style and personal brand.
She has helped to transform the presentation skills of people around the world in an A-Z of organisations including Amazon, BBC, Brother, BT, CocaCola, DHL, EE, ESRI, IpsosMORI, Heineken, MARS Inc., Moody’s, Moonpig, Nationwide, Pfizer, Publicis Groupe, Roche, Savills, Triumph and Walmart – to name just a few.