Co-Founder and CEO of Apple
- Watch the video.
- Read the analysis below.
- If you like, read the full speech text to gain further insights.
- Share your thoughts on this presentation. What did you like? What could have been done better?
Positives: Nailed it!
- Speech Structure:
Steve jobs uses a classical structure. He makes it very clear what he is going to talk about. He is by nature someone who applauded simplicity (just look at the design of apple products) and he embraces his love for simplicity even in his graduation speech.
He uses the traditional structure that flows as Opening > Three Stories > Conclusion
Simple. Easy to follow and remember. Love it!
- Strong Opening:
Last week I was doing a workshop with a group of school students. During the workshop I realized how important a strong opening is as Rebecca stood up to speak and she started with a “Sssshhhh…”
While all the students came up with good openings, I will remember Rebecca’s for the rest of my life! Her opening was different. It was mysterious. It was memorable.
Now, surely Jobs doesn’t do that. But there is one thing he does very well. Can you take a guess?
He makes the audience feel comfortable and builds a connection straight away.
Jobs opens with a compliment for the audience: “I am honored to be with you today for your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world.” He follows that by showing humility in admitting that he never graduated college. In just a few sentences, he has made the audience feel very good about themselves and increased their receptiveness to his message.
While this opening might not be the most memorable one, what Jobs does well is he lays the foundation for his important 3 messages. A great example how a simple opening could lead the audience to be more comfortable and connected.
- Simple Sentences:We are already aware of Jobs love for simplicity. He showcased it with Apple. He showcased it with his speech structure. And he showcased the same with his sentence structure.
Just like drops of water make an ocean. Simple words and sentences make a super simplistic speech. Even the great Steve Jobs loves to make it easy for common people like us. As James Kirk once said, “The more complex the mind, the greater the simplicity of play.”
He guides the audience through the 14.5 minutes with simple sentences.
- “Today I want to tell you three stories.“
- “The first story is about connecting the dots.“
- “My second story is about love and loss.“
- “My third story is about death.“
It is quite evident Jobs continues to follow the magic of three.
Three is the magic number. Think about it. How many musketeers were there? How many nephews does Donald Duck have? Or think of the Declaration of Independence state, that all Americans have the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The rule of three is used by writers, comedians and good presenters. Now you know, you’ll see it everywhere. It works.
- Theme:This is one of the fascinating things about this speech for me. The underlying theme of this talk is deep. Its painful at times while inspiring at others. The theme connects with the audience on a deeper level. Moreover, the repetition of the theme in Jobs speech makes it even more enchanting.
In a literal sense, Jobs talks about his birth in his first story, and about confronting death in his third story. However, this speech contains numerous other metaphorical references to these “circle of life” concepts:
- In addition to his physical birth, he relates how the original couple decided they wanted a girl (a symbolic “death” since his life with them was “snuffed out” due to gender). He then tells about how he experienced “rebirth” with his parents.
- His college career had a short “life.” The “death” of his formal academic career made way for the “birth” of his informal learning process.
- His relationship to Apple (in his 20’s) was “born”, grew, and then “died.” Later, when NeXT was purchased by Apple, his career at Apple is reborn.
- He uses the word “renaissance” (a rebirth or revival) to describe the current state of Apple.
- He receives the cancer diagnosis (a “death sentence”), but later is saved by an operation (a rebirth).
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- Rhetorical Devices:
Jobs employs numerous figures of speech in his remarks.
What could Jobs have done better?
- Lack of eye contact:
The first thing I noticed while watching it was his delivery. Namely, that he didn’t actually deliver the address. He read it straight off of sheets of paper. This totally killed his eye contact with the audience. Sure, the audience got to study the top of his head and his particular nuances of male pattern baldness, but as for eye contact, there was nothing there.
In my book From Zero To Hero I mentioned how Steve Jobs used to prepare weeks ahead of his presentations. And we got to see his impressive dynamic presentations during Apple launch events. However, I strongly believe jobs could have made a greater impact by not just reading his speech.
A little more of eye contact and focus on delivery could have done wonders!
Did Jobs fully connect with the audience? @SJobsLegend
- Written for paper:
The writing itself. We already looked at excellent turns of phrase and literary devices, but there was a degree to which I felt the speech was written for paper, not for voice. One of the things I learned somewhere around project number 4 or 5 in the CC manual (Toastmasters International) was that things which read as wonderfully eloquent on paper often sound horrible when spoken out loud. Spoken English just follows different rules and conventions than written English.
It was clear to me that Jobs wrote his address for paper but didn’t rehearse it out loud to find the places where the written English just didn’t work. Or did he do it on purpose? To sound like a Professor?
Was the use of great language too much for Jobs to make it sound conversational? Let me know in the comments what you think.
- Cheap shot on Microsoft:
With all due respect to Jobs, I felt it was a mistake in his section on the calligraphy class, to take a tired, cliche pot-shot at Microsoft. The “…and since Windows just copied the Mac…” line. I didn’t feel that it helped his message at all to bring up something that, quite frankly, is almost a dogmatic difference of opinion between Mac lovers and Windows lovers. Sure, a lot of college kids love and use Macs, but also a lot of college kids can’t afford a Mac, and thus use lower cost Windows computers. The line isn’t exactly a zinger against Microsoft anymore, and while it may score a few lackluster points with the mac users in the audience, it does so at the cost of rankling the majority of Windows users in the audience.
That line certainly didn’t help his message; he would have done better to avoid, in political parlance, “going negative.” Let his own accomplishments stand on their own, and resist the temptation to try building yourself up by tearing someone else down.
Jobs does leave a lot of question marks as to his delivery of the speech and as to whether it was rehearsed well enough to test for the voice. However, this speech should be an example to anyone learning public speaking. It is the best example of the use of a simple sentence and simple speech structure. The use of theme ‘circle of life’ is the biggest highlight for me. At the end of the day Jobs leaves us encouraged, uplifted and inspired.
What do you think about this speech by Steve Jobs? Did I miss out on anything? Feel free to leave a comment 🙂