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Book Summary: The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs

Updated: Apr 24, 2020

In his 2009 book, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience, Carmine Gallo extensively researched 20 years of Steve Jobs's presentations. From that research, he proposes 18 lessons to help us improve the way we present to our audiences.

This post will provide an orientation to the structure of the book, as well as summaries and key takeaways for each lesson.


The book contains 18 Scenes, 2 Intermissions, and 1 Encore (chapters) that are divided across 3 Acts (sections). They are:

Act 1: Create The Story

  • Scene 1: Plan in Analog

  • Scene 2: Answer the One Question That Matters The Most

  • Scene 3: Develop a Messianic Sense of Purpose

  • Scene 4: Create Twitter-Like Headlines

  • Scene 5: Draw a Road Map

  • Scene 6: Introduce the Antagonist

  • Scene 7: Reveal the Conquering Hero

Intermission 1: Obey The Ten-Minute Rule

Act 2: Deliver The Experience

  • Scene 8: Channel Their Inner Zen

  • Scene 9: Dress Up Your Numbers

  • Scene 10: Use “Amazingly Zippy” Words

  • Scene 11: Share the Stage

  • Scene 12: Stage Your Presentation with Props

  • Scene 13: Reveal a “Holy Shit” Moment

Intermission 2: Schiller Learns from the Best

Act 3: Refine And Rehearse

  • Scene 14: Master Stage Presence

  • Scene 15: Make It Look Effortless

  • Scene 16: Wear the Appropriate Costume

  • Scene 17: Toss the Script

  • Scene 18: Have Fun

Encore: One More Thing


ACT 1: Create The Story

“Creating the story, the plot, is the first step to selling your ideas with power, persuasion, and charisma.”

Scene 1: Plan in Analog

Summary: In this chapter, you will learn how truly great presenters such as Steve Jobs visualize, plan, and create ideas well before they open the presentation software.

Key Takeaways:

  • Start planning before you open the presentation software. Sketch ideas on paper or whiteboards.

  • Incorporate some, if not all, of the following nine elements to make your presentation come alive: headline, passion statement, three key messages, analogies, demonstrations, partner showcase, customer evidence, video clips, and props.

  • Speaking like Jobs has little to do with the type of presentation software you use and everything to do with how you craft and deliver the story.

Aristotle’s Outline for Persuasive Arguments:

  1. Deliver a story or statement that arouses the audience’s interest.

  2. Pose a problem or question that has to be solved or answered.

  3. Offer a solution to the problem you raised.

  4. Describe specific benefits for adopting the course of action set forth in your solution.

  5. State a call to action. For Steve, it’s as simple as saying, “Now go out and buy one!”

Scene 2: Answer the One Question That Matters The Most

Summary: Your listeners are asking themselves one question and one question only: “Why should I care?” Disregard this question, and your audience will dismiss you.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ask yourself, “Why should my listener care about this idea/information/product/service?” If there is only one thing that you want your listener to take away from the conversation, what would it be? Focus on selling the benefit behind the product.

  • Make the one thing as clear as possible, repeating it at least twice in the conversation or presentation. Eliminate buzzwords and jargon to enhance the clarity of your message.

  • Make sure the one thing is consistent across all of your marketing collateral, including press releases, website pages, and presentations.

Scene 3: Develop a Messianic Sense of Purpose

Summary: Steve Jobs was worth more than $100 million by the time he was twenty-five, and it didn’t matter to him. Understanding this one fact will help you unlock the secret behind Jobs’s extraordinary charisma.

Key Takeaways:

  • Dig deep to identify your true passion. Ask yourself, “What am I really selling?” Here’s a hint: it’s not the widget, but what the widget can do to improve the lives of your customers. What you’re selling is the dream of a better life. Once you identify your true passion, share it with gusto.

  • Develop a personal “passion statement.” In one sentence, tell your prospects why you are genuinely excited about working with them. Your passion statement will be remembered long after your company’s mission statement is forgotten.

  • If you want to be an inspiring speaker but you are not doing what you love, consider a change. After interviewing thousands of successful leaders, I can tell you that, while it’s possible to be financially successful in a job you hate, you will never be considered an inspiring communicator. Passion – a messianic zeal to make the world a better place – makes all the difference.

Scene 4: Create Twitter-Like Headlines

Summary: The social networking site has changed the way we communicate. Developing headlines that fit into 140-character sentences will help you sell you ideas more persuasively.

Key Takeaways:

  • Create your headline, a one-sentence vision statement for your company, product, or service. The most effective headlines are concise (140 characters maximum), are specific, and offer a personal benefit.

  • Remember, your headline is a statement that offers your audience a vision of a better future. It’s not about you. It’s about them.

  • Consistently repeat the headline in your conversations and marketing material: presentations, slides, brochures, collateral, press releases, website.

“If you cannot describe what you do in ten words or less, I’m not investing, I’m not buying, I’m not interested. Period.”

Scene 5: Draw a Road Map

Summary: Steve Jobs makes his argument easy to follow by adopting one of the most powerful principles of persuasion: the rule of three.

Key Takeaways:

  • Create a list of all the key points you want your audience to know about your product, service, company, or initiative.

  • Categorize the list until you are left with only three major message points. This group of three will provide the verbal road map for your pitch or presentation.

  • Under each of your three key messages, add rhetorical devices to enhance the narrative. These could include some or all of the following: personal stories, facts, examples, analogies, metaphors, and third-party endorsements.

Scene 6: Introduce the Antagonist

Summary: Every great Steve Jobs presentation introduces a common villain that the audience can turn against. Once he introduces an enemy, the stage is set for the next scene.

Key Takeaways:

  • Introduce the antagonist early in your presentation. Always establish the problem before revealing your solution. You can do so by painting a vivid picture of your customers’ pain point. Set up the problem by asking, “Why do we need this?”

  • Spend some time describing the problem in detail. Make it tangible. Build the pain.

  • Create an elevator pitch for your product using the four-step method described in this chapter. Pay particular attention to question number 2, “What problem do you solve?” Remember, nobody cares about your product. People care about solving their problems.

Scene 7: Reveal the Conquering Hero

Summary: Every great Steve Jobs presentation introduces a hero the audience can rally around. The hero offers a better way of doing something, breaks from the status quo, and inspires people to embrace innovation.

Key Takeaways:

  • Describe the state of the industry (or product category) as it currently stands, followed by your vision of where it could be.

  • Once you have established the antagonist – your customers’ pain point – describe in plain English how your company, product, or service offers a cure for that pain.

  • Remember, Steve Jobs believes that unless you’re passionate about a problem that you want to make right, you won’t have the perseverance to stick it out.

INTERMISSION 1: Obey The Ten-Minute Rule

“Your audience checks out after ten minutes. Not in eleven minutes, but ten.”


ACT 2: Deliver The Experience

“Steve Jobs does not deliver a presentation. He offers an experience. Imagine visiting New York City to watch an award-winning play on Broadway. You would expect to see multiple characters, elaborate stage props, stunning visual backgrounds, and one glorious moment when you knew that the money you spent on the ticket was well worth it. A Steve Jobs presentation contains each of these elements, helping Jobs create a strong emotional connection between himself and his audience.”

Scene 8: Channel Their Inner Zen

Summary: Simplification is a key feature in all of Apple’s designs. Jobs applies the same approach to the way he creates his slides. Every slide is simple, visual, and engaging.

Key Takeaways:

  • Avoid bullet points. Always. Well, almost always. Bullet points are perfectly acceptable on pages intended to be read by your audience, like books, documents, and emails. In fact, they break up the text quite nicely. Bullet points on presentation slides should be avoided. Pictures are superior.

  • Focus on one theme per slide, and complement that theme with a photograph or image.

  • Learn to create visually aesthetic slides. Above all, keep in mind that you do not have to be an artist to build slides rich in imagery.

Scene 9: Dress Up Your Numbers

Summary: Data is meaningless without context. Jobs makes statistics come alive and, most important, discusses numbers in a context that is relevant to his audience.

Key Takeaways:

  • Use data to support the key theme of your presentation. As you do, consider carefully the figures you want to present. Don’t overwhelm your audience with too many numbers.

  • Make your data specific, relevant, and contextual. In other words, put the numbers into a context that is relevant to the lives of your listeners.

  • Use rhetorical devices such as analogies to dress up your numbers.

Scene 10: Use “Amazingly Zippy” Words

Summary: The “mere mortals” who experience an “unbelievable” Steve Jobs presentation find it “cool”, “amazing”, and “awesome”. These are just some of the zippy words Jobs uses frequently. Find out why Jobs uses the words he does and why they work.

Key Takeaways:

  • Unclutter your copy. Eliminate redundant language, buzzwords, and jargon. Edit, edit, and edit some more.

  • Run your paragraphs through the UsingEnglish tool to see just how “dense” it is.

  • Have fun with words. It’s OK to express enthusiasm for your product through superlatives or descriptive adjectives. Jobs thought the buttons on the Macintosh screen looked so good that you would want to “lick” them. That’s confidence.

Scene 11: Share the Stage

Summary: Apple is a rare company whose fortunes are closely tied to its cofounder. Despite the fact that Apple has a deep bench of brilliant leaders, many observers say Apple is a one-man show. Perhaps. But Jobs treats presentations as a symphony.

Key Takeaways:

  • Upon release of a new product or service, make sure you have customers who tested the product and are available to back your claims. Media reviews are also helpful, especially from highly reputable publications or popular blogs.

  • Incorporate testimonials into your presentation. The easiest way is to videotape your customer talking about your product, edit the tape to no more than two minutes in length, and insert it into your presentation.

  • Publicly thank employees, partners, and customers. And do it often.

Scene 12: Stage Your Presentation with Props

Summary: Demonstrations play a very important supporting role in every Jobs presentation. Learn how to deliver demos with pizzazz.

Key Takeaways:

  • Build in a product demo during the planning phase of your presentation. Keep the demo short, sweet, and substantial. If you can introduce another person on your team to participate in the demonstration, do so.

  • Commit to the demo. Comedians say a joke works only if you commit to it. In the same way, commit to your demo, especially if your product has any entertainment value at all. Have fun with it.

  • Provide something for every type of learner in your audience: visual (40% of us are visual learners), auditory (20-30% of us learn through listening), and kinesthetic (30-40% of us learn by doing, moving, and touching).

Scene 13: Reveal a “Holy Shit” Moment

Summary: From his earliest presentations, Jobs had a flair for the dramatic. Just when you think you have seen all there is to see or heard all there is to hear, Jobs springs a surprise. The moment is planned and scripted for maximum impact.

Key Takeaways:

  • Plan a “holy shit” moment. It need not be a breakthrough announcement. Something as simple as telling a personal story, revealing some new and unexpected information, or delivering a demonstration can help create a memorable moment for your audience. Movie directors such as Steven Spielberg look for those emotions that uplift people, make them laugh, or make them think. People crave beautiful, memorable moments. Build them into your presentation. The more unexpected, the better.

  • Script the moment. Build up to the big moment before laying it on your audience. Just as a great novel doesn’t give away the entire plot on the first page, the drama should build in your presentation. Think about ways to add the element of surprise to your presentations. Create at least one memorable moment that will amaze your audience and have them talking well after your presentation is over.

  • Rehears the big moment. Do not make the mistake of creating a memorable experience and having it bomb because you failed to practice. It must come off crisp, polished, and effortless. Make sure demos work and slides appear when they’re supposed to.

INTERMISSION 2: Schiller Learns from the Best

A case study of how Phil Schiller, Apple’s VP of Worldwide Product Marketing, delivered a keynote presentation in accordance to the principles that Steve Jobs follows.


ACT 3: Refine And Rehearse

“Finally, you’ll learn how Jobs refines and rehearses his presentation to make an emotional connection with the audience. This final step is essential for anyone who wants to talk, walk, and look like a leader.”

Scene 14: Master Stage Presence

Summary: How you say something is as important as what you say, if not more so. Body language and verbal deliver account for 63-90% of the impression you leave on your audience, depending upon which study you cite. Steve Jobs’s delivery matches the power of his words.

Key Takeaways:

  • Pay attention to your body language. Maintain eye contact, have an open posture, and use hand gestures when appropriate. Don’t be afraid of using your hands. Research has shown that gestures reflect complex thinking and give the listener confidence in the speaker.

  • Vary your vocal delivery by adding inflection to your voice, raising or lowering your volume, as well as speeding up and slowing down. Also, let your content breathe. Pause. Nothing is as dramatic as a well-placed pause.

  • Record yourself. Watch your body language, and listen to your vocal delivery. Watching yourself on video is the best way to improve your presentation skills.

Scene 15: Make It Look Effortless

Summary: Few speakers rehears more than Steve Jobs. His preparation time is legendary among the people closest to him. Researchers have discovered exactly how many hours of practice it takes to achieve mastery in a given skill. In this chapter, you’ll learn how Jobs confirms these theories and how you can apply them to improve your own presentation skills.

Key Takeaways:

  • Practice, practice, and practice some more. Don’t take anything for granted. Review every slide, every demo, and every key message. You should know exactly what you’re going to say, when you’re going to say it, and how you’re going to say it.

  • Record your presentation. You don’t need to record the entire presentation. The first five minutes should give you plenty of information. Look for distracting body language and verbal tics, or fillers. When possible, review the video with someone else.

  • Use the bucket method to prepare for tough questions. You will find that most lines of questions will fall into one of seven categories.

The Bucket Method:

  1. Identify the most common questions likely to be raised.

  2. Place the questions into “buckets,” or categories. The point is to reduce the number of questions for which you must prepare.

  3. Create the best answer you have for the category. The answer must make sense regardless of how the question is phrased. You must avoid getting pulled into a detailed discussion based on the wording of the question.

  4. Listen carefully to the question, and identify a key work – a trigger – that will help you isolate the correct bucket from which to pull your answer.

  5. Look the person in the eye and respond with confidence.

Scene 16: Wear the Appropriate Costume

Summary: Jobs has the easiest wardrobe selection in the world: it’s the same for all of his presentations. Learn why it’s OK for Jobs to dress the way he does but it could mean career suicide if you follow his lead.

Key Takeaways:

  • Dress like the leader you want to become, not for the position you currently have. Great leaders dress a little better than everyone else in the room. Remember, when Jobs was looking for funding at the bank, he dressed in an expensive suit.

  • Wear clothes that are appropriate for the culture. Steve Jobs can get a way with a black mock, blue jeans, and running shoes because everything about his brand is build on the concept of disrupting the status quo.

  • If you’re going to dress like a rebel, dress like a well-off rebel.

Scene 17: Toss the Script

Summary: Jobs talks to the audience, not to his slides. He makes strong eye contact because he has practiced effectively. This chapter will teach you how to practice the right way so you, too, can toss the script.

Key Takeaways:

  • Don’t read from notes except in special circumstances in which you must follow a step-by-step process, such as a demonstration.

  • When you must read from notes, create not more than three or four large-font bullet points on one note card or sheet of paper. Create one note card per slide. If you’re using speaker’s notes in your presentation software, keep your bullet points to no more than three or four. One is even better.

  • Use the visuals on your slide to prompt you to deliver just one key theme – one main message – per slide. Think “one theme per slide.”

Scene 18: Have Fun

Summary: Despite the extensive preparation that goes into a Steve Jobs presentation, things don’t always go according to plan. Nothing rattles Jobs, because his first goal is to have fun!

Key Takeaways:

  • Treat presentations as “infotainment.” Your audience wants to be educated and entertained. Have fun. It’ll show.

  • Never apologize. You have little to gain from calling attention to a problem. If your presentation hits a glitch, acknowledge it, smile, and move on. If it was not obvious to anyone but you, do not call attention to it.

  • Change your frame of reference. When something does not go exactly as planned, it did not “go wrong” unless you allow it to derail the rest of your presentation. Keep the big picture in mind, have fun, and let the small stuff roll off your back.

Encore: One More Thing

Watch the Steve Jobs commencement address at Stanford University on June, 12, 2005.

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