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A Master Class in persuasiveness

Screen shot 2011-06-08 at 2.43.10 PM The day after announcing a slate of cool new developments at Apple's annual WWDC conference, Steve Jobs appeared before the Cupertino City Council. Apparently, Apple's current campus only accommodates about 2,500 workers and the rest of the employees have to work in various office spaces around Cupertino. 

So Apple needs a new campus to accommodate about 12,000 employees (approximately 2,000 of them will be new employees). Hence, Jobs' appearance before the City Council.

If you've ever seen a city council proceeding you'd have to be struck by how masterful, and atypical, Steve Jobs' presentation was (see video below). It's also interesting to compare that presentation to Jobs' typical Keynotes. No matter where he goes, no one has to remind Steve Jobs to always be closing. He's the master of that mantra; it's why he's so extraordinarily persuasive.

What are some of the techniques we can learn from him?  (especially, as he confronts a circle of crass politicos, awkwardly asking for silly concessions if they Apple's stellar plan) Well, here's a short list:

  • Jobs never rushes in making his key points, and often repeats them.
  • He's confident; he knows he's entitled to what he's asking for, but he's patient in explaining the many benefits to Cupertino.
  • He uses well-crafted visuals that are appropriate to the audience & message (no fancy marketing logos in this presentation)
  • His charts are simple (e.g. compares “today” with “tomorrow” as opposed to putting in specific dates)
  • He cleverly weaves in personal stories to show that he's not just a big CEO; he's been around Cupertino since he was a kid.
  • He's eager to answer questions, and then proceeds to do so superbly.
  • He deftly explains the benefits to Cupertino (e.g. tax revenue and attracting lots of well paid smart people)
  • He demurs an “invitation” to provide Cupertino with free WiFi or an Apple Store (e.g “I like things simple: we pay a lot of taxes and you can use the money however you want, including putting up free WiFi if you want.”)
  • He uses humor when asked if it bothers him that there is a Kaiser plant belching toxins close by (“Well they got the land fair and square but if you want to kick them out I wouldn't cry.”)

In short Steve Jobs is great at persuasion for a couple of reasons: (1) he's gotten comfortable speaking in front of large groups of people; (2) he prepares thoroughly and makes his points calmly, with effective repetition, and (3) he uses relevant visuals to support his message. So if you want to learn how to persuade better you'd probably benefit from watching this 20 minute presentation by Steve Jobs.

And, if you're a politician and you want to improve your public image, don't ask any questions (or speak at all) when Steve Jobs appears before you to make a presentation.



  • Richard Bonn says:

    People get pretty passionate about Steve Jobs – I can appriciate it, but happenings at Apple don’t really interest me that much. For some folks I know, the daily goings on at apple are almost an obsession – they seek to understand what’s going on at cooperate so the can try to figure out what new products are being developed. Fun.

  • It doesn’t hurt anything to have your audience falling all over themselves to kiss up to you. These guys are obviously just thrilled to get to be in the same room with Steve Jobs. I’ve done my fair share of presenting at zoning hearings and such where I am both well known and at least mostly liked. I don’t think my ideas have ever been as well received as this, even when they were unanimously approved. I’m a huge Apple fan and even a Steve Jobs fan. My point is I think Steve has an edge here that none of us can have. “HE’S STEVE FREAKING JOBS!”. Apple is such a large part of the Cupertino economy these guys are practically working for him- or at his pleasure. I like the veiled threats to leave Cupertino also. He’s not worried about his presentation because he knows it’s a done deal. Steve is a good presenter but I think it helps a lot to BE Steve.

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