DiscoveredLOGIC, LLC

Management Consulting & Training


8 Lessons from a Great Speech: Steve Jobs

Posted on July 23, 2016 at 11:45 AM

In 1997, Steve Jobs made his famous return to lead a floundering Apple and gave a speech to some employees to describe the turnaround plan. That 15-minute video is the best example of how to communicate strategy I have ever seen. Here are 8 keys to effective communication that he displays in that speech:


Be Insanely Prepared – Jobs did the whole speech without notes, slides or a teleprompter. Before his 15-minutes on stage, he obviously devoted hours to internalize his content in a way that he could easily recall on stage. By memorizing the content, he could focus his energy on stage on conveying the message he wanted to send, not recalling the content.

Convey Importance – Jobs spent the first 30 seconds of the speech conveying his personal commitment to this topic. Coffee in hand, he shared that he was up with the team until 3am the night before working on the implementation of the strategy he was about to share. By displaying his personal commitment as the boss, he was implicitly letting the group know they should pay attention and think about the commitment they need to make.

Set a Simple Framework – Jobs then turned to the new strategy he wanted to cover by summarizing it in a simple sound-bite: “We’re trying to get back to the basics of great products, great marketing, and great distribution.” With that simple three-part framework, he was giving his audience a method for them to organize the information he was asking them to internalize. By keeping the summary framework short (three items) and simple (three nouns with ‘great’ before them), he was making it easy for them to recall and share with others.

Define the Problem – Jobs then summarizes the problem their strategy is solving in an elegant statement: “Apple has pockets of greatness but, in some ways, has drifted away from doing the basics really well.” While making the problem clear, he is also making it sound easy to solve to boost confidence in the solution.

Package Concepts Simply – To help audience absorb and remember it, he packaged his main concepts simply. To describe a confusing product roadmap, he summarized it as killing 70 percent of the unneeded products to focus on the 30 percent that were “gems.” He simplified the complex distribution problems by saying the large amount of inventory in supply chains means “we have to make guesses 4, 5, 6 months in advance about what the customer wants, and we’re not smart enough for that.” To summarize marketing, he simplified it by saying the world is a noisy place where customers only remember a few things about a brand, so focusing on advertising Apple’s unique, core values to customers is the key.

Address Barrier Questions – Jobs knew his description of killing off existing projects might make people worry about what that might mean for them or other employees. He wanted to make sure his audience know that issue was considered by sharing a story of affected people’s reaction when they were told. He said the people’s whose projects were killed were excited to have a clear new plan, even if it meant change for them. He also knew that people would wonder if he understood the changes Apple and the industry had gone through during his absence. He addressed that by saying he realized those things changed, but the important things – the core values of Apple – should not.

Use Analogies – Jobs knew the new “Think different” advertising campaign featuring pictures of historical figures instead of Apple products would be a radical change from previous marketing. He used two other successful ad strategies to give examples why it would work. He pointed to the “Got Milk?” campaign to show a two word slogan could work. He used Nike’s strategy of advertise to honor athletes instead of discussing its shoe features as a success.

Centering Message on People – Jobs summarized Apple’s core values by making it about the people Apple wants to be, to serve and to honor. “We believe that people with passion can change the world for the better… [our new brand message] honors those people who have changed the world. Some of them are living, some of them are not. But the ones that aren’t, as you’ll see, you know that if they ever used a computer, it would have been a Mac.”

Since this speech in September 1997, Apple's stock price has soared 100-fold. You can see the speech on" target="_blank">YouTube.



Categories: Communication Skills, People Leadership, Information Technology