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Best Public Speakers: Studying Steve Jobs

Updated: 6 days ago

Steve Jobs was the chairman, chief executive officer (CEO), and co-founder of Apple Inc., the chairman and majority shareholder of Pixar, a member of The Walt Disney Company’s board of directors, and the founder, chairman, and CEO of NeXT. We selected Steve as one of the best public speakers because he was a master storyteller who possessed the ability to engage the audience while maintaining a consultative and assertive style.

by Stephanie Bickel

best public speakers

Watch the public speaking event we reviewed: Commencement Speech at Stanford

Steve's greatest public speaking skills:

  1. Storytelling: Steve is a master storyteller where he uses his life experiences to share life’s lessons. Three stories drive the entire speech while he keeps listeners captivated until the very end. (:47)

  2. Starts and ends with synthesized statements. The first story is about “connecting the dots”(:55, 5:06), the second story is about “love and loss” (5:37, 8:27), and the third story is about “death”. (9:04). These brief statements start each story strong and help the audience anchor to a governing thought.

  3. Subtle uses of humor: While his style remains mostly serious throughout, he brings in humor to surprise and engage the audience. (2:17, 4:37)

  4. Draws on quotes that made an impression on him. “If you live each day as if it is your last, someday you will most certainly be right” (9:08) “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish”. These are punchy statements that are easy takeaways to remember. (14:08)

  5. Nice vocal tone: Maintains an assertive and consultative style throughout his speech. His more serious tone adds gravity to the life lessons he learned.

Strategies for improving his public speaking:

  1. Nervous habits: Steve uses filler words, “I’m uh,...” and touches his face several times as he starts his speech. Touching your face and using filler words or non-words can convey uncertainty. Slow down and pause instead to reduce this habit (:26, 1:11, 5:48,...).

  2. Minimal eye contact while reading his speech: Steve’s approach was still very effective, but he could have connected more with the audience if he used direct eye contact to talk to them. (1:00, 1:37,...)


Great leaders and speakers start with Speak by Design. Learn the techniques and build the skills with us. Speak by Design University is the only leadership communication program in the world that gives you access to self-paced learning, group coaching and training and, most importantly, private one-on-one coaching. Learn more and register.

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