Best Public Speakers Series: Studying Steve Jobs

Updated: Nov 5

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.

What we reviewed: Commencement Speech at Stanford


  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 improvement:

  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,...)

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