Steve Jobs: Communicating Vision

Steve Jobs: Communicating Vision

The most important product presentations within the last decade is Steve Jobs announcing the first iPhone in 2007. The news of a one of a kind smartphone set people on fire at the time. Customers queued up well in advance for a chance to buy one, and probably expanded the class of early technology adopters with it. Not much has captured the public’s imagination like that launch since except maybe the Tesla, and the excitement from the first iPhone created momentum that plays deep into the series.

In this post, I don’t want to go into product too much. Lots has been written about the iPhone. I’d rather focus on the process Jobs lays out on a product pitch as a tutorial in communication. I want to add that his approach can be co-opted into introducing any idea, goal, or other vision for the future. First, watch the video then read my thoughts.

Here are the takeaways I gleaned from Job’s introduction of the first iPhone.

Frames the history of Apple as innovators

Jobs’ first task is to both build and harness any existing excitement for the product launch by tying it back to Apple. He does this because he’s always trying to position Apple as an innovator to build brand equity. He wants to say “hey, this isn’t new to us, we’ve always been this way.” If you’re an Apple employee you’re probably feeling pretty proud right now of your employer. If you’re a potential customer, you might be feeling a little more attachment to the brand. If you’re a4n investor, you might be feeling more inclined to buy Apple stock. He wants the company showcased first, so people believe in it, and then he’ll show off the product.

Builds up the crowd and then deflates it

Jobs uses misdirection often to disarm his audience. This enables him to slow down the pace to better grab their attention. This makes him such an effective communicator. A lot of preachers, politicians, and professional speakers use this trick. You can see how it effective it is for Jobs because as he’s leading into the product you can hear a pin drop in the audience. He has their attention.

Lays out his competitors’ product landscape

By going from “smart” to “ease of use” on a simple graph he uses a visual to show how the iPhone blows all other competing devices away. He’s showing his grand vision to capture interest so he can start diving down into the details. At this point he knows everyone in the audience is going to look at every feature as significant because they now understand the underlying strategy behind it. He’s starting with a big picture first instead of trying to tie everything in at the end.

There are dozens of books on strategy that delve into this simple graphic. It’s Blue Ocean as hell.

Differentiates between the competition

By poking fun at keyboards and styluses, he shows how serious of a game changer a touchscreen can be. He also ignites the imaginations of independent designers and programmers by clearly making a product that frees up app design for them. He also introduces Multi Touch (notice he makes sure to mention they have the patent for it so investors realize the significance this fact). If you’re not familiar with app design, you should know shortly after this presentation, getting an app on an iPhone was the absolute rage. In fact, most Android ports for an app or game only happen after a successful iOS debut. There’s no doubt the App Store buoyed the success of the iPhone and Jobs called it.

Dives deep for those still paying attention

He purposely breaks out how the iPhone uses the internet and software to bring a large multitude of features into one device, thus differentiating more between the “smart” phone versus the “dumb” phone. In a way he’s showing how a consumer will frame the product choice, who wants to own something “dumb” anyway?

It’s important to note most sales pitches leave details at the end. If a prospect doesn’t see the value, there’s no point in going into details. He knows people see the value in what he is showcasing.

Saves the best for last by introducing a new competitive factor: design.

At the time smartphones had lots of buttons. This had one. Phones were also very thick. This was thin. Add a solid camera, a bigger screen, and you start to see how it’s revolutionary compared to existing products at the time. But notice this pitch came last. He knew it was sleek and sexy, but he wanted to show that it was first and foremost designed for the end user in mind, not with the engineer up front. This sealed Jobs as a Silicon Valley Icon.


I don’t like being labeled a fanboy. I’m a huge fan of Apple products but I came to the iPhone/iPad/iWatch much later than most. I’m actually an Android convert who got into Apple because my wife liked their products. I still have a Windows PC, and always will.

I am also not one of those people who worshiped Jobs from the get-go. I just appreciate people doing extraordinary things and wanted to share something I don’t think gets enough notice, and that is how to lead an effective presentation for really big moments.

Hope you enjoyed this post and thanks for reading!