How Steve Jobs’ Stanford University address could have been better


Steve Jobs was a great communicator.

Our way of paying tribute to him is to look back at the memorable address he gave to Stanford University in 2005. But how could it have been even better?

It is important to note that he was well outside his comfort zone – but he does a great job to conceal this, and with considerable authenticity. He starts with composure and a little humour. He grabs attention and holds it throughout the address with a simple but powerful structure. He uses heart felt stories of his life to illustrate the headline points he made in the first 60 seconds. His pace is natural and conversational – fast and with good pauses.

Steve Jobs really got his message across that day. He received universal praise for his speech. But however good it was, it is obvious he was reading from a script. It is a common problem. Many of our clients have the same issue – the occasion demands a script but they want to deliver their speech as if they are not reading. There is an almost universal belief that you cannot achieve both. However, with the right coaching, you can.

The Black Isle script reading technique conflicts with what 90% of presentation coaches are currently teaching. Take Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama, two of the best script readers in the business. They learned to do what few others have – to pause and fix their audiences during silences rather than while they were speaking. This allowed them to read quickly and passionately and achieve a rhythm of speech that sounded just like a relaxed conversation. Yet they still engage with eye contact at an appropriate time. Although counter-intuitive, this is the secret to good script delivery and the technique we teach our clients who need to inspire a large audience by engaging naturally with their eyes.

In Steve Jobs case his content was so enthralling that he was forgiven for reading it out, and quite rightly so. The simple fact is, many of our clients do not always enjoy that same luxury – do you?