Why Apple’s Product Launches Rock - A Lesson in CEO Public Speaking

No one denies that Steve Jobs was the master at unveiling new products. The reason, I believe, is not because he was the best salesman, or the best sales pitcher, or showed the most excitement on the stage, but because his priorities were correct and you could tell. Steve’s priority was in making a great product that he loved. It was obvious. 

Watch this video of Steve Jobs unveiling the iPhone 4. He comes out in his classic jeans and sweatshirt, not caring what he looks like. He cares about the product. He doesn’t care if anyone applauds. He cares about the product. He frequently talks over people’s applause, forcing them to cut off their jubilance in order to get back to talking about the product he loves. He cares about the product.  Never once, while watching the presentation, do you get the feeling that you are being pitched. Steve Jobs and his family at Apple always made a product that they loved and were excited about. Product launches were the best way to share their excitement and passion with the world. That was his motivation in product launches, and everything from his deliverance to his outfit emulated that drive.

Want a contrasting example? How to look like a money-hungry pitchman? Check out Jeff Bezos revealing the Kindle Fire here. Before he even opens his mouth, you can see he has put a ton of effort into this presentation alone. Coming out in his hand-picked half business/half casual outfit in front of a stage that is a near-perfect copy of Apple’s product launch set. He’s put effort into this atmosphere, and all I can hope is that he’s still managed to put enough effort into the product. Well, he didn’t.

His deliverance did nothing to sway on-lookers from picturing him as an over-privileged, cocky, trust fund baby who expects everyone to worship his crap. Notice how he puts an upward inflection at the end of his sentences in order to ramp up emotion to hopefully culminate in a roaring applause. He waits patiently, allowing his fans to bask him in their love and affection, throwing their money at him because they simply can’t wait to get their hands on this amazing product he’s built! Of course, the crowd feels that they are being pitched, understands that he’s putting more effort into the presentation than the product, and gives him crickets. You could have heard a pin drop on that floor that day as Bezos stood in front of the crowd with the Kindle Fire above his head as if holding the sword out of the stone, waiting for an onslaught of cheers and admiration. 

I believe that family is important at a company. Jeff Bezos seemed to be one of the few people in his family at Amazon to actually think the Kindle Fire was ready for consumers (Amazon employee rant here). Every time Steve Jobs took the stage, you could see and feel his passion for the product. Not just because of some fake pitchman excitement that isn’t backed by a good product, but because you felt like he’d been back at his family’s home working on this product for months and just took a few minutes out of that time to go out on the stage and share what they had built. You felt as if the entire Apple family was behind that stage, feeling the same passion for what they had built and enjoying the bliss that comes with sharing that product with the world. They didn’t care if you bought a million of them, they simply built a product they believed in and thought the world would be a better place if they shared their work.

I think that Tim Cook has done a terrific job of continuing that legacy at Apple, and his performance at the iPad 3 launch reflected his Apple family’s excitement for what they had built. 

I think I set a new personal record for how many times I said ‘passion.’