Steve Jobs received a standing ovation at the event pitching Apple's new iPad. People were happy to see him, of course, especially because he is in the midst of a significant and indefinite medical leave. But people also have come to expect the type of presentation that it seems only he can deliver. It's a phenomenon.
I've written before in FastCompany about Jobs's impact as a presenter. He embodies the Apple brand. In his black turtleneck and jeans, he is the epitome of Silicon Valley cool. That's what Apple products are, as well, the coolest, most gorgeously designed, slickest devices out there that, under his leadership, are must-haves.
Apple presentations are also slick. There is a tremendous effort that goes into creating a presentation that is so beautifully executed and visually striking. And don't be fooled by Jobs's casual delivery—a lot of thought goes into that, as well. I always like to say, "preparation + experience = spontaneity."
When I have this discussion with CEO clients it seems to boil down to this question: Which came first, the product or the presentation? Most of the time, nuts and bolts executives think the product is the only thing that matters ; if it's good enough and the marketing team does its job, it'll sell.
But sometimes, rarely, a Steve Jobs comes along who thinks differenly. Not that the product doesn't matter — of course it always does. But that the pitch matters just as much. I've been a CEO speech and communications coach a long time and I cannot name another current major corporate executive who places the value and puts the effort into presentation Jobs does. (Remember the Google Nexus One Phone? No, I didn't think so.)
In reality, it's all connected.
Jobs doesn't have customers as much as he has cultivated a tribe of die-hard fans who've been worried about their leader. We can debate whether it is a good thing for a public company to be so closely identified with its CEO, but what is undeniable is that it has worked, making Apple one of the world's most important and valuable companies.
Being able to evangelize and speak with passion about your business makes a difference. Especially in these ridiculously competitive times. I often characterize these skills as the greatest marketing and personal branding tools NO ONE wants to use! So if you do embrace them and polish them up, you'll be miles ahead of your competitiion.
I wish Mr. Jobs a very speedy recovery. In the meantime, Tim Cook has his work cut out for him.
Ruth Sherman Associates LLC / High-Stakes Presentation Skills Coaching, Consulting & Media Training for CEOs, Celebrities & Politicians / Greenwich, CT. Connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin.