How Steve Jobs and Nature Fill a Vacuum- be positive

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Here’s a much used clip of Steve Jobs launching the Mac-book Air way back in 2008. I think that Steve Jobs was a competent presenter, no more, but with 2 advantages over the rest of us-

  1. He represented the best marketing company in the world
  2. He walked into the room as Steve Jobs. Which gives the entrance a ‘wow’ moment that only rock stars and a few politicians, billionaires and monarchs get.

So we can learn from the things that point 1 can teach us, and live with the fact that we don’t have that ‘wow’ factor upon our entrance. So what can we learn from point 1?  One thing in particular is that law of physics I mentioned in the title. From the great ‘How Stuff Works’ website the following-

If you create a vacuum inside a container here on Earth, nature will fill the container with air very quickly if you give it the chance…

In the clip you’ll notice that when Steve Jobs mentions the product, the screen, the keyboard, the price, and virtually any feature of the marvellous Mac-book Air, he does what I just did.  He fills the vacuum between the ‘thing’ and the audiences’ understanding of the thing with a deliberately positive ‘modifier’. So it’s not the ‘Mac-book Air’, it’s ‘The marvellous Mac book Air’.  More examples from the video-

00:08 seconds in- Apple makes the best notebooks on the planet.

00:48 seconds in- In a sentence it’s the world’s thinnest notebook.

04:56 minutes in- It’s got a full-size, wide screen display, and the display is gorgeous.

At every opportunity, he defines how he’d like the audience to interpret the feature he’s describing.  He could say, ‘It’s just a keyboard’ but he doesn’t.  He says ‘It’s a phenomenal keyboard’, he could say it’s an Intel XXX processor, but he doesn’t.  He says ‘ it’s an Intel XXX and it’s really fast’.

He ‘modifies’ every feature that he introduces, deliberately, repetitively, and differently. It’s scripted, rehearsed and in line with Apple’s view of itself, and the audiences’ view of Apple.

This ‘modification’ is done brilliantly in this example. It’s hypnotic (ie it’s largely unseen and works at a subliminal level), so that all of us, even the cynics, are left with, at least, the impression that he thinks that this product is amazing in all of these ways.

So when we describe a feature of our products, services or selves to others, we might usefully (positive modifier) ask ourselves- how well are we filling the gap between the thing we’re describing and our audiences’ understanding of that thing.  Is it a good thing? A neutral thing? Or a bad thing? Is it a car with a 2.7 diesel engine? Or a 2.7 diesel engine with the best fuel economy in its class?  Is it a Graduate Development Programme, or the most-comprehensive development programme in the industry? You decide.  You always decide.  But do it like Steve Jobs.  Deliberately.

If you don’t , your audiences will tend fill the vacuum for themselves.

The last point here is that Steve Jobs death has left many a vacuum in the world.  And for me, a vacuum for a really engaging, committed speaker from the world of business.  A role model; for all of us. We know that vacuum will be filled.  But by who?  Suggestions please?

In the next post I’ll look at the supporting skills of speaking in this way. Confidence, proof and caution.



Jim Harvey

Jim Harvey

Managing Director at The Message Business
Jim is the MD of The Message Business, a company which helps FTSE 100 companies to sell themselves, and their products better. Speech writer, Prezi trainer and designer, coach and consultant, Jim also finds time to be a proud father and husband.
Jim Harvey
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