Tim Cook vs. Steve Jobs: A Presenter’s Perspective

Steve Jobs is widely regarded as one of top presenters of all time. He transformed industry product announcements into true cultural events. Since his passing, Tim Cook and his team have picked up the baton. So… how are they doing?

“CEOs Demo Products”

A clear departure from Jobs is that Cook often shares the spotlight with Sr. VPs Craig Federighi and Jonathan Ive when introducing new products. Some, including Apple alumnus Guy Kawasaki, have criticized this move. Among the top lessons he learned from Jobs, Kawasaki states: Real CEOs demo. It’s likely, he claims, that CEOs who call upon others to demo their products “[don’t] understand what their company is making well enough to explain it.”

Assuming Cook can demo products, he might have opted for the shared spotlight approach for another reason: demonstrating Apple’s real continuity. Dan Riccio and Phillip Schiller have been on the exec team for over a decade. Although Jobs was a major loss, he was only one member of a seasoned executive team.

One more thing…

Following this week’s Apple Keynote, many commentators expressed disapproval that Tim Cook didn’t have “one more thing” to share. This video compilation does a great job sampling the crowds’ excitement over these words. Steve Jobs made “one more thing” a celebrated tenet of his semi-annual keynotes. Audiences grew to love these little grand finales.

There’s two reasons why Cook might have avoided another announcement like this. First, he always has to weigh continuity vs. differentiation. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but Apple excelled through innovation. Copying their former selves may come off at tactless.

On the other hand, due to product component leaks and public patent records, Apple is having an increasingly hard time keeping their big announcements secret. As many have already pointed out, there is almost nothing from Tuesday’s presentation that the apple fanboys didn’t already know from Foxconn production leaks. An unsurprising ‘surprise’ ending may have come off as shallow or incompetent.

Embrace Simplicity

Carmine Gallo points out that “Tim Cook puts one number on the screen. The one number that he wants you to take away from the presentation.” You’ve never seen a Apple presentation with small, dense text or a dozen bullet points. How brief is he? Well, the first 10 slides of Cook’s Spring keynote only contained 14 words.

Have realistic expectations about what your audience will absorb, and focus attention appropriately. Both Jobs and Cook periodically give the projector a break, focusing the crowds attention on the speaker. Cook may have big shoes to fill, but the beautiful simplicity of Apple presentations continues to be a powerful strategy.

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