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Want to Speak Like Steve Jobs?
by Sandra Zimmer
I had never seen Steve Jobs talk before; but after he died, I heard lots of people rave about the way he spoke in public. It seemed like many people thought he was the epitome of a great speaker.
Then I began reading his biography Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. Before even finishing a quarter of the book, I realized that his style would have come naturally from who he was and the passions that he followed. Intuitively, I guessed that his style would have aligned with what and how I teach public speaking. Steve would not have followed an old style speech formula because he did everything from his inner guidance. He was a student of meditation and Zen. He followed systems that lead to self-awareness, palpable presence and being in the moment. He studied with Shunryu Suzuki who wrote Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind one of my favorite books. Steve also followed his heart and trusted where that would lead him. He learned to use his spiritual energy to magnetize and hold people's attention. He was a force of nature and used his intensity to persuade others to do what he wanted.
His biography was so compelling that I decided to view some of his speeches to see for myself what all the raving was all about. I had an inkling that my Zimmer Method Speaking from the Heart program might be exactly what is needed to help others learn to speak like Steve. So, I watched and was excited to see that Steve's style was exactly what I teach and what my clients learn to do! I reviewed two Steve jobs talks that exemplify his authentic style—the iPad Keynote from January 27, 2112 and his 2005 Stanford Commencement Address. If you are interested, watch these two videos and you will see what I am about to illuminate about Steve's style. I am providing links so that you can go right to the YouTube videos of each talk.
Steve starts by clearing out his worst fear that people will judge him for never having graduated college. He uses an impact statement of self-revelation that is at once vulnerable and delightfully humorous, "Truth be told, I never graduated from college. This is the closest thing I have ever gotten to a college graduation." If you want to be an authentic speaker, you have to stand "naked" and share your real, right now fears. That frees you, as it did Steve, from tension and actually endears you to your listeners. Then, he shares his stories. "I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal, just three stories." Steve delivers a talk that inspires because it simply tells three authentic stories from his life that he knows will speak to his listeners, the 2005 graduates of Stanford University. No cover-up, no making himself look perfect, just his naked stories and what he learned from his experiences. So simple, so pure, so real, so Steve.
I believe in a little structure and a lot of flow when speaking to groups. Structure should be simple and easy to remember. Story, Lesson and Point. Watch this video of the Stanford commencement address and see how beautifully he weaves story with lesson and point to inspire not only his graduating audience but also the millions who have watched this talk on YouTube. See how it all makes a simple point to "Find what you love. Follow your heart!" Today as I watch this video while writing this article, I see a comment from one month ago by someone who wrote with tears in his eyes that he was inspired to follow his heart because of this video.
Steve starts the iPad introduction with a question that allows him to help us dream and envision the future. He is about to take us somewhere and we are ready to go there. His style is casual, informal, taking time to think and even take a drink. He moves around the stage freely, easily, just walkin' and talkin'. You can envision him walking around his office just as he does in this talk. He is expressive, using his arm and hands to help him make points and to express passionate emotions. He lets them drop to his side when he doesn't need them to make a strong point. He is present, in this moment, never thinking ahead, just enjoying each moment as his talk unfolds. And he is grounded. Steve Jobs would have learned about grounding through his meditation practices. Grounding, for those of you who don't know, is what lets you be comfortable in your skin. It's a skill that brings emotional freedom, mental clarity and physical ease all together. It's a psychophysical experience and the foundation upon which the Zimmer Method is built. Take some time now to watch if you have not already done so.
Ok, now you have a little perspective on Steve Jobs' style of speaking. For the past 23 years, every 8 weeks or so, my program has turned out 6 to 12 people who can speak like Steve. Well, not exactly like Steve, but in an authentic style like Steve's. All of my clients are able to speak like themselves. They are free to express themselves authentically in front of groups and they can put stories, lessons and points together to craft brief, compelling and persuasive talks. It's not a big deal. It's not that hard to do! You can also learn to speak like Steve Jobs. Here is what Steve could do that you can learn in the Zimmer Method program called Speaking from the Heart:
You can't achieve most of these skills through traditional public speaking skills training because they are subtle skills rather than mechanical ones. There are some abilities you just can't get to with mechanical techniques. Some things have to come from the insides which means you have to be able to show your insides on the outside. Traditional public speaking skills attempt to hide the insides in order to create a polished, perfect outer expression. But that is not what Steve Jobs was up to when he spoke. He was after a simple, real, free-wheeling style that was passionate enough to take people somewhere emotionally... so he could persuade. Without even knowing Steve Jobs, I created a program that guides people, step-by-step to connect with their natural abilities to express themselves authentically IN FRONT OF OTHERS. That is really all Steve was doing — being who he was in front of his audiences.
My Zimmer Method program starts by facilitating people to release the tension of being the center of attention from their physical bodies. It gently guides them to relax deeply in their bodies, drop into a grounded state of full-bodied physical awareness and experience a sense of presence in front of a group.
Once people are really present and grounded in front of others, then they can learn to experience a felt-sense of connection with listeners. Real connection is not so much about reaching out to connect as it is learning to receive the flow of attention from people in a group and taking attention in as support. Receptive connection literally magnetizes people to you. Your receptivity to listeners compels them to pay attention to you. Steve Jobs, according to Walter Isaacson, actually practiced a powerful eye contact that mesmerized others. Frankly, I think he did it to control others, but my approach is more about inviting others to pay attention.
When my clients can stay present, be comfortable and receive attention, then they are ready to work on thinking on their feet. Thinking on your feet is the ability to be present, hold attention, think your thoughts and say what you are thinking. It is not about remembering what you have to say, it's about thinking in the moment and saying what you are thinking. Watch Steve in his iPad Keynote and see him think his thoughts before he speaks.
Finally, and only, after all that, people are ready to craft messages which are simple and simply compelling. The structure is mainly Story, Lesson and Point. My clients learn to tell a story, extract the lesson and weave them into a point so that their talks are messages that inspire rather than merely inform.
And that's it! It's really successful. I know it sounds crazy, but one of the reasons the Zimmer Method speaking program is so successful is that I work with people who have stage fright, fear of public speaking and performance anxiety. In over two decades of teaching this method, I have learned that those who have the most stage fright turn out to be the most compelling and engaging speakers because they have the feelings. Their feelings are up to the surface where they can be used to create genuine emotional connection with listeners.
Here is a recent example. Casey Davis is a star salesman for medical endoscopy equipment. Despite his success as a salesman and sales manager, Casey was very afraid of speaking to large groups, especially to his peers and senior leaders in work settings. When he suspected that he was going to receive the 2011 Award for Territory Manager of the Year, Casey came for some help. He jumped into the first of my speaking courses, Transform Stage Fright into Authentic Presence and he allowed me to coach him privately on his acceptance speech. After the awards show, I got an ecstatic voice message from Casey and a later had a phone conversation during which he said the following.
"Last Wednesday night was one of the most amazing nights of my life! My speech was... life changing for me and for the audience. I was so connected to the group and everyone was connected with me. It was like having strings to everyone. They responded to everything I said. I enjoyed it! It was fun! There were 400 people there including our CEO, VPs and Directors. People were crying and cheering! So many people came up to me afterwards and said they had never heard a speech like mine. The people who knew that I have been terrified in the past were astounded at what I did. My CEO and VP said that I inspired them!"
See what I mean? Doesn't that sound like the kind of reaction that Steve Jobs got when he spoke? Casey is an amazing man! He accomplished this speaking feat before he even finished my speaking program, but he really worked at it. He drank the Zimmer Method Kool-Aid and agreed to be real with his audience at his Award Ceremony. And he practiced!
Are you intrigued?
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