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Five ways Steve Jobs keeps audiences at the edge of their seats

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The author of a new book analyzing Steve Jobs' speaking techniques shows how the rest of us mortals can learn from Jobs' delivery, and jazz up our own presentations.

Anyone who has seen or heard about Steve Jobs' presentations knows about the breathless anticipation before the event, the breathless excitement during the talk, and the breathless reviews that follow. It's almost as if Jobs' talks alone propel the sales of millions of Mac, iPods, and iPhones.

Apple Chairman Steve Jobs is a celebrity, so that's what some of the excitement is about. But he is also a masterful speaker that employs some surprisingly simple techniques to get people excited about his message.

Steve Jobs, courtesy James Martin/CNET News

In a recent CIO interview, Carmine Gallo, a communications coach and author of The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience, explained how the rest of us mortals can learn from Jobs' delivery, and jazz up our own presentations:

Keep the PowerPoints simple and understated: "Pictures trump words," Gallo advises. He observes that Jobs' slides are "stunningly visual and minimalistic. He's not afraid of empty space. Sometimes, there's only one word or a simple photograph."

Build key talking points as brief as Twitter posts: "Jobs describes every product or new feature with a one-line description that can fit in a Twitter post," Gallo says. "By doing so, he helps you mentally categorize the product. He gives you the big picture before filling in the details... Audiences are looking for a 'headline,' a way to position the new product in their own minds."

Stick to the "rule of three": "We learn best by absorbing information in chunks, and chunks of three seem to work best," Gallo explains. "Jobs divides every presentation into three parts."

Build up to the "holy smokes" moment: Most presenter launch right into the introduction of their product, Gallo points out. "Not Jobs. His presentations are theatrical productions, complete with heroes, villains, stunning backdrops, a supporting cast and that one memorable moment that was worth the price of admission." Then, after an incredible build-up, Jobs brings out the product -- the "holy smokes" moment, "that part of the presentation that everybody talks about the next day."

Click here to find out more!Show your humanity; don't be a robot: Gallo observes that Jobs shows a good sense of humor, and is even self-depreciating on stage. "On Sept. 9, 2009, when he returned to the world stage after having a liver transplant, he was noticeably thinner but he had more energy and enthusiasm than most presenters. He's also self-deprecating, which helps. He said he had to gain about 30 pounds so he's eating a lot of ice cream. That's funny and it makes him seem more human. I also think his illness has made him more introspective."

Gallo didn't bring this up during the CIO interview (perhaps it's mentioned in the book), but another essential element of Jobs' speeches that I have observed is his personal passion.

Jobs has been on a mission, since day one, to change the world and bring seamless computing to everyone on the globe. That's a passion that energizes his speeches well beyond that of the typical tech industry speaker. It's a passion that literally infects his audiences, whether they live at the presentation, watching on video, or reading a summary. There's so much passion that it just oozes through every channel.

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Joe McKendrick

Contributing Editor

Joe McKendrick is an independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. He is a co-author of the SOA Manifesto and has written for Forbes, ZDNet and Database Trends & Applications. He holds a degree from Temple University. He is based in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure