Group and Team Presentations: The Apple Way

Team presentations can change the fortunes of a business.

January 7, 2007. An audience of tech journalists, influencers and industry luminaries wait in hushed silence as the lights fall in San Francisco’s Moscone Center. For months, rumours have swirled of a new tech product that will revolutionise the industry. Into a single spotlight walks one of the most famous men in tech history, wearing his signature blue jeans and black polo neck.

Steve Jobs launched the first iPhone to the world at least 18 months before the technology was ready for primetime. Jobs and Apple were selling their audience on an unproven idea and a glorious vision. In fact the path Apple charted to becoming the world’s most profitable business was defined by a series of high profile team presentations.

For your presentations, there is no better team to learn from than Apple.

Yes, you really can Distort Reality


The Steve Jobs “reality distortion field” was a widely noted phenomenon. His presentations inspired such huge excitement that journalists, and even competing companies, often failed to note that the product being launched was a few steps behind the curve, and much more expensive, than its competition.

But the persuasive powers of Steve Jobs weren’t magic. They were the effect of a solid and well tested presentation structure. Every major Apple team presentation, from the original Mac to the iPhone X, has used the same model. And while it’s not the only way to wow an audience, it’s a great way to learn the principles.

Tell Great Stories

Apple started as two guys in a garage soldering computer kits. The first Mac’s design abilities were inspired by Steve Jobs experience of calligraphy. Apple computers empower people creatively. These are stories about Apple that billions of people remember, because Apple tells them, at every given opportunity.

Stories are how we turn the dry facts of a company’s history into the compelling and memorable material of its public identity. A great team presentation tells a great story about your business. Some of the stories most commonly told in business presentations include:

  • the overarching story of how the business was founded.
  • a product specific brand narrative.
  • a story that evokes the values a business stands for.

Who are the Characters in the Story?

Apple today employs 47,000 people in the US. But only a half dozen regularly talk in public. If you’re a startup of three people, your forward facing team is self selecting. But for small businesses, divisions within large businesses, or the executive tier of a multinational, your forward facing team are the ones who step up when it’s time to present.

Even a small business is a complex machine with hundreds of moving parts. We want to understand your business through its human face, by relating to a relatively small number of people who are the characters in your story.

Each character plays an important role in the presentation, delivering a specific kind of information.

1. The Voice of Experience

How do we decide what to believe? The first and most powerful criteria for most people is the experience of the person telling us. We know we don’t have the knowledge to make every decision ourselves, so we defer to those with first hand experience. Every team presentation needs one or more people who have the authority of experience.

By the 2007 iPhone launch, Steve Jobs was the ultimate authority on consumer technology. His word was enough to persuade an entire industry that touch screens were the future. But the presentation would, nonetheless, repeatedly reiterate the Apple CEO’s immense industry experience. The voice of experience might be the CEO, founder, or a major shareholder, but it’s essential to “sell” the value of their experience to audience members who might not know.

2. Hit them with Emotions

Every great Apple presentation includes a video of Jony Ive, the company’s world famous chief designer. He is always pictured in a plain white room, talking about the latest product. These sections are very carefully constructed to do more than inform. They are designed to evoke very strong emotions of harmony, beauty and desire. Watch a Jony Ive video, and watch how it makes you feel.

Emotions are biochemical. They flood our body with dopamine and serotonin, coming before and overriding conscious thought. Evoking the right emotions in your audience can persuade them to believe your message even before they are consciously aware the decision is made.

Common emotions evoked in business presentations include:

  • pride at the progress the business has achieved.
  • desire for a product or service that the business offers.
  • compassion for a cause or problem that the business works to solve.

3. Wow Them with Technical Details

Presentations can go one of two ways: far too much technical detail, or far two little. Strike the balance by understanding the role these details play in a persuasive presentation. Technical information on its own is rarely persuasive. But it can provide the conscious justification for the unconscious decision making process.

Craig Federighi is Apple’s secret weapon for technical details. The vice-president of software engineering has one job on stage – to provide a set of technical details that support the story told through experience and through emotion. Apple products often have a lower specification at any given price point than their competitors, but customers rarely care. Once roles 1 and 2 have done their job, technical details are almost a formality.

Persuade as an Effective Team!

Experience, emotion and technical detail working together are one of the strongest ways to make a persuasive argument. Apple mastered this team presentation format, but today you’ll find businesses of all kinds use it to wow their audience.

If you would like to learn more about group presentations, or how to present a persuasive argument as a team, browse our course and get in touch with us today.

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