Toastmasters Challenge: Apply Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs!

I’ve just finished Carmine Gallo’s book Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs. What makes it great compared to other books on presenting is that here you can see all the tricks you have to master shown on an example of a single performer. The message: “Look, if Steve Jobs could do it, why not you?”

Now, reading about stuff and doing stuff are two different things. If the “stuff” to do is presenting: The best place to go for it is Toastmasters. In this post, I’ll show you why Toastmasters are a great place to practice every single trick (except for one) from the Steve Jobs repertoire. Or, to be more precise today I will show you the first nine (that’s overwhelming enough). And then you can look forward to the remaining nine which I will post next week.

Note: All


are quotes from the book Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs. The headings in this blog post are identical as titles of the chapters in the book. I find the book super-useful and if you like Steve Jobs and Presenting, maybe you’ll like it too.

Scene 1: Plan in Analog

This means: Don’t fire-up your PowerPoint before you have a clear idea of what you want to say! Speaking in Toastmasters will nudge you even a bit further. You will go analog. All the way. From preparation to delivery of the presentation. At least for the first couple of months.

It’s the story, not the slides, that will capture the imagination of your audience.

There is no better way to understand that slides are just a tool, not the presentation itself – than learning to present without slides. In Toastmasters, this is what we do.

Scene 2: Answer the One Question That Matters Most

When I am in the audience and someone goes to take the stage, I always ask myself: “Why should I listen to that girl? What does she have to say that I should pay attention to? Am I wasting my time here, maybe I could be reading a book instead?” Everyone in the audience asks similar questions. Chances are that even you do – when you’re not the one presenting, but the one listening. So when you are presenting – you’d better have a good answer.

Nobody has time to listen to a pitch or presentation that holds no benefit.

The advantage in Toastmasters is that after the presentation, there is a full room of people whom I can ask: “Was my speech useful to you? How exactly?” When I ask this question, sometimes they (Toastmasters) tell me that they liked my speech (you know, Toastmasters are nice). But they can’t recall anything how it could be beneficial for them. This is my feedback. It means I failed. Next time, I need to improve.

Every presenter needs this kind of feedback. Yourself included.

Scene 3: Develop a Messianic Sense of Purpose

Nancy Duarte wrote something along the lines that “There is no point in giving a presentation unless you want to change the world (at least a little)”. People in Toastmasters are hungry to learn. You know, having to overcome one’s fear of public speaking, that’s quite good barrier of entry. Only the hungriest stay. Whenever I have a presentation scheduled, I see it as an opportunity to share a nugget of knowledge with them. Find – and share with them – a secret I recently found, that will make them a little better.

Dig deep to identify that which you are most passionate about.

Making lives of my friends better – yes, that’s something I can get passionate about. Once you join Toastmasters, you will find out what that feels like. The problem is in our professional lives we are often asked to give presentations on topics that we do not exactly care about. In Toastmasters – the choice of the topic is up to you. Therefore – you pick one that truly matters to you. You will get a chance to try what it feels like to speak with passion – and you will be able to bring that experience back to presenting in your professional life.

Scene 4: Create Twitter-Like Headlines

Most presenters cannot describe their company, product, or service in one sentence.

No wonder. They are rarely ever asked to do it. Whenever I have a speech scheduled in Toastmasters, I have to come up with the title. A perfect opportunity to practice this trick.

Moreover – in Toastmasters we are asked to evaluate presentations of others. We have to be able to summarize a seven minute speech of someone else. In one sentence? Yes, that’s the ideal.

Jobs does not wait for the media to create a headline. He writes it himself and repeats it several times in his presentation.


The Twitter-Like Headline of Steve Jobs’ Macworld 2008 presentation: “The world’s thinnest notebook”

The Twitter-Like Headline for my new workshop: Dump the Facts, Show Us the Hero: Storytelling in Business Communication

Haha, okay, not as cool as Steve Jobs yet, but hey, I’m trying!

You’ll get your chance too.

Scene 5: Draw a Road Map

You can practice this whenever you speak, but one role in a Toastmasters meeting is particularly suitable for it: Speech Evaluator. Speech Evaluator gives public feedback to a speaker who spoke earlier that day. The objective of the evaluator is to give the speaker hints to improve their presentation. In a clear, encouraging and engaging manner. The challenge in that is that the evaluator has limited time (three minutes) and therefore cannot analyze the speech in its entirety. He has to select the most important points. For that, the evaluator needs to have his feedback in clear structure. To improve the audience’s comprehension: The best the evaluator can do is to outline the structure at the very beginning, before diving into the details.

“Today we are introducing three revolutionary products.” – Steve Jobs, revealing the iPhone

Compare with:

“In your next speech, I want you to improve the structure, eye contact and ending.”

Roadmap is useful for every kind presentation. But public feedback is a great way to practice it on the spot.

Scene 6: Introduce the Antagonist

“The most advanced phones are called ‘smartphones,’, so they say. They typically combine a phone plus e-mail plus a baby internet. The problem is they are not so smart and they are not so easy to use. they’re really complicated. What we want to do is make a leapfrog product that is way smarter than any mobile device has ever been.” – Steve Jobs in the 2007 MacWorld Keynote

Even though it’s been more than 10 years since Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone, his words make it clear even today, what the problem in the mobile market was back then.

Dark Knight needed Joker to give him purpose. Your need a problem to give purpose to yourself and the rest of your presentation.

Finding the right problem to solve and explaining it takes practice. Good news: People in Toastmasters have a lot of problems! Well, they are coming to improve their presentation skills. That’s a wide range of skills to master. And most of them – chances are, including yourself – have a lot of gaps. These are great antagonists. One of many I found a few years ago: “I try to put 15 minutes of content into a 7-minute speaking slot. Then I logically end up having to speak at double speed.” I followed with a presentation on how to make effective pauses.

There’s enough of those gaps to solve for you – in fact, because new people keep coming every week, the possibilities are endless!

Scene 7: Reveal the Conquering Hero

Once Jobs introduces the antagonist of the moment (…), he introduces the hero, revealing the solution that will make your life easier and more enjoyable.

The logical next step after introducing the problem. The key aspect to practice is whether the “hero”, or the solution you introduce in your presentation, really worked. Did your audience get it? Did they put your advice to practice? Since I see the people in my Toastmasters club week after week, I get feedback on which of my presentations made a difference and which did not.

You need to know whether the “Heroes” you create really kill the dragons, don’t you?

Scene: 8 Channel their Inner Zen

“The brain is fundamentally a lazy piece of meat,” Carmine Gallo quotes Dr. Gregory Berns

If your presentation is too complex, your audience will not understand. No matter whether you give it in the office or in Toastmasters. The advantage with giving it in Toastmasters is that you can ask each person in the room for feedback afterwards. Unlike the crowd in your office, Toastmasters are trained to give it to you.

Last week I gave a speech on how to do research. I asked my friend Pavel what he thought about it. “You know what? It was great, but when you introduced the second story, you completely lost me.” Dammit! But hearing him say this, I realized what happened. I wrote the speech as if I would write a blog post – and skipped the step of simplifying it for the ear.

In the office, it is difficult to get feedback like this. Very few people dare to admit that they don’t understand something. They are more likely to say that “Your presentation was great!” Even if they have no idea what you were talking about.

You need an audience that is not shy to tell you: “I don’t get it!”

Scene 9: Dress Up Your Numbers

“Our business unit will achieve a profit of $120 million this year.” Nice! Or… is that good or bad? How much money is $120 million dollars anyway? But Excel said so, therefore this is what we say. Right?

It is hard to imagine $120 million. Unless you work for the CFO office, of course.

But if we dress the numbers up, that’s a different story! One of the ways to do this would be putting it as follows: “$120 million profits this year – this would allow our company pay an annual Toastmasters membership to every single citizen of Prague!” Hey, I know what you think, this Lukas guy is a bit Toastmasters geek, but this is what came to my mind. Prague has 1.3 million citizens – and paying a 90 dollars membership fee for the whole city, that is something more tangible.

If you prefer a Steve Jobs example:

“30 GB, that is enough memory for 7,500 songs, 25,000 photos or up to 75 hours of video.”

I did not dress the numbers up in my corporate presentations for a very long time, simply because I thought that was “too unprofessional”. Playing with dressing up the numbers in my Toastmaster presentations gave me the confidence to bring it back to the office. It can do the same thing for you. After all, your colleagues, managers and directors are humans too. Most probably at least.

That’s exactly half of the scenes from the Presentation Secrets! I don’t want to overwhelm you, so I’ll keep the remaining 9 for next week. If you’re really eager to put some of those above into practice in Toastmasters: Don’t hesitate, you can start with those and add the 9 remaining later!

If you’re not sure where to find a Toastmasters club – we have a tool for that.

If you have any comments – or suggestions of your own – let me know in comments!

Header photo by Matthew Yohe at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

2 thoughts on “Toastmasters Challenge: Apply Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs!

  1. Oh my, I love this part 🙂
    I am a Toastmaster, but I would never think of it 🙂

    “But if we dress the numbers up, that’s a different story! One of the ways to do this would be putting it as follows: “$120 million profits this year – this would allow our company pay an annual Toastmasters membership to every single citizen of Prague!” Hey, I know what you think, this Lukas guy is a bit Toastmasters geek, but this is what came to my mind. Prague has 1.3 million citizens – and paying a 90 dollars membership fee for the whole city, that is something more tangible.”

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