Ranking the Speaking Styles of the Apple Execs

| Analysis

At the iPhone 5 media event, we witnessed a parade of Apple executives, each with his own speaking style. Some were great and some not so great.

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Apple's iPhone 5 (and music) media event was a big deal, covered by the TV networks and likely seen all over the world now that the video has been made available. Because events like this are so important, and no longer have the benefit of Steve Jobs as the ultimate showman, I thought it would be interesting to assess the delivery style of the current Apple executives. Here’s how I ranked them from best down to worst.

Phil Schiller. Mr. Schiller is a fabulously good speaker. He has an off-hand, avuncular approach that’s calm, reasoned, and conversational. His educational background is in science, so he understands technical terminology and can throw out a word like “volumetrically” with ease and authority.

Phil Schiller

He doesn’t raise his voice or become agitated to express enthusiasm. Rather, he uses clarity, technical language, and a soft-spoken but enthusiastic style to convey a certain audience intimacy. Best of all, he can be very knowledgeable yet retain his modesty. There are few technical executives who present better than Mr. Schiller. A gold medal.

Jonathan Ive. Mr. Ive doesn’t generally come out on stage like the other executives, but he’s instead a featured speaker in Apple’s showcase videos that punctuate the media events. Mr. Ive, like Mr Schiller, has that easy confidence, deep, professional voice that is born of years of accomplishment. He’s easy to listen to, compelling in fact, and he exudes intelligence and perspective. Plus, there’s that awesome British accent -- which always seems to add a virtual 20 I.Q. points to anyone. He’s simply delightful -- a silver medal.

Sir Jonathan Ive

Greg Joswiak. Mr. Joswiak has that Steve Jobs/William Shatner punctuated pause delivery, in an effort to build anticipation for key phrases. That’s an effective style, perfected by those two masters of the art. He also, has an easy, conversational, confident style, like Mr. Schiller, and a crisp, strong voice. He can appear to chat, at ease, without excessive dependence on the teleprompter. Unfortunately, his style is marred by a too frequent dependency on some customary Apple platitudes. Other than that, he’s a very good speaker and gets the bronze medal.

Greg Joswiak

Scott Forstall. Mr. Forstall started out on shaky ground. His early Apple briefings had that deer-in-the-headlights, ensign Wesley Crusher look. Over the past few years, Mr. Forstall has improved dramatically. His voice is clear and sharp, and he expresses a balanced enthusiasm with an engaging voice while demonstrating iOS features.

Scott Forstall

However, Mr. Forstall has one annoying artifact in his delivery. After each mini-segment, he exhibits what seems to be an involuntary, annoying smirk, a self-congratulatory smirk that punctuates each feature he demos. It would good to lose that habit and develop a more genuine and modest smile as he turns to the audience instead of dropping his head. Other than that, he appears on his way to being a dependable, but not great speaker.

Eddy Cue. Mr. Cue has a rather detached, low-energy speaking style. He reminds me a little of Ray Romano. It’s clear that he has to depend heavily on the script displayed on the teleprompter. He does a fair job of moving his gaze around the room, but he tends to focus too long in one direction. We don’t see a sparkle in his eyes; instead the nervousness comes out in exaggerated but stiff hand motions. In short, it’s a bit of dead-pan style that’s adequate but not notable. That’s okay. You can be capable without being a star.

Eddy Cue

Tim Cook. Mr. Cook has never been even a modestly good public speaker. His voice has a southern drawl with a gravel after-taste. We got to know Mr. Cook’s style when he started handling the Apple earnings reports and analyst Q&A. While very, very shrewd, close-to-the-vest and knowledgeable about Apple operations, he tends to speak in a thoughtful, strained fashion that doesn’t grab and hold the listener’s attention -- unless he consciously focuses on a forced change of tone.

Tim Cook

As the CEO of a tech industry giant, Mr. Cook has retained the role of master of ceremonies. He lets others do the heavy lifting, probably 95 percent of the airtime. But he does take on that critical role of the first impression at an event, and appears to have taken some lessons to help improve his delivery.

It’s not working out that great because his delivery seems hollow and forced. Rather than speaking with an easy confidence, like Mr. Schiller, Mr. Cook has to deliberately raise and lower his voice with a forced emphasis (to overcome the gravel voice) that is more like a beginning stage performance rather than a seasoned technical briefing. One person on the TMO staff described it as "painful" to watch.

Of all the presenters at that event, Mr. Cook has the most work to do on his stand-up delivery.

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Image Credits: Apple

John Martellaro has spent his entire career doing public speaking and technical presentations. He's presented to the public on NASA's space program and briefed Lockheed Martin and government officials in stand up technical sessions over several decades. He also briefed Apple customers on scientific computing and has presented at Macworld over the years. 

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14 Comments Leave Your Own

aardman

Plus whenever Jony Ive says ‘aluminum’ his credibility and gravitas quotient goes through the roof.

1stplacemacuser

It would be nice if they dress up a bit more professionally.  In another thread, I remarked that they all looked like they did a shirt-run to the local Ross store (Market and 4th) and barely had time to pull out all the pins before getting on stage.  Even the creases on the shirts of Cook and Schiller look like they were straight from the plastic bag with the cardboard backing thrown outside stage right.

Jamie

The fact that you even noticed their clothing says volumes (no pun intended) about their speaking styles and to a lesser extent, the content of the presentation. If a listener is truly engaged, what is being said should supersede such minutia. Mr. Jobs was balding, scruffy, and bespectacled, wore the same crappy shirts, pants, and sneakers for years, yet he rarely failed to captivate. Stage presence has less to do with a costume than the person standing inside of it. wink

Garion

Tim Cook should definitely quit that husky “enthused whisper” voice he fell back on so many times during his presentation. It isn’t working for him, and only made him sound like he was trying to capture the attention of a group kindergarteners.

1stplacemacuser

Jamie,

To be fair, Jobs had the same style for the last 10+ years of his speaking career, as far as I can recall.  Also, I wouldn’t have been able to see the detail as well if I were live, as opposed to seeing it on the computer.  On the computer, I could pause (which I did, but not for checking out the clothing).

DamenS

Well there you go - I never knew that “years of acomplishment” led to a deep voice ...

iJack

“Plus whenever Jony Ive says ‘aluminum’ his credibility and gravitas quotient goes through the roof.”

Doesn’t he say, “aluminium?”

Lancashire-Witch

I’d say Sir Jonathan has an English accent.  Distinctly southern.

ibuck

Effective public speaking is not easy for most people. Many claim they would rather die than speak to even a small audience, much less the crowds at Apple events.  Overcoming one’s fears/nervousness, being calm and on message, speaking loud & clear enough, not fidgeting, looking at all the audience with good eye contact, using the proper volume and pitch, smiling and using humor when appropriate, and not speaking too long or distracting the audience are a lot of things to be mindful of. And there’s more. But if you work at it, and practice, you become a better, more effective speaker.

Steve Jobs was exceptional as a speaker, as a CEO, and as a salesman. Like most of Apple’s execs, the rest of us have to try harder—without appearing to do so. Let’s hope all these execs get better over time.

iJack

“I’d say Sir Jonathan has an English accent.  Distinctly southern.”

Confusing.  By “southern,” do you mean Sussex or Alabama?

Rich Wolfert

Well thought and stated, John. I’m sure Apple will be looking at this and take note of the suggestions. Some of your observations and suggestions will be noted and acted upon. It should be interesting to see how this plays out. Speaking style definitely evolves as one becomes more comfortable with large audiences. Write follow-ups after the next several presentations. It should be interesting.

Carlos Cardona

Tim Cook needs his own Geoffrey Rush to teach the King how to act! I’m sure he’s gotten a “presentation coach”, but it’s time for a new one. He needs a real “Voice and Diction” teacher, like the kind we theatre majors had in college: they will say the line, then YOU WILL IMITATE THEM, and then again, until you sound like them. Then the gestures, then give him some blocking (where to go onstage). It’s a show folks, you need a director.

Vicki Allwardt

Sorry, I agree with 1stplacemacuser.    Before we are able to be transported with the technical info the book is judged by its cover. Steve’s black turtlenecks were standard, casual, and classy. Ho hum untucked shirts were anything but. I was scratching my head wondering if this was some new style that I had missed.  Not classy. At all

Lancashire-Witch

@ iJack.  Neither.  He sounds like a Londoner to me.

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