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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.