The launch of the first iPod in October 2001 didn’t just revolutionize the music industry. It was one of the most celebrated product launches of all time.
It’s worth revisiting Steve Jobs’ iconic product launch now that Apple has announced that, after two decades, it will stop making the portable player.
I first wrote about the iPod launch in my book,The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs. Jobs, a keen student of storytelling, delivered a presentation that offers three lessons for everyone who wants to wow an audience.
1. Put data into context.
Our minds aren’t made to comprehend big numbers and abstract data. And Steve Jobs knew it. Jobs was doing data storytelling long before storytelling became a buzzword.
For example, the first iPod stored songs on a five-gigabyte hard drive, but the number itself–5GB–meant very little to the average music lover. So Jobs added one important line to provide context. The iPod’s storage capacity, he said, is the equivalent of storing 1,000 songs.
Rarely do numbers resonate with people until those numbers are put into a familiar context. Jobs only needed one sentence to make 5GB relevant to the audience. In fact, he used the same tactic several times in the presentation. At one point, he told the audience that at 6.5 ounces, the iPod is “lighter than most of the cell phones you have in your pocket.”
Of course, Jobs the showman didn’t stop there.
2. Surprise the audience.
As you know, iPod’s iconic tagline didn’t end at 1,000 songs. But to fully appreciate the impact that Jobs made next, it’s worth watching the video of the iPod launch.
Jobs built the suspense by saying the iPod was a portable MP3 device that played CD-quality music. “But the biggest thing is that it holds a thousand songs,” Jobs repeated. “This is a quantum leap because, for most people, it holds their entire music library.”
After a few minutes of a technical and design explanation, Jobs then began to uncover the real surprise.
“You might be saying, this is cool,” Jobs said. “What’s so special about the iPod?
It’s ultra-portable, Jobs said. In fact, it was portable that it could fit in your pocket. And with a magician’s dramatic flourish, Jobs pulled the device from the pocket of his blue jeans.
“No, the coolest thing about iPod is that you can take your entire music library with you, right in your pocket,” Jobs said as the audience cheered.
Jobs was a master of surprise, creating wow moments that everyone would talk about.
In his new book, Build, iPod designer Tony Fadell says that Jobs delivered presentations that appealed to people’s rational and emotional sides. Jobs didn’t need to put on a performance. But by doing so, Jobs created one of the most iconic taglines in product history:
1,000 songs in your pocket.
3. Take a break from the slides.
Great presenters give the audience a break from the slides. Before the big reveal, Jobs spent several slides explaining the drawbacks of the other portable products on the market at the time.
But once he revealed the physical device, Jobs walked to center stage and used the iPod as a prop, taking the attention away from the slides. He then returned to the slides to show details of the iPod in close-up images.
People want a break. They don’t want to be glued to slides for an entire presentation. Get away from slides from time to time. Move to a demonstration or simply take a question and answer break.
Your listeners will not remember every slide and every detail in your presentation. Be intentional about what you say and how you say it. Think about creative ways to put data into context and you’ll give your audience a presentation they’ll never forget.