The name Steve Jobs is one that is recognized by almost anyone, anywhere across the world. Consumers, industrialists, developers, tech enthusiasts, bloggers, and journalists might all see him in a different light but one thing that is undeniably true about Steve Jobs is that he was a powerful speaker and was very persuasive and engaging. He connected very well with his audiences and effectively communicated his thoughts and ideas, presenting them in a way that resonated well with everyone. Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement speech was a brilliant example of his simple yet elegant communication style. It is a great demonstration of how anecdotal evidence, credibility, a strong empathetic tone can effectively convey ideas and make lasting impressions.
Jobs’ speech had a very simple structure that essentially boiled down to three stories with three distinct and significant central themes. By following this simple structure, Jobs ensured that his speech was easy to follow. Before starting his actual speech, he prepares the audience for his presentation by stating explicitly that he is going to “tell [the audience] three stories from [his] life” (Jobs). This has the effect of making the information he presents easier to digest because the audience knows what to expect. In addition, the fact that he specifically used three stories is nice because people tend to find things in sets of three or five appealing. Overall, his speech is structured very well and is designed to be easy to understand and powerful.
Jobs opens his speech with an appeal to the audience’s Pathos. He states that he is “honored to be with [them] today at [their] commencement from one of the finest universities in the world” and in doing so he boosts the self esteem of the audience by complimenting them and acknowledging their accomplishments (Jobs). He also sets a casual tone and lightens the mood by opening with a joke about how he “never graduated from college” and how “this is the closest [he had] ever gotten to a college graduating” (Jobs). This is important, because throughout his speech, he narrates experiences that the students can form personal connections to or empathize with and so it is essential that he starts off with a friendly tone instead of a more authoritative tone.
Jobs begins each of his stories by explicitly stating what he is trying to demonstrate. “The first story is about connecting the dots,” he says while beginning his first story (Jobs). In doing so, he sets the stage for what he is about to say and gets the audience thinking about how his story might connect to this theme that he initially sets. This is a prime example of Jobs’ impressive oratory skills and ties in with how he uses the structure of his speech as a tool to get his audience to connect with the ideas he presents.
Jobs’ choice of opening story is very interesting because it has to do with his college experience. This is obviously something that his audience, a crowd of college graduates, can empathize with very well, and so it helps in continuing the friendly, relatable tone he sets in his introduction. In his narration of this story, Jobs describes how his biological mother put him up for adoption but insisted that the parents should be able to send him to college. He talks about how he dropped out but still dropped in on classes he found interesting, an example of which was a typography class which at the time he thought had no value in his future but ended up being a key feature that he incorporated into the Macintosh.
“But it was very, very clear looking backward 10 years later,” he concludes (Jobs). He then tells his audience that the purpose of his story was to show that “you can’t connect the dots looking backward” (Jobs). He states this part of his message after telling his story and not before though, which lets the audience form their own thoughts first, and then given this little bit of extra information have a eureka moment which helps grab the audience’s attention and reinforce the message that Jobs’ was trying to deliver in connection with his initial theme.
Jobs’ narration of this story is especially effective in connecting with his audience because of the personal connection and empathy he is able to obtain. The audience here is a group of college graduates, so talking about his college experience is something they can relate to. While Jobs himself never graduated from college, the purpose of his story was never to say that their degrees were worthless but rather that whatever steps they need to take to accomplish their goals only seem obvious after they accomplish them and that you never know how the “dots” will connect.
At the end of this story he makes an appeal to ethos by saying “This approach has never let me down and it has made all the difference in my life” (Jobs). Everyone knows how successful Steve Jobs became, so coming from him, it adds a lot of persuasion to his argument. This is also true of all the anecdotes from his speech. The fact that they are all coming from him adds extra credibility to his argument because of the fact that the stories that he is telling are the ones that led to him accomplishing what he did.
In conclusion, Steve Jobs used lots of emotional appeals and followed a simple and comprehensible format in writing his speech, thus creating a persuasive and impactful impression on the audience. It is well known that Steve Jobs was an excellent orator, and this speech offers a demonstration of his persuasive capabilities and effective speaking style. His casual tone and usage of elements that the audience could connect to personally made his speech very appealing and his use of clear and concise stories with distinct themes made his message easy to grasp. The nature of his speech was also such that he didn’t need to use any elements that appeal to logos since it was oriented at delivering a message related to views on life and lessons he learned rather than being a persuasive essay trying to convince someone of his viewpoint.
- Jobs, Steve. “2005 Stanford Commencement Speech.” Stanford News. 14th March. 2005. Web. 12th Feb. 2019.