Noah Zandan

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Is Tim Cook a Better Presenter than Steve Jobs?

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By Noah Zandan and Carrie Goldberger

September 26, 2013

Steve Jobs was known as one of the most charismatic public speakers in history. He successfully created such a buzz around new products during his keynote speeches that it became common for people to line up for hours outside an Apple store to purchase the latest products. With the passing of Steve Jobs, many people wondered what would become of Apple. Would Tim Cook be able to create the same communications buzz around new products?

To answer this question, we used our quantified communications tools to analyze Steve Jobs’ famous 2007 unveiling of the iPhone and compared it to Tim Cook’s keynote earlier this month at the unveiling of the iPhone 5s and 5c.

What we found is that the language used in Steve Jobs’ product unveiling performance was 5% more engaging, 27% more persuasive and 27% more trustworthy than Tim Cook's speech. However, the nature of the two talks was not exactly the same. Tim Cook’s keynote was an introductory speech – he left the unveiling of the phones to Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing.

For this reason, we wanted to see how Tim Cook performed in front of other audiences in different settings. First, we analyzed his responses during the 2012 Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference where he addressed key concerns from investors such as working conditions in Chinese factories, product pricing, competition, and Apple’s culture, among other issues. Mr. Cook rose to the occasion in front of an investor audience: his remarks were a whopping 36% more trustworthy than his introductory iPhone keynote earlier this month. To confirm our finding, we also analyzed Mr. Cook’s 2010 commencement speech at Auburn University. In this less formal communication, his language was a remarkable 59% more trustworthy than the iPhone keynote.

What we can interpret from the data is that Mr. Cook’s goal is not to be the next Steve Jobs. He is not trying to build the hype and excitement that Steve Jobs was able to generate from a crowd. Instead, he is trying to inspire trust from his audience. He knows that with the passing of Steve Jobs, many people started to question the future of Apple. Because he is now the face of Apple, by coming across as a trustworthy speaker, Tim Cook also inspires trust in his company.

Every orator has a specific goal in mind when giving a speech. It may be to clearly explain an innovative idea, to build anticipation for a new product, or to build a company’s reputation. A skilled speaker is able to adapt their presentation based on their goals, on their authentic strengths, and most importantly, on the interests of their audience.

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