Ten years later: iPhone’s impact


Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone on this day ten years ago during his 2007 Macworld keynote.

I remember watching the recorded keynote later at home on my beloved first Mac (the adorable white iMac G4*). I sat enthralled watching Jobs masterfully and with obvious glee unveil the never-before-seen features of this new device. I gasped along with the audience at touchscreen scrolling and pinch-to-zoom. I recognized immediately that this device was indeed the breakthrough device Jobs was pitching it to be.

The video of that keynote is worth rewatching even if you’ve seen it before, and it’s definitely worth seeing if you’ve never seen it. It’s embedded here along with a fascinating oral history of what led to the moment.

That moment is a turning point in technology, but also, in many ways, in our culture. We take it for granted now that a powerful computer with access to all the world’s knowledge and all of our most treasured photos and favorite songs can fit in your pocket. Before January 9, 2007 that possibility would have seemed far fetched. 

But Jobs’s keynote was remarkable as a form of presentation art as well. That moment was peak-Steve Jobs. The preparation for and execution of that keynote has become legendary. Jobs was in his element. He knew he had the substance—a once-in-a-generation product that he knew would change everything**—and he brought all the powers of his charismatic style to the moment.

The change sparked by the iPhone is remarkable, and its influence on its competitors and on technology and culture at large is undeniable. The world viewed through the prism of the iPhone generation looks different now than it did ten years ago. Better in many ways. Worse in some. 

It was a triumph of engineering and design. And a triumph of imagination. 

What could appear—what can even you bring to life—that might alter the way we can improve the human experience over the next ten years?

Think different, indeed.  


*I still have this Mac tucked away on a little used desk in my home. I don’t power it on. But it’s still beautiful to look at.

**January 9, 2007 was also the day that Apple officially dropped the word “Computer” from the name of the company. Jobs knew Apple would never be the same after that day, too. It went from being an iconic, but second-tier computer maker to the most valuable and influential company in the world. 

It’s called “giving” a speech

I saw this tweet today from Chris Anderson, who is the TED Talks guy and knows a bit about what makes for an effective speech. (He has a new book out on that very topic.)

Instead of approaching a speaking opportunity with the focus on you, the speaker, focus instead on the audience and what you hope to give them.

It’s not about what you want or what you can accomplish or your agenda or the applause or laughs or approval you hope to receive.

What’s your gift to the audience? How can you share something that meets their needs, that just might awaken a new possibility in them?

This, of course, applies well beyond just speech-making.

Whatever your art or your craft or even just your pay-the-bills kind of job, consider the gift you can offer with it, how you could create something meaningful for someone else. See if that perspective doesn’t transform your work and maybe your own sense of purpose.

Showing my work: The Good Life, San Diego

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I’m giving the opening talk at my professional association’s annual conference in San Diego next Tuesday.

I’m not ready. Yet.

I’ve had a theme in my mind for a few months now, but the ideas are just now coming together.

When I’ve been asked to do these kinds of conference talks, I’ve been fortunate to be given the freedom to talk about what I choose, whatever I think would be of interest to this audience.

I do begin with the audience in mind. If I were in their seats, what would I want to hear? How would I want to feel? What ought to be said at this event, at this time?

But I’m also channeling whatever key idea has been churning in my brain recently, and having an audience is an opportunity to explore that idea in a structured way.

My aim is to awaken possibility and to send my audience out better than they were before they walked in.

I don’t know how effective I’ve been at transforming audiences, but I know that making the attempt to convey something meaningful to others certainly transforms me.

If you’re given a chance to express yourself, to speak or write or connect with others in any way, take it. It might make a difference for someone else, and it will make a difference for you.

*The screenshot of my desktop today shows my work in progress on this talk, and includes the apps Keynote, iA Writer, and Notes. I collected ideas in Notes on my phone, then began connecting them together with a narrative written in iA Writer. Lastly, I create slides in Keynote.


My next computer: iPad Pro


I’ve been an iPad guy since the first version was announced in 2010. I loved it immediately and used it mostly for reading, but also for writing.

It was just supplemental, though, to my iPhone and the two iMacs I had—one at the office and the other at home.

The home iMac is old now and sits unused. I use my iPad mini for most of my computer tasks away from the office. It’s a great device for reading, and it’s so good as my presentation device. I use the iOS Keynote app and a VGA adapter to connect the iPad to a projector, and I use my iPhone as the remote. It’s a lightweight, minimal, and rock solid presentation setup.

The iPad mini is also the device that I do a lot of writing on. But that’s where the mini falls short for me. The screen is just too small. I pair the iPad with an external Bluetooth keyboard, but the canvas I’m writing on seems too constricting. The screen is too small for me to write comfortably. Inserting a cursor in the right location and highlighting text can be frustrating. I find myself writing less away from my office iMac just because it’s not as enjoyable to write on the tiny iPad mini screen.

I was intrigued when Apple introduced the new, very lightweight Macbook last year. The form factor is gorgeous. The screen looks impressive, and I was eager to try the new keyboard design. But the computer seemed a bit underpowered. However, I imagined its second iteration might be my dream writing machine.

When Apple introduced the 12.9 inch iPad Pro last fall, it seemed almost comically large to me. “Who is going to want that?” I wondered.

Now, I want that.

I keep hearing about people who have replaced their laptop (or even their desktop) with this new iPad. Federico Vittici, Jason Snell, CGP Grey and Myke Hurley, Serenity Caldwell… All are iPad-Pro-as-laptop-replacement evangelists. 

And now, even Steven Sinofsky, Microsoft’s former head of its Windows division, has written that the iPad Pro has become his primary computer.

I appreciate the simple elegance of iOS versus OS X. There’s less to fiddle and fuss with. There’s less distraction and a more focused environment. It’s a truly modern and mature operating system. 

And now, with the most powerful computing power ever in an iOS device and a screen bigger than the entry level Mac laptops, the iPad Pro may be my ultimate computing device so far. It’s at the top of my wish list. 


Showing my work: The Five C’s of Leadership

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I was asked recently to guest lecture in a leadership class at my university.

My original plan was to do a very informal talk without slides. I was going to base it on my Five C’s of Leadership post.

The morning of the class, though, one of the students who works for me and is also in the class told me I should do slides because he wanted his classmates to see my approach to using visuals in a presentation.

So, I whipped up some slides pretty quickly.

Now, I’ve been asked by another student who was in that lecture to offer the same talk to an organization he’s in. I tweaked the slides today, and I’ll speak to his student leadership society tonight.

A good presentation is about the connection between the speaker and the audience. It’s not about the quality or content of the slides. If your slides can stand alone, then what was the point of showing up to speak? Just email your slide deck to the audience.

But I find real value in connecting strong images and key words on screen with the message I’m sharing. Visuals done right can make the ideas resonate and stick with an audience in a way that just hearing the talk can’t.

More great public speaking advice from Nick Morgan

Nick Morgan keeps giving away solid advice about public speaking. If you speak in public ever, you really should be following his blog. (And his book, Give Your Speech, Change The World, has been required reading for my team.)

Today he posted an excellent list of twelve public speaking rules.

Rules three and four on his list particularly resonate with me:

3. By the end of the hour, you should be talking love. You get attention by identifying a problem and playing it up. Look at the current American presidential candidates; you’d be pardoned for thinking that Armageddon was around the corner if you took them seriously. But by the end of the talk, you should be covering what it is that you love and what’s working in your world. Long-term careers are based on positive trajectories, not negative ones.

4. You put your ideas out there; you can’t control what the audience does with them. It’s your job to present your case with passion. The audience has its own issues, and you have no control over the extent to which they take up your ideas or not. Success is making your case, not in getting the most votes – or even a standing ovation.

Indeed, “you should be talking love” as you make your call to action. What’s the point of standing in front of an audience if not to give them something you care about that can send them away transformed for the better?

It’s called “giving” a speech, right? Have a gift to offer. Talk about something you truly care about, that you love, and leave your audience with that gift, whether it’s awakening them to new possibilities or calling them to action in a worthwhile pursuit.

And Morgan’s fourth rule can be magical for not just your speaking events, but for all that you do.

Don’t be attached to the outcome. Focus on what you can control—your effort, your energy, your emotion, your authentic in-the-moment presence. The intrinsic rewards should take precedence over the extrinsic ones.

Give your speech with as much craftsmanship and energy as you can. Offer your gift. Then let it go.

Every audience is unique. Some may not give you the feedback you hope for or the smiling, engaged expressions that let you know they’re with you.

I’ve had audiences that seemed to just stare blankly at me only to find out later that several found the experience to be transformational.

Regardless, do your best. Give the audience all you have. If you don’t feel a bit drained when you finish, you probably didn’t summon enough energy or uncork enough emotion.

When in doubt, especially when facing an audience that’s not showing you the love, ramp up the awesome rather than scaling it back in self-defense.

Put out more energy, connect more intently, and be bigger on stage than seems reasonable to you.

Spread your love. Give your gift. And be content with that.


Boston keynote slides

Here are the slides from the keynote I’m giving tonight to a group of more than 200 college students at a conference in Boston.

Of course, my slides are not the presentation, they’re just there to support the interaction between the speaker and the audience and to add the power of visuals to help the ideas stick.

Wonderful life: Rebooting my college talk again

I get asked to speak on campus to student groups several times each academic year. I’m honored to be invited, and it’s a chance for me to be intentional about thinking through and sharing something that might awaken possibility in college students. 

Tonight was my first gig of the semester. Instead of dusting off a talk I did the previous year, I like to start over and rethink and reboot. 

I will often include stories and quotations and points I’ve used before but mix them with new ideas and stories and a fresh narrative structure and theme.

There’s a lot of value in regularly starting over, even with—especially with—the tried and true. 

Your best work may be buried under the good work you’ve been too content with. Dig it up and and shake it out and get busy making something new. 

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Presenting? Rehearse, out loud.

I gave a new presentation at a conference last weekend. I had been unsure about how it was going to be received. The topic was more esoteric than I usually do for a conference session. And in the days leading up to the session, I still wasn’t “feeling” it. My ideas and the narrative structure were not quite clicking into place.

But, the morning of my session I got up early, went out to breakfast with my iPad, and made a couple of tweaks to the structure that did begin to make it all click. It was a “Duh, why didn’t I see that before” moment. Weeks of stewing on a topic can have you just treading water, but the urgency of a shipping date can force clarity.

Then I found the meeting room where my presentation would take place later that morning. The projector was already set up and on for a session that was to start in the room an hour later. So I dicconnected the hotel PC, hooked up my iPad, and quietly rehearsed with my slides, working an empty room in my t-shirt and shorts. And I walked out finally “feeling” it, ready to go on just a couple of hours later. 

I used to scoff at the thought of rehearsing a presentation. But a college speech professor emphasized it so much I gave it a go for a speech in his class. And I was surprised at how transformational it was. Saying my presentation in advance, out loud, just as I would with an audience, helped smooth out the transitions and find flaws and opportunities and even good jokes that I wouldn’t have if I had just gone over the notes in my mind. 

And that happened last weekend again. I should have started talking this presentation out much earlier in the process, especially with new material. If I had rehearsed even a few days sooner, I doubt I would have struggled as much with having this talk click for me.

If you’re giving a talk or leading a meeting or performing for others in any way, make time to rehearse it, out loud. Find the room you’ll be in if you can. If not, any space will do where you can practice without feeling self-conscious.

I don’t know if my audience last Saturday left any better for having been in my presentation. (Surveys will come in later.) But I left feeling that I had given good energy and thoughtful insight, and it seemed I had made a genuine connection wtih the people in the room. 

Leaving with that feeling wouldn’t have been likely had I not walked in with the confidence that only solid preparation and rehearsal can provide.

My presentation today: Do less, better

I’m presenting at a conference today. I’m posting a PDF of my slides here for those in the session or for any who are interested. 

I use slides to support what I say, not to make what I say redundant. So, seeing my slides is not the same as seeing the presentation.

Conference organizers tend to ask presenters to send their “presentation” ahead of time. Well, that can’t really be done. A live presentation is the unique dynamic of the speaker and the audience. So, to satisfy the request for slides in advance, I did create a set of slides to serve as a sort of preview for this talk. These can stand on their own.

Showing my work: Analog color


I’m leading an educational session at a conference this week. It’s a first for this topic for me, and I don’t feel I’ve found my framework yet. It just hasn’t clicked.

I’ve floundered around with digital tools — Keynote, Mindnode, text editors — but the flow hasn’t come yet.

So, today I turned around to my desk, away from my Mac, and took my multi-colored pen to actual paper and mind-mapped my ideas. And they flowed better than at any time in my thinking on this topic.

Analog before digital. Why can’t I stick to that?

It’s still not there yet. I’m imagining people sitting in my session wondering why they chose it and what the heck I was trying to accomplish. But I’ve done this enough times to know that something at least partially intelligible and maybe even meaningful will come out of me.

Priming my creativity with a pen in hand, some color, and a big sheet of paper is a reliable way to force some flow. 

Now, I’ve got to gather up those thoughts and string them together in a way that sparks some kind of transformation in my audience. What’s the point otherwise?

“The only reason to give a speech is to change the world.” –John F. Kennedy

Don’t hold back when you present

I gave a couple of presentations already this week. Both were somewhat informal. No slides. Fewer than 25 in each group. 

Today I was Skyped into a student staff meeting at Stanford. That was a first for me. It’s an odd experience to not be physically in the room with the audience. It was a challenge to read the room as I was staring at a fuzzy image on my computer screen while talking in a louder voice than normal, trying extra hard to be heard far away on the west coast. The faces were somewhat pixelated (or maybe that’s just how people in Palo Alto look), so I couldn’t rely on the subtle feedback cues of expressions and body language that I usually adjust my energy to during a talk.

I left both presentations this week, though, feeling satisfyingly drained. I don’t know if what I said connected, or if I made a difference in any way. There were no surveys to give me direct feedback. I seemed to be received warmly and thanked enthusiastically, but the satisfaction for me was intrinsic. I just enjoyed the experience and felt that I gave both audiences something worthwhile. 

If I finish a presentation and don’t immediately feel the need to sit and chill for a few minutes, then I know I probably didn’t give enough energy to the effort. And energy can make up for a lack of eloquence or clumsy structure or even lame slides. (But don’t make lame slides.)

Care enough to uncork enthusiasm and give your audience all you can. It takes courage. Enthusiasm and caring somehow seem risky and vulnerable. But it’s a low risk and one, unfortunately, too few presenters take. 

Don’t hold back next time you present. Don’t give in to caution and the inner voice of resistance that wants to keep you safely mediocre and forgettable. Be awesome instead.

Roman Mars on flag design

This talk about flag design — yes, flag design — by Roman Mars of the 99% Invisible podcast made my day.

Some of these design principles can be directly applied to presentation slide design. Don’t put text on a slide that is hard to read. In most cases a strong, simple, clear image will be more effective than text on a screen, especially if that text is small or redundant or is read word-for-word (no way, right?) by the presenter.

The presentation, of course, is not about the slides, it’s about the interaction of the speaker and the audience resulting in a transformation. Only use slides if they support and enhance that interaction.

Your slides are your flag, your visual symbol of you and your message, but they’re also a tool that should serve your message and not detract from it.

Don’t be like San Francisco or Milwaukee or, holy smokes, Pocatello with their mishmash abominations of design dereliction. Be like Amsterdam, instead, and go for kick-ass.

Be the audience

Filmmaker Christopher Nolan (Inception, the Batman trilogy, Interstellar) had this response recently when asked how he thinks of the audience when creating films:

“Every stage in the process, I try to be the audience,” he answered. “I don’t think of the audience as someone else. We’re all a part of the audience.”

I’m in the process of putting together a presentation for an upcoming conference, and I’m stuck. Well, not really stuck. I just haven’t started.

I’ve been futzing around in my mind with what I want to say and coming up with little that excites me.

But who cares what I want to say? Instead, I should focus on the audience. What could I offer that would awaken possibility in them and send them out better and happier for our time together? If I were in the audience, what would delight and fascinate and challenge me?

Make the audience the hero of the story. It’s not about you. You’re not the focus, even though it’s you standing on stage. The point is the potential transformation and the heroic potential of those in the room that you’re serving.

Put yourself in the audience. Be the audience. And see if that unsticks you.

TED inspired speaking advice

It seems the fundamental advice about how to give a good speech is pretty obvious by now. How often can you repeat the basics of effective public speaking?

But I saw two articles recently that had fresh takes worth reading, both inspired by the TED Talk experience.

5 Secrets of a Successful TED Talk highlights solid evidence that how you say what you say trumps even the most meaningful content in its impact on an audience. In a survey of viewers watching TED Talks with the sound turned off, those talks that had the most animated, confident looking speakers rated the highest. And that actually correlated with the popularity of those talks when the sound was on as well.

Smile, use your hands, turn your physical energy up, don’t come across as scripted, and you will have the best chance of connecting with your audience. And it starts immediately. The audience is making a judgment about you and your message in just the first few seconds.

And this article, A TED speaker coach shares 11 tips for right before you go on stage, is filled with thoughtful tips about the mental and physical approach the most successful speakers adopt.

Here’s tip #3 from the list:

Use your body’s nervous energy for good. Don’t try to contain all your nervous energy. Let it move through you and energize you for your talk. Do isometrics while you waiting backstage if it helps. Shake your hands out. Barnett remembers one TED speaker who found a private corner backstage to put on headphones and dance — and that speaker walked onstage feeling like a rockstar. And, if nothing else, always remember TED star Amy Cuddy and how to power pose.

I remain convinced that anyone can have charisma in front of an audience. Care about something enough to have the courage to fully express just how much you do care, and you will be charismatic.

Notes to myself

These are the notes I wrote on the board for our student staff meeting today.

I was reminding them of what I think are some key principles when connecting with all the visitors we encounter every day.

  • Make the audience the hero – It’s not about you. Put yourself in the mindset of those you’re speaking to. How can they come out of this encounter better and happier?
  • Style & substance – Offer more than charm and wit. Your style needs to support meaningful content, not just entertain superficially.
  • What’s your gift? – Don’t stand before an audience wondering what you can get from them – laughs, applause, approval.  Instead, focus on what you can give to your audience. What value can you add to those you encounter?
  • Do less, better – Focus on the essentials. Cut the excess, even good stuff, to shine a brighter light on what’s most important.
  • Be impeccable – Aim for perfection. Be careful with even small details. Get it right. Keep pushing yourself to constantly improve.
  • Shine! – Don’t be afraid to be awesome. Be bold and confident.

These are notes to my staff, but they’re just as much notes to myself. I need to be reminded regularly to not be content with good enough. Why not be extraordinary?

Be The Punchline: Focus on what you can give, not what you can get

ht Presentation Zen

So good.

This comedian’s career flipped when he realized he should focus on what he could give the audience, not on what he hoped to get from them.

It’s called giving a speech, right? So, if you’re called on to speak, consider this an opportunity to give something to your audience. What gift would be worthwhile and meaningful? Don’t apologize or half-heart it. Be solid and come strong with your gift.

Don’t be like so many who start a talk with “I’m sorry to be taking your time” or otherwise apologize for standing in front of them. If you’ve got a meaningful gift to share, be confident and bold.

I do like getting a great response from an audience – laughs, smiles, applause, questions. But if I focus on what I have to give, I’m more likely to get a response that matters.

Beyond public speaking and stand-up comedy, this question just works. “What can I give that would be valuable to someone?”

Speech season

Someone tweeted this photo of me on stage a couple of weeks ago

I’ve given six presentations on three different topics over the past two weeks. I’m always a bit surprised when I get an invitation to speak. How do these groups find me, and why do they want me on their meeting agenda?

I’m not exactly hustling to get gigs. But do enough gigs and word spreads. Groups need speakers. And, well, I work cheap.

But the truth is I enjoy the opportunity to put together a talk and think through what would be worth saying to a particular audience. Preparing to express myself in public focuses my mind in a unique way and summons ideas that otherwise would never appear on their own.

And then, there’s the rush of being in front of an audience of live human beings. I still feel a twinge of fear before beginning. Public speaking makes you vulnerable in a very, well, public way. Giving a speech will heighten your senses and quicken your pulse. It’s a thrill ride of fear and excitement and will tax you physically and mentally and emotionally. We all need more of that in our too safe and mundane lives.

My usual routine at the beginning of a presentation is to greet the audience, smile, and then pause for a long two seconds, centering myself in the moment and taking the measure of the audience as they do the same of me. That tends to calm me and settle me into a more relaxed and confident groove. Often, I get into a zone, a sort of flow state, even, that’s hard to replicate off stage. I draw energy from shining eyes in the crowd and from those that seem especially engaged. Seeing those in an audience who actively energize me makes me want to be a better, more encouraging, smiling, nodding audience member when it’s my turn to sit instead of stand.

My aim in speaking to a group is to awaken possibility, to spark something that wasn’t present before I spoke, and to change the world by possibly changing even just one audience member’s perspective.

Most people seem to generally have low expectations for public speakers. Unfortunately, considering all the bad lectures and sermons and speeches and meetings we’ve all had to endure, mediocrity, or worse, is what we’ve come to expect when a speaker stands before an audience.

There’s a low bar for what most consider a successful speech. If you’re in front of an audience, then, it’s easier than you imagine to surprise and delight by preparing thoughtfully and by just putting some genuine emotion into the effort. Unleash your charisma. Let them see that you care. Have the courage to uncork some energy and passion and give the audience the gift of your fully engaged presence.

I don’t know if the audiences I’ve spoken to in the last two weeks have benefitted much from hearing me, but I certainly am better for having stood before them.

Four thoughts

This has been speech week for me. Three speaking gigs in four days, each on a different topic. My final one of the week is tomorrow morning as keynote for a student leadership honor society event.

I don’t actively pursue speaking opportunities. They just come to me, mostly through word of mouth and groups I’ve spoken to previously. I rarely decline an invitation. I’m not so much in demand that it becomes overwhelming. Three speeches in a week is more than usual, though.

I find a lot of value in having to think through what I want to say to a particular audience. Kind of like how writing on this site forces reflection and pursuit of insight that otherwise wouldn’t happen, regularly preparing for speeches has the same effect.

And the actual experience of standing before an audience of fellow human beings and capturing their attention is a rush. It’s this scary thing that most people avoid. I still feel the fear, even after a couple of decades of regular public speaking. But it’s more like riding a roller coaster fear. I know I’m going to be alright, but I’m braced for the unexpected and the potential, however remote, for everything to fall apart.

When you truly connect with an audience, though, and see their eyes alight with new possibility, it is so, so good. If I’m physically drained at the end of a talk, I know I’ve put out quality energy and done something worthwhile.

Here’s the light table view of my slides for tomorrow morning’s talk, Four Thoughts:

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