Delivery Strategy Tips

16 Rhetorical Devices That Will Make You Sound Like Steve Jobs

Ask anyone who the best contemporary speakers are, and there’s a pretty good chance they’ll rank Steve Jobs in the top five.

The late, great mind behind Apple didn’t just dream up a company that changed the way humans interact. He was also a visionary and an unparalleled communicator. He knew exactly how to deliver his ideas in a way that moved audiences and left long-lasting impressions.

A number of Jobs’ speeches have garnered attention for being stirring, inspirational, and well-written. Jobs’ Stanford commencement speech, “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish,” given in 2005, is often cited as one of the most powerful speeches of the last few decades, and one of the best graduation speeches ever given (the video has more than 28.8 million unique views on YouTube.)

There are several reasons that Jobs became such a legendary speaker. First, Jobs wasn’t afraid to be theatrical and dramatic. He used props, included shocking statistics and facts, and illustrated his words visually.

Jobs also knew how to structure a presentation—building suspense, keeping listeners engaged, and helping them envision what their future could look like if they embraced his ideas. We at Duarte call that structure a Sparkline.

Finally, Jobs’ speeches were so powerful because of the way he used rhetorical devices to deliver his message. Rhetoric—which people sometimes call  “the art of language” uses figures of speech and persuasive strategies to elevate language and make it more engaging, memorable, and entertaining.

When used properly, rhetoric can be a powerful tool for crafting speeches that stick. By couching his messages using rhetorical techniques, Jobs was able to deliver ideas that would go on to shape the world.

16 Rhetorical Devices Steve Jobs Used in the Macworld 2007 iPhone Launch

One of Jobs’ best speeches was given at Macworld 2007—during the original iPhone launch. In this speech, he announced a new tech device that would change the world forever.

Throughout his talk, he used powerful tricks and tools. He repeated sound bites to make an impression; he showed the audience the new product in order to shock them; and he also painted a picture of the future that got people excited about what was coming.

But what made this speech one of his best was his use of rhetorical techniques, which made the announcement beautiful to listen to and moving to grasp. Take a look at the 16 most brilliant rhetorical devices used by Jobs during the iPhone launch:

Anaphora (means carrying up or back): The repetition of a word of phrase at the beginning of every clause.

“As you know, we’ve got the iPod, best music player in the world. We’ve got the iPod Nanos, brand new models, colors are back. We’ve got the amazing new iPod Shuffle.”
—Steve Jobs

Epiphora: The repetition of a word or phrase at the end of every clause.

“Well, these are their home screens. And again, as you recall, this is the iPhone’s home screen. This is what their contacts look like. This is what iPhone’s contacts look like.”

Symploke: The combination of one or several anaphora(s) with one or several epiphora(s).

In 1984, we introduced the Macintosh, it didn’t just change Apple, it changed the whole computer industry. In 2001, we introduced the first iPods, and…it didn’t just change the way we all listen to music, It changed the entire music industry.”*

*With parallelism and germinatio

Germinatio: The repetition of a word or word group within one sentence.

“That’s 58 songs every second of every minute of every hour of every day.”

“And so I’ve got voice mail how I wanna listen to it, when I wanna listen to it, in any order I wanna listen to it with visual voice mail.”

Anadiplosis: The repetition of the last word of a sentence that is also the first word of the following sentence or sequence.

“And they garnered two percent market share. Two percent market share. iPod had 62 percent market share, and the rest had 36.”

Asyndeton: Sequence or words or similar expression without the use of conjunctions.

“We’ve got movies, TV shows, music, podcasts, photos.”

Polysyndeton: Repetition of conjunctions in a series of coordinated words, phrases, or clauses.

“It’s got everything from Cocoa and the graphics and it’s got core animation built in and it’s got the audio and video that OSX is famous for.”

Interrogatio: A rhetorical question in which the answer is self-evident.

“Isn’t that incredible?”
“Want to see that again?”
“Pretty cool, huh?”

Exclamatio: An exclamation that expresses the emotional affection of the speaker.

“I just take my unit here, and I turn it landscape mode, oh, look what happens! I’m in cover flow.”

“Wha, whoa, what is this?”

Aporia: A feigned statement of doubt by the speaker and a question to the audience about how he should act.

“Now, how are we gonna communicate this? We don’t wanna carry around a mouse, right? What are we gonna do?”

Hyperbole: An exaggeration of the characteristics of an object or circumstance.

“Best version of Google Maps on the planet, widgets, and all with Edge and Wi-Fi networking.”

Simile: An explicit comparison between two things, usually using “as” or “like”.

“It works like magic.”

Antitheton: The opposition of two facts of contrasting content.

“The kind of things you would find on a typical phone, but in a very untypical way now.”

Metaphor: A comparison made by referring to one thing as another.

“A huge heart transplant to Intel microprocessors.”

Climax: The increase from a waker to a stronger expression. Thus, a word sequence is arranged in ascending order.

“First was the mouse. The second was the click wheel. And now, we’re gonna bring multi-touch to the market.”

Personification:  The attribution of human properties toward things or animals.

It already knows how to power manage….and if there’s a new message it will tell me.”

Mr. Jobs also had specific phrases he wanted to repeat over and over. According to Carmine Gallo, this was all intentional since “reinvent the phone” was in the press release Apple sent out before the keynote.

“Today, Apple is going to reinvent the phone, and here it is.”

“So, we’re gonna reinvent the phone.”

“We wanna reinvent the phone.”

“…You’ll agree, we have reinvented the phone.”

“ Today Apple is reinventing the phone.”

Blog post inspired by the work of Bernhard Kast.

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Nancy Duarte