Speech outline example: Steve Jobs Stanford address

How does Steve Jobs plan a speech?

The structure of Steve Jobs speeches varied depending on his goals for the communication event. But he always had 2 things; a clear take-home message and an engaging structure.

For example, this speech tells an amazing story and shares unique life lessons, but it’s also a wonderful example of the kind of speech outline we’ve been recommending for over a decade.

A Chunk Structure with 2, 3 or 4 sections and vivid Message at the end.

This simple, powerful but flexible presentation format:

  • is quicker and easier to prepare
  • is easier to remember for the speaker
  • is easier to follow for the audience
  • ensures key points stand out
  • adds variation and emphasis automatically as you start and end sections (chunks).


Example of Steve Jobs Stanford ‘Chunk Structure’:


A good speech outline has Message and Structure

A good outline is a summary that shows the logical flow of your ideas, typically on one page. A traditional speech outline is a good start, but usually fails to focus on 2 crucial elements:

  1. A vivid message – the first thing you plan and the last thing you say.
  2. A key point (mini-message) at the end of each section.

People will always forget most of the words you say, so focus on key messages – from the beginning of the planning process – can give your presentation many times more impact.

Watch the Steve Jobs Stanford speech again and review the ultra clear structure and message:

June 12, 2005: The famous Steve Jobs Stanford commencement address speech.


Example of how the vivid ‘Text Structure’ might look:

Scene Setting:

I’m honoured to be here with you today. I never graduated. This is the closest I’ve been to a college graduation.


“Three stories from my life”


  1. Connecting the dots
  2. Love and loss
  3. Death

1. Connecting the dots

I was adopted. My parents promised my biological mother that I would go to college.

I chose a college so expensive, my parents were spending all their money on it. I had no idea what to do with my life and I didn’t see the value. So, I dropped out.

I was able to drop in to any class I wanted. This included a calligraphy class which seemed to have no value at the time, but led to the first computer with beautiful typography (the Mac).

(Point:) Connecting the dots: You can only connect the dots looking back, not forwards. You just have to trust that they will connect.

2. Love and loss

I found what I loved early in life. Started Apple at 20, in my garage, but at 30, I was fired and devastated. Public failure. Thoughts of running away . . . but I still loved what I did.

A new start. Freed to enter the most creative period of my life. My wife, Pixar and . . . NeXT, which is at the heart of Apple’s renaissance. All thanks to Apple firing me.

(Point:) Love and loss: Only way to do great work is love what you do. If you haven’t found it, keep looking. Don’t settle.

3. Death

“If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” Remembering that you’re going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.

A year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. For a day I lived with my death sentence. . . until my biopsy later that evening.

Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent.

(Point:) Death: Time is limited; don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Follow your intuition.

Whole Earth Catalogue

When I was young, an amazing publication called created by Stuart Brand *not far from here* in Menlo Park. Like Google in paperback. Full of ideas and neat tools. They put out a final edition *When I was about your age*

(Point:) Whole Earth Catalogue: Their farewell message, stay hungry, stay foolish, I’ve always wished for my life.

Message Statement

As you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you: Stay hungry. Stay foolish.


Your next presentation

This example shows you the tools you can use to create a speech outline for your next presentation. If you want to speed up the process and automatically download your outline to PowerPoint, and have always-up-to-date Outlines on your iPhone or iPad, then consider the web app at SpeechOutline.com


If you’d like to master the Speech Outline, consider:


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