Own The Stage: Here's Why Your Presentation Needs A Twitter-Friendly Headline

Boil your presentation down to a single, snappy sentence that would fit into a single tweet.

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Boil your presentation down to a single, snappy sentence that would fit into a single tweet. That's one of the main takeaways from the remarkable public speaking career of the late, great Steve Jobs, who was the master at condensing his presentations into one catchy soundbite. However long and complicated it may be, anchoring it around one punchy headline will make it simple, clear and memorable.


Take the launch of the iPhone in January 2007. Jobs took to the stage at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco at 9:14 am and finished at 11:02 am. That's almost two hours. But he boiled the whole thing down to five words: "Today Apple reinvents the phone."

It was the headline on the Apple press release that day; it was the text on the slide he used the moment he introduced the phone (at 9:44 am); it was the soundbite he used repeatedly throughout the day, not just in his speech but also in TV interviews. You can watch Jobs give this legendary presentation on YouTube- hearing him say the words is a hairs-standup- on-the-back-of-your-neck moment.

Carmine Gallo, author of the best-selling book, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, calls it the Twitter-friendly headline. Gallo defines this as "a one-sentence summary that perfectly captures the main message." Of course, most of us aren't doing anything nearly as monumental as Steve Jobs. Our headlines may never be as punchy as his. But before we give up, remember that most of Steve Jobs' headlines were second- or third-rate compared with "Today Apple reinvents the phone." Who remembers "Far better at some key task" from the iPad launch on 27 January 2010? Was it brilliant? No. Was it a short, punchy one-liner that anchored his presentation, giving focus, clarity and direction to both speaker and audience? Yep. Did it sell a boatload of iPads? Hell yeah!

The point isn't to win an award for copywriting every time: the point is to have clarity. Writing a Twitter-friendly headline of 140 characters or less (about 15 words or so) forces you to really think about the point of your speech or presentation. Even if it's not very elegant, just having it as an anchor will make the rest of your presentation stronger.

When I interviewed Gallo for my radio show in 2016, he credited three people for the "Twitter-friendly headline" technique: Steve Jobs of course, but also neuroscientist John Medina and billionaire investor Michael Moritz.

The neuroscientist: Dr John Medina Gallo recalled in our interview: "Dr Medina told me that the way the brain processes information, it needs to see the big picture before the detail. And I realized that Steve Jobs did this brilliantly– he always had a one-sentence summary for every product." (Gallo particularly likes the phrase that launched the MacBook Air in 2008: "It's the world's thinnest notebook.")

The billionaire: Michael Moritz Michael Moritz built a US$3 billion personal fortune by being an early investor in tech companies including Apple, Google, and Instagram. He did it as a partner with venture capital firm Sequoia Capital, which sees hundreds of pitches every year. Gallo visited their California HQ, and never forgets this lesson: "If you walk into Sequoia Capital today as an entrepreneur, they will ask you to describe your product or service in one sentence of 10 words or less."

This is an edited excerpt from Richard Dean's book, Crowdpleaser: The 100 Greatest Public Speaking Tips of All Time, from Socrates to Steve Jobs. Published by Emerging Markets Leadership Press, Crowdpleaser brings together, for the first time, 100 classic tips, tricks and hacks on the art and science of public speaking. Spread across 362 beautifully designed pages, packed full of illustrations, infographics, and templates, Crowdpleaser is available in paperback at bookstores and online priced at AED110 (around $30), and as an illustrated e-book.

Related: Own The Stage: Here's Why Your Presentation Should Be Built Around One Big Idea