Analyzing Steve Jobs’s commencement speech with AI speech coach

December 16, 2022

7 min read

Using AI for an analysis of Steve Jobs’ commencement speech

What can AI speech coach tell us about one of the most famous speeches ever? Can it provide a useful analysis of Steve Jobs’s commencement speech at Stanford University?

Receiving over 41 million views, Steve Jobs’s 2005 Stanford commencement address stands apart still today. It lets the world in on personal aspects of Jobs’s life and a few lessons he’s learned. He passes these lessons on to a new generation in this iconic speech.

We’ll introduce you to the speech to give you an idea of the content. Then, we’ll show you how the free Yoodli AI speech coach tool provides a useful analysis of Steve Jobs’s commencement speech when it comes to word choice and delivery. We’ll also explain how your own speaking skills can benefit from the same kind of analysis. Take a look.

Steve Jobs’s commencement speech

There’s no doubt that this is a powerful speech that continues to inspire people of all ages. Many commencement addresses are, well, interchangeable. Typically, speakers offer up a list of platitudinous advice for young adults setting sail in life. Jobs’s speech is unique. No one else is going to tell Steve Jobs’s life stories.

“I’m honored to be with you today for your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world.”

Jobs starts by humbling himself and lifting up his audience. It doesn’t come across as insincere flattery. It seems warm and genuine. Great start.

“This is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation.”

As someone who never graduated from college, Jobs is in a potentially awkward situation in front of all these caps and gowns. However, he uses his first story to explain his educational journey in a way that’s descriptive rather than prescriptive. He never sends the message that college is a waste of time or that he has regrets about his education choices. One of the clever ways he does this is by employing the repeated use of the term “drop in” in contrast with “drop out”: “If I had never dropped out, I would’ve never dropped in on that calligraphy class.”

The speech is simple. “Today I wanna tell you three stories from my life,” he begins. “That’s it. No big deal, just three stories.” While it’s simple, it’s also strategic. Whether he realizes it or not, Jobs uses the rule of three. Three is that “just right” number that feels complete without getting complicated. By employing the rule of three, he’s making it easy for the audience to follow and remember: “The first story is about connecting the dots. … My second story is about love and loss. … My third story is about death.”

Jobs shares deeply personal stories about himself, his biological mother, his prospective adoptive parents, and his adoptive parents. He does a beautiful job discussing their choices without passing judgment on them. We detect no resentment, no bitterness. His tone is tender while being matter-of-fact.

“Windows just copied the Mac.”

This is one of the few times that Jobs uses humor in his address. He takes a small jab at Apple’s biggest competitor in the personal computing space. It’s a fairly benign zing, because it’s done humorously. Surely, even Bill Gates would chuckle a bit.

“I just turned 30, and then I got fired. … I was a very public failure.”

Jobs talks about his career setbacks with humility and candor. He goes on to explain how he learned, grew, and turned it around. With this story, he shows himself to be relatable and inspiring.

AI analysis of Steve Jobs’s commencement speech

Now let’s take a look at the analysis of Steve Jobs’s commencement speech from the free Yoodli AI speech coach, which provides insights in two categories: What could have gone better and What went well. Let’s start with the first category.

What could have gone better?

A quick look at the insights shows that he has one particular area of improvement: eye contact. He made eye contact with the audience only 29% of the time. When you watch the speech, you see that this is because he’s reading his speech from a podium, so he’s looking down most of the time. As powerful as the speech is, Jobs loses some impact by failing to make a stronger connection with his audience by looking them in the eye more often.

It’s easy to understand: You’ve chosen your words carefully, and you want to get them all out, in the right order. What are some options?

  • Use a teleprompter. As a comparison, Barack Obama’s 2020 Democratic National Convention speech also was scripted and read. However, he made eye contact with the audience 72% of the time because he used some form of teleprompter.
  • Memorize your speech. This is quite a bit of work, but it’s possible to memorize your speech to the degree where you aren’t completely dependent on your script.
  • Use notes instead of a script. With practice, you can get used to leaning on just an outline or some other prompting system that works well for you.

With experimentation, practice, and experience, you can find ways to improve the connection with your audience through eye contact. Practice for free with the Yoodli speech tool, and see your Eye Contact score go up over time!

What went well?

Eye contact is one element of delivery. Otherwise, Jobs does well in the delivery category. His pacing is relaxed, a bit faster than average. His pacing is also varied, which helps keep his audience engaged. Jobs makes good use of pauses, which demonstrates confidence and gives the audience time to take in what he’s saying.

Word choice

In its analysis of Steve Jobs’s commencement speech, the Yoodli AI speech coach provides some positive scores in the Word Choice category. Most helpful, though, are the insights it provides. Let’s see how he does with repetition, filler words, non-inclusive speech, top keywords, and weak words.

Repetition

We can quickly see where Jobs uses repetition. When you use this tool to practice your own speech, you can see at a glance whether you used repetition where you wanted to (for emphasis, etc.) and whether you used it excessively.

Filler words

Jobs reads his speech, which helps him minimize filler words. He says uh only three times. He rarely adds needless utterances to bridge his thoughts. Usually, we’re not aware when we use filler words, so Yoodli brings it to our attention — in the non-judgmental way that only AI can provide. (That always feels better.)

Non inclusiveness

The Stanford graduating class — Jobs’s audience — includes people of various socio-economic levels, religions, sexes, sexual orientations, ethnicities, etc. We can see from his Yoodli Non Inclusiveness score that he does well to keep people from feeling slighted or sidelined.

This tool also lets you know when you use profanity. You might use it when you don’t realize it, and this feedback helps you make sure your language choices fit your audience and the occasion.

Top keywords

According to this metric, Jobs talks a lot about life and college. That seems appropriate for a university commencement address! You can see how the Top Keywords insights help you figure out whether you’re on theme with your word choices.

Weak words

Jobs uses weak words 41 times. That might sound like a lot, but that accounts for only 2% of his speech, so that’s pretty good. His most common weak word is so, which is usually a meaningless bridge between sentences rather than a word that carries meaning and serves your audience.

If these insights were for a speech you were practicing, you might think about where you’re using “very” and “really” and then look for stronger words to use instead. Over time, you’d find yourself using fewer and fewer “throw away” words and more and more words that hit the nail on the head and add substance.

Wrapping up

As we look back on this immortal speech, we’re touched by the poignancy of the moments in which he talks about the cancer that finally took him. We’re inspired by the life he lived and the legacy he left.

It’s fair to say that the very existence of the technology we’ve just used in the analysis of Steve Jobs’s commencement speech is due in part to the innovative spirit that he contributed to the world. We can’t help but think he’d be pleased by the way technology is being harnessed to equip people along life’s way.

If you haven’t done so already, head over to Yoodli to start improving your communication skills with personalized and private feedback from our AI speech coach for free. You’ll be glad you did.