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August 01, 2006

Majora II


There were many critics of my posting called “As Good As Steve.” They sought to refute my contention that Majora is as good as Steve. The criticism misses the most important implication of her speech; or, perhaps more accurately, I did not adequately highlight the implication. But first, let’s set the record straight for the people who questioned my sanity.

First, “looking down at her notes.” No doubt there are times when she is looking down and reading her notes. However, I don’t think this issue is as pronounced as detractors think. In the scene where she dissects Al Gore, you can see that the stage is above the audience. Also, the camera is above her elevation. Hence, she would appear to be looking down at notes when she may in fact be making eye contact with the audience.

Second, “rushing.” She had an eighteen-minute limit. It’s true that she could have timed her presentation better, but this sort of time constraint for mere mortals is not something Steve ever faces.

Third, Steve has infinitely more resources and momentum than Majora. (“Steve Jobs” gets 17,000,000 hits in Google. “Majora Carter” gets 27,000. Incidentally, “Guy Kawasaki” gets 2,950,000, so I’m .176470588 of Steve...which sounds about right.)

  • Steve is the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Steve is also the largest shareholder of Disney via his Pixar position.

  • Steve has been a highly visible figure for twenty five years. He’s worth billions and makes millions every year. Many of us have heard him speak many times.

  • Every product manager of every product Steve demos has worked on her part of the demo for a month as if her career depended on it. And she’d be right.

  • Steve has hundreds of employees and billions of dollars of R & D creating the products that he demos for a few minutes.

  • In any given Steve audience, the room is filled with Macintosh fanatics. Worst case, if a member of the audience uses Windows, he probably wishes he had a Macintosh and probably does have an iPod. Absolutely worst case, everyone in every audience has heard of him.

  • I would bet that approximately twenty-five people help Steve with his keynotes including product managers, VPs, PR flacks, IT geeks, and CEOs of partners and vendors. He can specify the type of stool he sits on and the brand of bottled water that he’s drinking, and they will magically appear. (On the other hand, Madonna gets a new toilet for every concert.)

  • When Steve speaks, it’s “his” keynote. No conference manager has set a time limit. No one is signalling him to get off stage. No one’s not going to invite him back next year. And he has unlimited access to the stage for at least twenty-four hours to set up and rehearse.

Up to this point, there are many CEOs who have these sorts of advantages, and yet they aren’t a Steve Jobs any more than Dan Quayle is a John F. Kennedy. Thus, we must acknowledge that Steve is an enormously talented speaker even without these advantages. Clearly, if you take an enormously talented person with enormous momentum, then you get the one and only Steve Jobs.

Fourth, let’s examine Majora Carter. She does have a MacArthur fellowship, and that smokes, but how many MacArthur fellows are brand names? She has nowhere near the resources, momentum, or Fortune 500 podium. She probably can’t even get a Countryman E6i that’s black. :-)

Some inside facts about her presentation:

  • She rehearsed it thirty times.

  • As I mentioned, there was an eighteen minute time limit.

  • There was a big LED counter in the back of the room to show the time remaining.

  • There was no dry run on stage before her performance.

  • Her entourage is her fiance.

Despite all these differences, 24% of the poll takers (and I) think that she’s as good or better than Steve Jobs. The fact that anyone, much less 24% of the poll takers, would think she’s as good as Steve is remarkable.

Perhaps we should do Wages of Wins type of analysis (be sure to check out Malcolm Gladwell’s review of the book). If we adjust for factors like R & D budget, marketing budget, number of minions, we might have to conclude that Majora is better, not just as good as, Steve Jobs.

Now I ask you to ignore whether you think that she’s as good or better than Steve Jobs because this debate, while fun and spirited, is moot. The valuable lesson and key takeaway is this:

Her performance gives hope to the hopeful.

Not just her to “customers” in the Bronx. Not just to every woman warrior, black or white. Not just to every social activist. But to anyone who simply wants to be a great communicator because now “the rest of us” have a data point that proves that...

  • You don’t need to be a billionaire, knight, ex-VP of the US, or CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

  • You don’t need to be supported by billions of dollars of research and marketing and dozens of minions.

  • You don’t need to be white, male, and old.

But you do need a great cause and great passion, though. And these factors are under your control.


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There would be a very easy way to settle this -- have them switch places and _then_ see how effective they are as presenters. It goes without saying that the truly great ones will succeed in both roles.

Having only seen this one presentation from Majora, I just haven't seen enough from her to say how she stacks up against Jobs. I really enjoyed what she did, but the material was both close to her heart and based on personal experience. The audience was obviously feeding off her energy.

It's quite possible that she could blow my socks off with a second (unrelated) presentation. Given the overall effectiveness of this presentation (as well as her track record for success), I'd say that's not at all unlikely.. but show me.

In any given day the person who can down right make you care and send you on a quest over a topic that you probably didn't care so much about before is worth a standing ovation.

But let's not forget. I would never have watched her presentation without you mention of it Guy.

Thank you Guy for your inspiration. Thank you Majora for you honest passion!

André Hedetoft
Just created a game where you get to play with my real life over at http://www.andrehedetoft.com

Guy, while you make some valuable points about Steve being an army of hundreds and Majora one of 2, I think you're overstating her skill in the presentation. It was an hour-long presentation given in a third of the time: she sacrificed passion, pacing, and pausing (like my alliteration?) in order to meet a deadline. If she went in knowing that she had 18 minutes, the best course would be to create the most meaningful presentation she could for that 18 minutes. What was missing from the presentation was the judicious editing that would have allowed her to breathe more normally, to make eye contact with the audience (it's clearly not the camera angle), and to allow for greater inflection in her voice -- not to mention slower hand gestures and the freedom to move from her stance in front of her notes. (More appropriate content length, greater ability to memorize her content, and more opportunity for true storytelling.) Good, interesting topic, important even, but great? Not yet.

Guy, you are so right. Reminds me of Seth's "Is it the picture or the message ?" link (http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2006/03/is_it_the_pictu.html).

It's not the technology, it's the performance.
It's not the slickness, it's how much she moves you.
Majora is a force to be reckoned with.

Guy has jumped the shark indeed!

Respect for her accomplishments and ideas should not be confused with respect for her skills as a public speaker.

Her accomplishments and ideas are phenomenal, her speaking skills are not.

* The camera is at a high angle, so she might actually be looking at the audience
* She only had 18 minutes to finish
* CEO's have more resources and momentum

Retreating and coming up with a bunch of excuses for obvious and glaring weaknesses is no way to show respect and appreciation for her.

Being impressed by what she has already done (and likely will do) means giving credit where credit is due. Your blog entry should have praised the content of her presentation, her accomplishments, and her ideas--NOT her speaking skills.



Last time I checked, it was my blog. If I care to analyze her in order to help other people become better speakers, that's my call, right?


Majora is indeed knowledgable and passionate, and her presentation flows well. However, her speech is the aural analog of compressing 30 slides into 10 with 8-point font: she continuously gasps for breath, and her rushed phrasing often dilutes the impact of otherwise strong points.

There is much positive here, but this is no examplar of masterful communication.

Guy has jumped the shark.

Majora presented some challenging, groundbreaking ideas that I bet most of us had not heard of before. Why spend so much energy debating who is a better speaker? What if all these posts were about Majora's ideas, and our own ensuing ideas on her topic? Then we'd all really be making a difference.


I got you loud and clear last time and this time. And thanks for your further analysis today. Love the surprise (but relevant) mention of "Wages of Wins" type of analysis (and Malcolm Gladwell’s review of the book).

The wonderful choice of the previous title “As Good As Steve.” (for attention grabbing purpose) also becomes the reason that you are still writing on the same topic again (Majora II). But then it may have been what you planned or it can be simply viewed as a nice unintended consequence. When people are arguing, they are thinking. Which is why I think Paul Haggis' Crash is such a good movie.

By the way, lets hope, this won't become the like Star War series where we have six parts. "Majoria VI" becomes quite challenging for the Roman numerally challenged type like me. :)

My Favourite new Canadian TV show starts taping today:

Mr. Guy Kawasaki,

I've been aware of you for less than 24 hours.
I was surfing for insights on how to create a meaningful blog.

Thank God my clicking led to the Majora post. The tease of comparing her to Jobs worked on me. I've since informed many of my friends of this remarkable woman (and, of course, the person who pulled my coat to her). To that, I say thanks.

As to Majora Carter's time-constrainted presentation; excellent! I was able to understand her and keep up with her.

The greater good is that folks know a little more about what is happening in the South Bronx.

I've heard both speak. Steve is a visionary and motivating. Majora is changing her world in a different way. For my money (as I type away on my Mac) - Majora's vision is more compelling and valuable. I do a fair amount of public speaking - If I can choose either person to emulate - Majora wins. BUT - Jobs isn't 1/2 bad...

I'm pretty sure if she was a white guy you wouldn't be pulling down so much heat. People are afraid of individuals who defy their prejudice of what a member of that group should be. Sad but true...

The idea that you have to compair Majora to Steve Jobs is pathetic. Why can't you just laud her on her own merits? What is with your need to use her to belittle or diminish Steve Jobs?

Are you still smarting about being fired? Get over it.

Well stated, Guy, very well stated. It's incredible how having passion and being able to convey it effectively makes all the difference in the world between a good speech and a great speech that truly moves people.

"one doesn't have to be rich, famous, white, and male to be a great speaker and to make meaning."

Thanks for clearing that up.

Hi GK,

Are you going to the WWDC 2006? I heard Steve Job will introduce many new products this year. If you are attending this event, can you do a coverage topic on this event. I would like to know what the new microsoft is introducing this year ( Apple is the new Microsoft).

I watched and saw her speech on the TED video, I was moved, I email here and her organization asking how I can get involved. Majora has passion, integrity, charisma, if she told me to jump off a cliff I would jump. As far as Steve Jobs is concerened I haven't even bought a Mac and not even considering buying an iPOD

Uhh OK Guy, consider my post corrected with the proper title and re-submitted.

Nice sidestep, you missed your true calling. Always plenty of work for more spin doctors.


I just watched the presentation and felt it was delivered way, way, way too quickly. As you start to absorb one sentence Majora is already on to the next. I also detected a bit of nervousness in her (moving back and forth between feet and swallowing) and this may have been why the speech was rushed a bit. It's so important for speakers to remember to pause... this draws attention to you and lets your thought sink into the audience.

I do think Majora is a diamond in the rough and look forward to hearing her speak in the future.

I was in large agreement with your first post on Majora and I wrote in my comment that the passion and her story outweighed any presentation skill deficiencies.

That said, I thought some of the critics made interesting points. So I have to ask why you now chose to link from the word "critic" to Seth's old piece (one with which again I largely agree though I would argue that Gandhi was the ultimate critic albeit a positive one)? Are you suggesting that criticism of your original position is somehow a bad thing?

I have no time for the ranting nastiness or simple bigotry that sometimes passes for blog comments, but I think valid criticism is entirely justifiable and adds to the debate. By valid criticism I mean cogently argued criticism, not criticism with which the criticised agrees. After all, every change and every evolution in a process, in a product's development or in pretty much anything is the result of a criticism (implicit or explicit).

Maybe I'm reading too much into the hyperlink but it struck me as odd and I'd be interested in your reasoning.



I put in this link for several reasons:

- I happened to be reading Seth's new book and read this piece for the first time. I loved it and filed it away in my brain to use some time. Little did I realize I could use it the next day.

- It's a typical "Guy thing" to confront even my own readers. Could affect links and popularity, though. :-)

- There is a valid point lurking in there. That is, that critics don't get statues built in their honor, so rather than focusing on how Guy is wrong and Majora isn't perfect, what one should take away from these two postings is tips about how to communicate meaning and that one doesn't have to be rich, famous, white, and male to be a great speaker and to make meaning.



I was in the audience at TED when Majora gave her talk. I've never been in a similar situation when Steve's given one of his, but I'll tell you she was great, and the reaction was electric. Her enthusiasm and commitment are infectious.

And, as a boy from The Bronx, she's doing wonderful work reclaiming our home "town."

I've never almost cried listening to a Stevenote. I don't know if Steve's capable of eliciting any emotion from his audience other than excitement (and anger on the rare occasion -- .mac isn't free anymore).

Majora was great. I'd love to have her advocating for whatever cause I'm involved with.

There are lots of people who play in cover-bands who sound just like the original, but saying they're just as good isn't a fair comparrison.

Momentum is a huge factor. Factoring it out would change the question to, "Is Majora as good as an unfamous Steve Jobs?"

I can't really answer that because I've never experienced a non-famous Steve Jobs. It's only fair to compare people as who they are, not who they might have been.

Check out Steve's Stanford graduate speech, it's great.

Is Gregg Maddux "as good as" Barry Bonds when it comes to baseball players? One is a pitcher and one is slugger?

If I may chime in... this debate is almost apples to oranges which is why all the "technical debate" baffles me slightly. Everyone seems to be hung up on the "as good as" statement. Three little words.

What about the overall context here? Many of us are much younger than Guy Kawasaki (sorry Guy). Unlike us he not only knows Steve, but has worked with him one on one.

That said, he probably offers insights on public speaking that everyone should slow down for a moment and think about at a higher level. Steve Jobs just happens to be an easy comparison because of his current public image and that Guy knows him personally.

This reminds me of a line from the movie "Cobb" (Tommy Lee Jones as Ty Cobb). An entertainer asks him, at an older age, if he thought he could still hit with an .800 batting average today? His answer was simply, "No". The entertainer asked him why? His response,"Because I'm 70 fucking years old you asshole".

I am not sure why there is a debate between who is better: Steve Jobs and Majora. Her speech was brilliant, she is passionate and I am so glad I read your blog daily. Thanks Guy. It reminds every one of us that each one of us can make a difference.

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