Steve Jobs, Apple and being an expert

I tripped across this photo of Steve Jobs’ notes for the iPhone launch, via Metafilter today. Even the head of Apple Computers needed notes to navigate the iPhone. The expert needed help.

And that’s okay. Speaking notes are pretty common, actually. When I was in university, I had a job writing speaking notes for the Minister of Citizenship & Immigration Canada. One guy in our office was his full time speech writer and the rest of the staff handled public and media relations. You can bet that the head of a government department  has a huge amount of support behind them, even when they’re positioned as an expert.

Steve Jobs, one of the foremost visionaries of our time, had support too. It’s easy for anyone to lose track of their timing, words or flow while speaking. But the folks at Apple made sure that he had a strong safety net by putting together a spiral-bound notebook that guided Jobs through the iPhone launch.

Sadly, Steve Jobs is gone now. But it’s important to know that even an expert like Steve Jobs needed a little planning to be an expert. It’s easy for any of us to think that experts, even geniuses, just wing things all the time. (Or even that they might get by with some dog-eared notes.)

But being an expert just takes some planning. If you prepare before you speak, write, meet or otherwise "put yourself out there", you’ll sound a lot better. Heck, even when I get a call from the media, I always ask if I can call them back in a few minutes. I quickly think through what my main points are, review any relevant media stories or websites, and jot down some good ideas. I’ve been known to do this in the space of a few minutes, when it’s a prominent outfit such as Entrepreneur or CBC on the line, although I usually like do do a little more preparation.

So, if you’re reading this and thinking becoming an expert is beyond you, remember that it just takes a little preparation and a little risk taking. Putting yourself out there – even if you’re just publishing a PowerPoint, writing for your blog, speaking on a panel at your trade association or sending out a newsletter – helps define you as an expert. And doing it well will go a long way, so do your best to prepare.

What steps are you taking to bolster your expert status?