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Steve Jobs was a legendary figure, both at Apple and in the broader tech industry. So too were the keynote addresses and product launch announcements that he gave. The so-called “Stevenotes,” as some people call them, were and still are a masterclass in giving speeches. Looking back, it’s interesting to analyze what made those Stevenotes so fascinating and entertaining to watch.
First off, there’s Jobs’ natural charisma. It’s hard to argue with the fact that the late Apple cofounder and CEO had a magnetism and a true passion for innovation that isn’t seen very often.
Part of that was the existing myth of the iconic Apple cofounder. But Jobs himself was also a master of influence and speech.
He was also funny and typically incorporated humor into his speeches. That’s always a great way to win over an audience if one can pull it off correctly.
You could give a Jobs script to just about anyone else, but there’s a good chance that they wouldn’t be able to pull it off quite like Jobs himself did.
Then, there’s the format. Basically all of Jobs’ keynotes followed a simple formula.
- First, there’s the setup. Jobs built up anticipation for the product announcement. While the setups weren’t long, they were impactful.
- A twist. Novelty is addictive. Just consider the famous “one more thing” or the famous surprise that the iPhone was three devices in one.
- The reveal. This is when Jobs would actually get into the heart of why Apple’s next big product was important. As we’ll see later, this oftentimes incorporates some type of comparison to rival devices — something that’s missing from current Apple keynotes.
There isn’t anything too fancy about the way Jobs set up his keynote addresses. But, again, the way he delivered them helped them hit home.
Eagle-eyed Apple watchers may notice something else that Jobs did that has been curiously missing from today’s Apple keynote addresses. Comparison.
For most of the major product reveals, like iPods, MacBook Airs and the iPhone, Jobs compared the Apple device to whatever was currently on the market.
As you might expect, the Apple CEO always positioned the company’s product as the best one available.
That’s something that some people may miss about Cook-era speeches. These days, Apple keynotes don’t ever really mention the company’s competitors. Instead, new products are more often than not compared to Apple’s last generation.
This makes them feel somewhat incremental, instead of a groundbreaking device that doesn’t have an equal on the market.
Comparison is something that most of Apple’s rivals currently do. And more often than not, those rivals compare their new products to Apple’s. It’s kind of a one-way volley, since Apple doesn’t really “fire back.”
Apple has undoubtedly continued to grow and innovate even after Jobs’ death in 2011. With Tim Cook at the helm, Apple became the world’s largest publicly traded company.
And yet, Apple’s current keynotes lack the punch that Stevenotes did. Which makes sense, since anyone other than Steve Jobs probably would just end up giving a poor imitation of the Stevenote.
While it’s unlikely that Apple will ever have a presenter quite as charismatic and successful again, Apple and Apple fans still have Jobs’ keynotes to look back on.