Steve Jobs transformed presentations into an art form and nowhere is his presentation formula followed as closely as it is at Apple. Chief executive Tim Cook and the other executives who take the stage for this Wednesday's product launch will follow the Steve Jobs formula--to the letter.
Although it's rumored that Apple will release new iPhones on Wednesday, September 12, few people really know what Apple has up its sleeve. But we can confidently predict how they'll launch it. It's the same template Apple has used for years--because it works.
1. Rehearse relentlessly
The Apple executives and partners who take the stage will have rehearsed for many hours over many weeks. Steve Jobs practiced relentlessly. Jobs rehearsed the entire 90-minute iPhone presentation over and over for five straight days. Interestingly, there were glitches in every practice, but they were worked out by the time of the actual event. That's the point of practicing every demo, every slide, every sentence of the presentation. It gives you time to work out the kinks and, if a glitch occurs during the real event, it gives you an extra boost of confidence.
In the book, Becoming Steve Jobs, Bill Gates said, "It was just amazing to see how precisely he would rehearse . . . he's even a bit nervous because it's a big performance. But then he's on, and quite an amazing thing." Rehearsals are part of what make a performance amazing.
2. Build in "Wow" Moments
A lot of thought goes in to what I call the "wow moment." It's the one moment that people will be blogging about and talking about long after the presentation is over. Every Steve Jobs keynote had one, and recent Apple presentations have been building them in, too.
In 1984, with a magician's flair for the dramatic, Jobs pulled the original Macintosh from a black canvas bag sitting on a table in the middle of a darkened stage. In 2008, he introduced "The world's thinnest notebook" by pulling it of a large envelope. And, of course, it's hard to forget Jobs pulling an iPod from his jeans to show how 1,000 songs fits in a pocket.
These emotionally-charged events often rely on props, intriguing slides, or a surprise. The surprise is the now famous "one more thing" that Jobs would often introduce. There's even a Wiki page devoted to all of the surprise announcements dating back to 1998. The formula has remained the same. In 2017, Tim Cook saved the big reveal--the iPhone X--for his surprise. He even introduced it with the line, "We do have one more thing..."
Why does surprise work? Recently, I had a conversation with a neuroscientist who is paid by major companies to measure audience engagement. He hooks people up to an EEG machine to study their brains while they're watching television ads or movie trailers. He told me that the brain finds surprises to be irresistible. Catch your audience off-guard. That's the Apple way.
3. Create a short, repeatable headline.
This is one of my favorite Apple tactics. I recommend it to everyone. The Apple announcement will begin promptly at 10:00 am pacific. It will last about 90 minutes to 2 hours. As soon as it ends (and not a minute sooner), check the Apple.com website. You will see the new products unveiled with photos, prices, descriptions and videos. They will be accompanied by one sentence that you'll have heard in the keynote. I call it the "headline." The headline is always short (it can fit in a Twitter post of under 140 characters), it positions the product in the category, and it's easily repeatable or shareable.
For example, in 2007, Steve Jobs used the phrase "reinvent the phone" no fewer than five times in his 90-minute presentation to introduce the first iPhone. The headline in the official Apple press release read--you got it--"Apple Reinvents the Phone." You can expect to see the same strategy on Wednesday, September 12. It might not be a revolutionary as reinventing the phone--after all, you can only reinvent a product so many times--but each product will have a short, catchy description that's consistent across all of Apple's marketing platforms: in store, in the keynote, on the website, and in its advertising.
These are the big three parts of the formula. There are others, too. You will not find bullet points on any Apple slide. You will see more photos than text on the slides. Tim Cook will share the stage with several executives, employees and partners. They will play at least one video or two videos. Videos provide emotional, multimedia breaks in the keynote.
Above all, Apple thinks of the product launch as a performance. A great performance has a cast, props, intriguing visuals, and surprises. Watch for a great performance.