Keynote Preparations

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Quality is not an act, it is a habit.


This article deals with the huge amount of work Steve Jobs put into his keynotes. Additionally, it gives an impression about the level of preparation a Steve Jobs’ keynote receives; thus, it also serves as a boundary for speculations for the analyses of his speeches.
Jobs is widely known for his great keynotes; what is less known is how much time he spends to make them look great and effortless. As we know from Cicero to Churchill, making an effortless and spontaneous speech was always a great deal of work.

Content and Material Selection

Steve Jobs prepares keynotes weeks in advance; he reviews all products and technologies that might be included. He consults with the experts responsible for presented products to fine-tune the essential information.
Another important part of the preparation is the collection of material that should be used during the demos of the products, like movies, photos, and music. As a former Apple employee notes:

Steve wanted material that looked great, yet was possible for an average person to achieve. […] My team picked the best and confidently presented them to Steve. […] [H]e hated most of them. We repeated that process several times. […] but I had to admit that the material we ended up with was much better than what we had begun with.

    –Mike Evangelist: Behind the magic curtain (The Guardian)

Deutschman brings a story about Jobs’ obsession with creating a presentation back in 1988. Every detail was taken into account, e.g., which out of numerous green tones the color of the slide should have. One employee notes that the text of every slide was sophisticatedly composed like a poem. Deutschman also mentions that Jobs learned certain phrases in order to bring them at the right moment. Both aspects can be seen in his keynotes, when his speech appears synchronizing with the slogans on the shown slides.


During rehearsal Steve Jobs takes every detail in account. This might be a remote control or the sound of iPod headphones plugging in and out. Everything has to be great. “Steve usually rehearses on the two days before a keynote. On the first day he works on the segments he feels need the most attention. The product managers and engineering managers for each new product are in the room, waiting for their turn.” Behind the magic curtain (Guardian) To put it simply, there are only a few things nearly as spontaneous in a Steve Jobs keynote as it might appear.