The man behind Steve Jobs keynotes for 20 years

Until now, we had taken Steve Jobs’ keynotes for granted . An exhibition of new products with an excellent narration, without stopping to think about how they were produced. Recently, a conversation between two former Steve Jobs employees, collected in 2018 on the Cake website, has come to light again .

In it we can read the story of Wayne Goodrich, the producer behind the creation of all the keynotes that left us speechless . Goodrich worked closely with Jobs for 20 years, from NeXT, Pixar and even Apple. And here he tells us curiosities, intimacies and keys to the success of these presentations.

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Chris MacAskill is the owner of Cake, but was also responsible for developer relations at NeXT. That’s when he met Wayne Goodrich, with whom he has this conversation . One of the most interesting episodes happened on the occasion of a promotional video at the presentation of the original iMac in 1998:

Steph Adams and I were trying to get [the color iMacs] off-screen by lifting them up from their pedestal. A week before the event we were still trying to sync them up and make the movement smooth. This was before computer controlled machinery was available.

When they brought this up to Jobs, he suggested talking to the Cirque du Soleil team. They didn’t have enough time to do it, so they went on with the crank system. When you looked closely “it was really bad” , but from the audience it went unnoticed. No one noticed. When it was all over, Jobs told them that he was “disappointed” and that at any other time he would have fired them. By the next keynote, they already had the electronics with such precision that even “Cirque du Soleil wasn’t up to it.”


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Asked if there were scripts in his keynotes, Goodrich is blunt: “that’s what most executives don’t understand, we never write a script.” His method was to polish the presentation slides and rehearse tirelessly. For Jobs, it was like “introducing your children to the world.” Thanks to his empathy, emotion, charisma and precision, he was able to connect with the audience without the need for a script.

The original iPad almost had a double 30-pin connector, which “spoiled” the photos and finally disappeared

When he was working on the keynote for the original iPad, several of the team found it very difficult to make the beauty shots of the tablet. At that time, the model had two 30-pin connectors , one of them on the side. Goodrich decided to photoshop the image, removing the port that spoiled the perfect photo . Jobs was satisfied with it, until he realized that the connector was missing.


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Later, the iPad was introduced and marketed with a single 30-pin connector. We do not know if the influence of this producer or because Jobs himself was not convinced in advance and the photo ended up forcing the decision.

One month to prepare the original iPhone rotation demo

Goodrich says that some keynotes were planned more than three months in advance. Remember the case of the original iPhone, where the screen rotation “trick” took a single engineer a month to develop . Jobs knew that this effect had to be achieved in order for the audience to gape:

So we show a graph of the iPhone on the slide, projecting Steve’s iPhone demo screen in the same position on the graph. The trick was that when steve rotated the iPhone to landscape mode, […] he also had to rotate the graphic of the iPhone with the inserted video in sync.

Goodrich estimates that the marketing effect created through this presentation equaled $ 1 billion in public relations investment. In other words, a brutal marketing campaign concentrated in a segment of just 45 minutes.

A review of layoffs and the mythology around Jobs

One of the highlights is the “management” they make of the layoffs under Steve Jobs .

When NeXT stopped making hardware, I was fired. A week later Steve called me and started saying “okay Wayne we need to …” I interrupted and said “what do you mean we need? You fired me.” He said “Oh”, and hung up.

But that was not the end of the relationship, since eight months later, his brother who was still working at NeXT asked him to call Jobs. As a result, he began working on major Pixar and Apple presentations for nearly two decades. On another occasion, years later, Jobs sent him home one night after a long day to think about how to avoid firing him the next day. Goodrich went home and drew up “about 15 or 16 drafts of an email to explain everything.” After turning it over, he simply said:

Steve, you know how I feel, but you are the boss. Let me know tomorrow if I’m fired or not.

The next day the subject was not mentioned at all . He claims that there is a mythology around him that comes from those who could not resist around him. Many people who believed they did a good job, presented it with the intention of showing off and receiving good words from Jobs. But if he realized their intentions, he tore them apart.


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In Goodrich’s words, Jobs was usually right because those people hadn’t done a good job. “They are the ones who got tired and said all those things later because they couldn’t admit that they hadn’t managed to measure up.” The exchange between the two former Steve Jobs employees is most interesting . It is highly recommended to take a look at it, because it has more details of interest.


by Abdullah Sam
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