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When CEOs take the stage, they follow Jobs's script

Lex Friedman | Sept. 26, 2011
Thursday's f8 keynote began with comedian Andy Samberg doing an imitation of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Thursday's f8 keynote began with comedian Andy Samberg doing an imitation of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. But if you followed the subsequent announcements of new features to Facebook's social messaging site, you might have gotten the feeling that Zuckerberg was doing an impersonation of his own--his presentation seemed like an imitation of one of Steve Jobs's keynotes.

Jobs's presentation skills are legendary, even beyond the world of technology, so it's understandable why Zuckerberg's f8 keynote Thursday seemed to hew very closely to the Steve Jobs School of Public Speaking (though moreso in design than in execution). It's also understandable that, with Jobs leaving his CEO post at Apple, observers are eager to see how his successor Tim Cook handles his first media event in charge of the company. Will he also attempt to emulate Jobs's presenational style? And would it be a good idea if he does?

Dissecting a Steve Jobs keynote

Before we can answer that question, we should examine what it is that makes a Steve Jobs keynote special. Most of the presentations and media events that Jobs led during his terms as Apple's CEO stuck to a consistent formula: He freely roamed the stage with a wireless microphone, a massive screen behind him displaying simple slides or live demonstrations of what he was describing. He would laud the world-changing amazingness of the products he unveiled, thank and acknowledge the teams responsible, and bring out various folks--from elsewhere in the company, or from Apple partners--to elaborate on certain key points. Jobs would often then show a couple videos to add further color to his announcements.

Oh, and he'd often inject a little humor into the proceedings, too. The 1999 Macworld Expo keynote began with Noah Wyle repeating his Pirates of Silicon Valley performance as Steve Jobs before the real McCoy shooed him off the stage. Similarly, at WWDC 2007, celebrity (and PC in the "Hello I'm a Mac" ad campaign) John Hodgman appeared on the video screen, proclaiming himself to be Steve Jobs, and announcing that he was quitting as Apple's CEO.

How did Zuckerberg's keynote at the f8 conference go earlier this week? There was Samberg's aforementioned appearance as a faux Facebook CEO. After a few hammy minutes, the two 'bergs met on stage, and Zuckerberg launched into his presentation proper. A giant screen behind him showed simple slides and live demos as he freely roamed the stage; he made frequent reference to the greatness and game-changing impact of the features he unveiled; he repeatedly thanked all the individuals and companies responsible; he showed a few videos; he trotted out guests like the CEO of Spotify; and eventually he handed the reigns to a few of his deputies, like CTO Bret Taylor.


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