Mac 1984: Steve Jobs Revolutionizes The Art Of Corporate Storytelling

Jan 24 2014, 9:32am CST | by

On January 24, 1984, PowerPoint had yet to be invented. Apple’s presentation tool and Steve Jobssoftware of choice—Keynote—also hadn’t entered the market. Although Steve Jobs didn’t have the benefit of slides that would later define his presentation style, his introduction of the Macintosh is still considered one of the greatest product launches in business history. How did he do it? Jobs went back to the basics of storytelling: heroes, villains, and characters.

When Steve Jobs took the stage at Apple shareholders meeting at the Flint Center in Cupertino near the Apple campus, he was dressed in a double-breasted jacket and bow tie. He kicked off the presentation with a quote by his favorite musician, Bob Dylan: “The loser now will be later to win, for the times they are a changin’.” Right out of the gate the audience of more than 2,000 employees, shareholders, board members, and reporters knew they were in store for something wildly different than the standard, dry, corporate update.

Introduce the Villain. Every great story has a hero and a villain. A presentation should be no different. Steve Jobs introduced an enemy that the audience could hate; an antagonist who must meet its demise for civilization to flourish. In the 1984 show, IBM—conveniently nicknamed “Big Blue”—would play the role of the villain.

Speaking at a slow pace, in a low-pitched and dramatic voice, Steve Jobs began: “It is 1958. IBM passes up the chance to buy a fledgling company that has just invented a new technology, called Xerography. Two years later Xerox is born and IBM has been kicking itself ever since. It is 10 years later, the late 60s. Digital Equipment and others invent the mini computer. IBM dismisses the mini computer as too small to do serious computing and unimportant to their business. DEC grows to become a multi hundred million dollar corporation before IBM finally enters the mini computer market.”

Jobs’ voice grew louder, more dramatic. “It is now ten years later. The late 70s. In 1977, Apple, a young fledgling company on the west coast invents the Apple II, the first personal computer as we know it today. IBM dismisses the personal computer as too small to do serious computing and unimportant to their business.” At this point Jobs has the audience riveted. They are laughing as he builds up the dramatic tension. After walking the audience through a brief history of IBM’s entry into the personal computer market, Jobs said, “It is now 1984. It appears IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money. Dealers, originally welcoming IBM with open arms, now fear an IBM dominated and controlled future. They are increasingly turning back to Apple as the only force that can ensure their future freedom! IBM is aiming its guns to the last obstacle to industry control—Apple. Will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry? The entire information age? Was George Orwell right?”

Jobs’ introduction sounded less like a product launch and more like a rallying cry for war. People in the audience were audibly shouting “No! No!” An audience wants something to believe in, a person or movement they can rally around. They want a hero. But a hero, by definition, needs a villain to fight. The IBM character became the villain. In the Steve Jobs narrative, IBM wasn’t simply a threat to Apple. Jobs had created a classic David and Goliath battle with nothing less than the future of humanity at stake.

The next step was to further incite the audience. Jobs played the famous Ridley Scott television ad with Big Blue as a metaphor for Orwell’s Big Brother. As an announcer read the last words of the ad—“On January 24th, you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like 1984”—the audience was going wild, hollering and cheering.

Reveal the conquering hero. The third and final step of the show was to introduce the conquering hero—Macintosh. Jobs said, “You’ve just seen pictures of Macintosh. Now I’d like to show you Macintosh in person. All of the images you are about to see on the large screen are being generated by what’s in that bag.” Jobs pointed to a canvas bag on a table in the middle of the stage. He slowly walked to the table, and pulled the nearly 17-pound machine from inside the bag. He plugged it in and, with a dramatic flourish, slowly pulled a floppy disk from his jacket pocket, inserted it into the computer, and stood aside. As the lights darkened, the theme from Chariots of Fire began to play and a series of images filled the screen (images created with MacWrite and MacPaint).

Cue the showstopper. As the music faded, Jobs had one more showstopper planned. He said, “Now, we’ve done a lot of talking about Macintosh recently, but today for the first time ever, I’d like to let Macintosh speak for itself.” On cue, Macintosh spoke in a digitized voice using a speech-generating program that had been built for the Apple II:

Hello, I am Macintosh. It sure is great to get out of that bag. Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking, I’d like to share with you a maxim I thought of the first time I met an IBM mainframe: Never trust a computer you can’t lift. Obviously, I can talk right now, but I’d like to sit back and listen. So, it is with considerable pride that I introduce a man who has been like a father to me: Steve Jobs.

Letting Macintosh speak for itself was one of the most brilliant moments I’ve ever seen in a business presentation. Jobs had created what neuroscientists call an “emotionally charged event.” I simply call it a wow moment, the moment in a presentation when jaws drop to the floor—the moment everyone talks about the next day.

Former Mac evangelist Guy Kawasaki best captures the feeling Apple employees had in the auditorium that day: “Steve’s introduction of Macintosh in 1984 was a magical moment. The earth shifted on its axis a little that day. Steve took it out of its bag, and the Macintosh ‘talked’ for itself. For many of us who had not had children yet, it was the closest thing to having a baby.”

The Mac revolutionized the personal computer for the masses. It also revolutionized the art of business presentations and turned the product launch into corporate theater.

Carmine Gallo is the communication coach for the world’s most admired brands. He is a popular keynote speaker and author of several books including his new book, Talk Like TED, which reveals the 9 public-speaking secrets of the world’s top minds. Sign up for Carmine’s newsletter and follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

Source: Forbes Apple

 
 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

Apple and GT Part Ways
Apple and GT Part Ways
The Cupertino company has parted ways with their sapphire provider
 
 
Apple Turns To Crowdsourcing For Maps
Apple Turns To Crowdsourcing For Maps
The company is working hard to improve their Maps App
 
 
Apple’s Mac Sales Are Back
Apple’s Mac Sales Are Back
Their recent earnings show that computers are coming back
 
 
Cook Talks to the Chinese Authority on the Security of User Data on iCloud
Cook Talks to the Chinese Authority on the Security of User Data on iCloud
The Apple CEO has a conversation with the high Chinese officials regarding the iCloud user data security threat
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

Second MERS case reported in Qatar
Doha, Oct 23 (IANS) A 43-year-old man in Qatar has tested positive for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in the second confirmed case of the deadly virus in 10 days, media reported Thursday. The patient had...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Two people die in Pakistan bomb blast
Islamabad, Oct 23 (IANS) At least two people were killed and 12 others injured in an explosion that took place in Pakistan's Balochistan province Thursday, media reported. The bomb was planted on a motorcycle, Dawn...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Trott extends contract with Warwickshire till 2017
London, Oct 23 (IANS) England batsman Jonathan Trott, whose mental issues led to his abrupt departure from last winter's Ashes tour, has confirmed his successful comeback to competitive cricket by signing a new three-...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Srikanth, Kashyap big movers in BWF rankings
Kuala Lumpur, Oct 23 (IANS) Indian men shuttlers Kidambi Srikanth and Parupalli Kashyap jumped seven places each in the latest Badminton World Federation (BWF) rankings released Thursday while Olympic bronze medallist...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Alvin Stardust dead
London, Oct 23 (IANS) English singer Alvin Stardust died after a short illness. He was 72. Stardust's manager confirmed the news about his demise Thursday, reports mirror.co.uk. He was recently diagnosed with...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Indian man reunited with family after 40 years
Dubai, Oct 23 (IANS) An Indian man, who had disappeared from his hometown in Kerala nearly 40 years ago, has been found by his family at a hospital in Dubai in the UAE, a newspaper report said. Now in his 60s, Abdulla...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Srikanth, Kashyap, Saina rise in world rankings
Kala Lumpur, Oct 23 (IANS) Indian men shuttlers Kidambi Srikanth and Parupalli Kashyap jumped seven places each in the latest released Badminton World Federation (BWF) rankings Thursday while Olympic bronze medallist...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Flintoff signs for Big Bash side Brisbane Heat
Brisbane, Oct 23 (IANS) Former England captain and all-rounder Andrew Flintoff, who retired from international cricket in 2009, Wednesday confirmed that he will play for Brisbane Heat in the Big Bash League (BBL) this...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
OPEC daily basket price falls again
Vienna, Oct 23 (IANS/WAM) The basket of 12 crude oils of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) closed at $81.94 a barrel Wednesday compared to $82.09 Tuesday, the OPEC Secretariat said. The new OPEC...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Lopez to sign multi-million dollar deal?
Los Angeles, Oct 23 (IANS) Singer-actress Jennifer Lopez is reportedly in the final stages of securing a multi-million dollar deal to perform in Las Vegas. The 45-year-old is being offered $350,000 per show at The...
Read more on Celebrity Balla