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Reverse engineering experience of Apple keynote’s storytelling


Posted on Tuesday, March 22nd 2016

How to visualize data hidden behind a story.



Yesterday, Tim Cook, Apple CEO, gave a keynote about new products and services launched by Apple. Not a big deal about innovation, but a great opportunity to evaluate storytelling methods used by the successor of Steve Jobs, known as one of the best storytellers in IT.

The idea was to show on a Freytag pyramid, the main steps of Tim Cook’s story. And try to understand, visually, how intensity is dispatched during this one hour keynote.

For that, I cut the keynote in steps, and gave each a subjective level of intensity. Not difficult to do, each step in Apple keynotes is identified, often by someone coming on stage for a demonstration or an explanation.
I added a variable for each step: talk or announcement. Talks are… talks… we have done this, we have done that, with this amazing results… but nothing new… Announcements are when a new product or service is revealed during this step. Talks are mainly here to fill the space, and create suspense before the main product launches, which always come in the second part of the show.

As you can see on this graph (made with Tableau Software), the pyramid of yesterday keynote is almost perfect. The climax have been reached exactly at 10:31am, at the exact middle of the presentation.
Tim Cook began with intensity through a non-anticipated short talk about the FBI case.
First half of the presentation was facts and figures about Apple Watch, Apple TV, Healthkit, Sustainability, and just one new software, CareKit. People were not here for that.
At the middle of the presentation, after the Apple TV talk, the show switched to the announcement phase: with the launch of iPhone SE, iOS 9.3 and the small iPad Pro. We were in the resolution phase of this journey.
Even the end was perfect. Tim Cook summarized, on stage, the launches of the day, in a 2’ boring talk. Just before his “one more thing”! He explained that it would probably be the last keynote in this conference center… as the new Apple Headquarter would be ready next year! Like in a perfect TV show, we are already waiting for the new season!

Interesting experience to listen, analyze, and visualize a story and reverse engineer it to highlight how it have been built. Thanks to Apple for giving me such great examples for my students :-)
This talk will surely become a key exercise of my Data Storytelling Masterclass!

Philippe NIEUWBOURG
I am an independent industry analyst, and author, with 20 years experience specializing in business... Know more about this author

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