How Jobs Should Open His Keynote


Apple’s (s aapl) Worldwide Developers Conference starts tomorrow with an opening keynote from Steve Jobs (for which we’ll have complete live coverage of). The popular music will die down, Jobs will enter from the left side of the stage (stage right, right? I never understood that), and he’ll start with a few stats about how Apple is doing in some area of its business. He’ll likely talk about how WWDC sold out in record time, how many attendees there are, how many sessions, and a big thank you to everyone for making the conference and Apple a success.

But Jobs has an opportunity to open his keynote, or at least the segment where he rolls out the new iPhone hardware, with one of the best lines he could deliver.

“So, this developer walks into a bar…”

Of course, the line refers to the Apple engineer who was testing a prototype of the next-generation iPhone when he lost it or it was stolen, only to land in the hands of Brian Lam and Gizmodo. But it’s so much more than that. The line is a variant of one of the most-used first lines of a joke ever. It is instantly recognizable as such. Humor should only be used in presentations when you know you’re going to get a laugh, or when your expectations for a laugh are infinitesimally low. This line is certain to draw a good laugh.

The line is also an opportunity to be self-deprecating. Jobs was asked about the incident at the D8 conference last week, and while conversational, he took a pretty hard line, referring to Gizmodo as guilty of extortion. That’s a big, bad word, and it may or may not be true. Jobs should let his legal team handle the heavy lifting on this one, and delivering this line is an easy way to hand it off.

Delivered correctly, it could also actually help to take some heat off of the engineer in question. See, that guy is just like the thousands attending WWDC. He’s one of them. And nothing could make a stronger statement to developers than to give this guy a break in such a public way.

Lastly, this is a tech conference. Developers will be walking into bars in droves over the next few evenings. So Jobs would be speaking directly to his audience in a very personal, timely way. Oh, and I don’t think I’d follow it with anything. Deliver the line, offer up a pregnant pause, then move on to topic du jour. It is so obvious and works on so many levels that it doesn’t need to be propped up with any further comment.

Come on, Steve. Let us have it.

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