Five Lessons from the Apple Event

cecil dormanAll Stories, Event Production

Like many thousands of people, I logged on for the Apple Event on September 15th.  However, I was not watching to see what the newest Apple technologies were going to be – I wanted to see how they would produce their virtual event.

The Apple Event was everything I hoped it would be.  Polished, sophisticated, entertaining, and full of moments that were meant to delight their audience.  Really beautiful.  Of course, not all of our clients can afford to hire a movie studio to produce their virtual events, but that doesn’t mean we cannot learn from them. Many of the techniques they used can be applied in simpler (less expensive) terms with your audiences.  And the best part is that they will be equally effective, as your attendees have completely different expectations about your event.  Your bar is probably set lower and all you need to do is exceed your audience’s expectations to be successful.

Here are some of the highlights I walked away from the event with:

  1. They Started Precisely on Time
    Sounds simple and obvious, but many clients miss this one. Both in live events and in virtual.  Starting on-time shows your respect for your audience’s time.  It tells them they can count on you to hold up your end of the bargain.
  2. The Camera Work was Intriguing
    When we talk about camera and shots, the number 1 priority is clean, well-lit images. No one is surprised when a video conference app shows poorly lit or lower resolution images, but for your virtual event, they need to look good.  That is step one. Step two moves beyond quality standards to interesting or intriguing images.  In Apple’s case, they used well-balanced imagery of their campus, knowing this was an environment their viewers would be interested in seeing.  They used subtle camera moves to add a little motion into the scenes, which feels more dynamic.  And they emphasized the human side of the program very well.  Despite being about technology, in a virtual event, we need to make our presenters feel human, pleasant and connected.  Some of this is camera work and direction, while some of it is presenter training as well.  In any case, we need to always emphasize the humanity of our company and presenters.
  3. Breaking Up the Monotony
    Taking a step back and looking at the program, I could see that they intentionally kept segments short. In most cases, and this varies greatly depending on your situation, your audience will only stay interested for 3-5 minutes.  In producing this event, Apple only went about 2 minutes at a time with a presenter speaking to the screen.  Then they used interstitials or other media to break up the time.  These changes in scenes and content keep the audience glued to their screens.  They’re waiting for what’s coming next, instead of when will this end. Many times, these are little things.  Tim Cook speaking about the impact of their technology on people, then cutting away to a few short vignettes of real people with Tim narrating.  Later, they used fully narrated case studies to emphasize the same points with deeper content.  We all know how well case studies work and this is a great way to embed them into a program.  In Apple’s case, it also happens to reinforce a very important part of their brand. Consider how you might do the same.  What are some of the key brand attributes you prize and how can you use short stories to punctuate your virtual event?
  4. Solid Production Techniques
    There were a thousand little things Apple did to bring up the production value of their event. Using on-camera teleprompting keeps presenters looking into the camera.  Interesting transitions between presenters or topics, although the Apple transitions were nearly epic at times.  The simple, almost subtle use of on-screen graphics that punctuated their points without distracting audiences from their messages. And what is the number one production technique we can all do?  Rehearsals!  Rehearsals on and off camera are the best tactic any of us can use to ensure a successful event.  Virtual events are not like live events.  Viewers see everything in close-up view.  So rehearse the hell out of your presentations! Off-camera to start in front of peers.  Then on camera with all the elements (graphics, transitions, etc.) working as they are intended so presenters can get a sense of timing and pace.  It makes a huge difference.
  5. They Had Fun
    Sounds so simple, but anyone producing virtual events today knows it is hard to make these seem fun. Especially with everything going on around us.  Which of course is why we need to try all the harder to create fun moments in our events.  Apple did this sparingly, but they had their tongue-in-cheek video on the Apple Watch that made a serious point in a fun and entertaining way.

Whether you are a fan of Apple technologies or not, I would encourage you to follow this link and watch the program.  We can all learn from others’ successes, and mistakes.  Be open to new ideas and work to translate the best of what you see into techniques you can use for your organization.  By doing so, you will find your audiences staying more engaged in your events.

Steve Halling, President & CEO, AVFX

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