When I left Apple to join Scrollmotion, the software company where I am now CEO, I left a lot of things behind. But one thing I brought with me--very intentionally--was the Apple obsession with consistent messaging. Lots of people talk about Apple's culture of secrecy, but this control-freakish tendency isn't just about IP. It's largely about brand.

The most visible manifestation of this is in Apple events and the care that goes into them. Public spectacle has been at the core of how Apple speaks to its customers for years; it makes sense the company is hyper-vigilant about putting on a pitch-perfect show. And I am not just talking about the recent iPhone X release, or annual Worldwide Developers Conference, where Steve Jobs (and now Tim Cook) took the stage to reveal new products and services developed over the previous year. I am talking about every single time an Apple employee takes to a stage (or customer conference room)--anywhere--to discuss the company.

Begin with the basics.

Messaging at Apple starts with Keynote. Yes, Keynote, Apple's PowerPoint competitor (At Scrollmotion we use Ingage, our own interactive presentation platform). Every Keynote slide presented publicly by Apple staffers comes out of the marketing department; you are not allowed to change them yourself. Even for the smallest customer meeting. Not ever.

Those slides are each honed to haiku-like perfection. There's no wrapped text, there are no more than three bullets per slide. These are built into a deck to run alongside the "talk track" you develop for your presentation.

Practice like your life depends on it.

Once you have your script nailed down, you practice it. Again. And again. Then you deliver it onstage in front of a group of peers and senior Apple employees who provide you with feedback about everything from how you are holding your hands to the quality of your pivots, and everything in between. Your revised slides then get locked down (often weeks before the presentation), which leaves you with plenty of time for more practice. And yes, that practice is a terrifying exercise--even for the more routine talks I gave when helping companies develop beautiful apps.

Meanwhile, the production machinery supporting your talk kicks into gear. For a decent-size event--anything from one with 500 people to one with 5,000--there might be a dozen or more supporting people backstage. An engineer will be armed with multiple sets of your slides to create redundancies in case something goes wrong (and is capable of replacing them seamlessly, without the audience even noticing a glitch). An audio person will equip you with multiple microphones in case one fails, and so on.

The rehearsal process is basically the same no matter the size of the audience. And it works. People at Apple rarely screw up a presentation because so much work and rigor goes into preparing for them. And that level of scrutiny goes all the way down into Apple's DNA. Even the middle-most middle manager is trained to obsess over the smallest detail, including the size of the Apple logo that appears on her slides.

In other words, everything is optics. And all Apple employees are schooled from day one on the importance of, to steal Chief Design Officer Jony Ive's cabinetmaking metaphor, "finishing the back of a drawer. Nobody's going to see it, but you do it anyway. Products are a form of communication--they demonstrate your value system, what you care about."

That's a lesson I have been trying to communicate to my colleagues here at Scrollmotion, albeit a bit less rigidly. It seems to be working. For example, as CEO, I now lead our board meetings. Instead of having all of the department heads send me their slides to be assembled into a larger presentation, we now have two or three day off-site meetings where we take the time to craft our story as a group. It's a great opportunity for the leadership team to dig in on important issues, and go into the board meeting knowing we have a cohesive narrative and a perfect presentation.

Published on: Sep 21, 2017
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