Watching Apple's most recent event earlier this week, I'm reminded of how much better the iPhone-maker is at this than almost any of its competitors. Over the past year, I've watched a dozen or so virtual product launches from big tech companies, but none of them really compare to the cinematic-style events that have become Apple's signature way to introduce its products during the pandemic.
To be fair, it's not like it was easy to adapt live events to the virtual world we've all been living in for the past year. Still, Apple's managed to pull off something most of its competitors haven't, and I think it comes down to these three simple rules.
Tell a Story
Products aren't interesting on their own. That may seem counterintuitive considering how much attention is paid to different features, but it's true. Most people aren't interested in what processor is in their new device (despite the effort made to be sure you know exactly what it's called). What they really care about is why it matters to their life.
(That's one of the reasons I started Undigital, a free newsletter about understanding digital technology and how it relates to our lives.)
The reality is, Apple is better at telling stories than any of its competitors. And, maybe more importantly, that story is always about how this thing the person on the stage is talking about will make your life better in a way that other products don't. It will protect your privacy. It will help you create better things. It will give you the tools to be more productive.
Apple managed to introduce a newly designed iMac, updated iPad Pro, a purple iPhone, the long-rumored AirTags, a subscription podcast service, an update to Apple Card, and an updated Apple TV, all in almost exactly an hour. That's a lot of content to cram into such a small amount of time, made possible because Apple doesn't waste any time at all. It tells its story and moves on.
In an age of always-connected devices and social media, people are used to 15-second TikTok videos, or 30-second Instagram Stories. Even the average scene in a television show is less than 3 minutes long. If you want to keep the attention of an audience used to short bites of content you have to keep things moving. That means choosing which parts of the story to tell, and cutting everything else. That's a difficult art to master, but Apple does better than almost any other company.
Use What You Have
Finally, Apple is the master of using what it has to communicate the story it wants to tell. By my count, there were at least nine different presenters in more than a dozen different locations around Apple's headquarters.
One of the big reasons is because the people who present the products are actually the people who make the products. Apple's CEO, Tim Cook, could certainly stand there and talk about all the things Apple did, but instead, he's smart enough to know that it's a far better story to let the people make the products tell their part.
Yes, it's true that the world's most valuable company has essentially infinite resources at its disposal to create a one-hour video event, but I still think there's a valuable lesson here for anyone who wants to be more effective at communicating--use what you have.
Even if you don't have a multi-billion-dollar campus to film your virtual event, using what you have in terms of people and setting makes your presentation feel more authentic because it actually represents you.