What Startups Can Learn From Apple Keynote Events

Apple Keynote Events are a big deal. They host the special Apple Event a couple of times every year – once for the developers in “WWDC” and the rest of the times to promote a new product or a service they just launched. These Keynote Events are not something new; we still vividly remember that iconic keynote speech where Steve Jobs introduced the first-generation iPhone to the world. Remember that? Goosebumps!

Steve Jobs was a master storyteller. He knew how to incite joy and excitement to the people who watched him present on stage. Steve Jobs was very serious about an awe-inspiring Apple Event. We can easily understand what these events meant to him when we watch Michael Fassbender in the movie “Steve Jobs”.

I specifically remember the scene where he wants the computer to say “Hello” when it boots, and the effort he puts into making it happen; and how it ultimately does result in a big round of applause from the audience.

If you’ve seen the October 13 Apple Event where they launched the iPhone 12 family (or any predecessor) you will see how the Apple team choreographs these events. The presentations are well-rehearsed, the slide-show is awesome (they use their own dog food, aka, Keynote app) and the attention to detail is dumbfounding. Apple Events Team, take a bow. You guys are just incredible, nobody in the world puts up a better show than you guys — even the last three “virtual” events have been nothing but amazing!

So how can an Apple event be relevant to startups, you might ask. It is. You can really learn a thing or two (or maybe more) from what they do and how they do it. Let me explain.

Learn the art of selling yourself

This is the number one lesson. Apple really knows how to sell itself. Look at how they frequently say “We think you’ll love it…”, or “We can’t wait to share it with you…” to introduce a feature or a product. What they’re doing here is building up their value. Apple rarely relies on third-party validation. Sometimes they do say they’ve been rated #1 by some other media or institution, but most of the “bragging” they do is by themselves. 

Learn this art. 

Really, you need to let the people know that your product/service is worth it. Tell them why you’re “the best your parents have created since your last old sibling.”

The best use of superlatives

They want to send the message that they’re still evolving, and what they have in hand right now is the best version yet. But that too will improve with the next iteration.

Talking about being the best among your siblings yet, remember that Apple really uses superlative terms to describe their product: like “best yet”, “fastest processor”, “biggest display”, “lightest weight” and so on. You get the idea. What it really wants you to believe is it’s the number one, unmatched. The best that there is. 

This goes back to the earlier point of positioning yourself and creating your own value, but I think it’s a bit more. It’s about rejecting the idea of competition. Apple is not out there to compete with Samsung, Huawei or HP. They have their niche of their own, and the only comparison they ever make is with an older version of themselves. You too are the best. This is the most reliable affirmation that you will ever receive. Having said that, become the best, be awesome, let the superlatives define your startup.

Make progress gradual

See how Apple doesn’t give away all the features all at once. Android fanboys often say that they had that feature “X” three years ago. Good for them, but Apple really masters the art of prioritizing among features and cherry-picking the ones that benefit them (and the users) the most in the given release version. 

Apple clearly has the luxury of packing and shipping everything awesome all at once. They deliberately don’t do it because they want to imply that they’re still evolving, getting better. The gradual reveal of features/services helps maintain the excitement and keep yourself relevant. You don’t need to master everything at once. Take time, do one thing at a time, and don’t move away before mastering it.

You’re your own competition

See, this is not something new. We talk about this all the time. You’re not in a race. Your life is not a race — stop comparing yourself with others. Apple never does that. It never tells you how good their iPhone 12 is compared to Samsung or OnePlus, but it only tells you how it’s better than the earlier models. Apple is improving itself, and it doesn’t consider itself to be in a race where they need to prove their mettle to anyone. 

Same goes for your startup. Forget where your competitors are, focus on yourself. Assess how much you have achieved since last year, and work on that. You are your own competition, nobody else is.

Attention to detail is everything

From what we know, working at Apple is rigorous. It is a very demanding workplace. We’ve heard stories from ex-Apple employees about how tough it is to survive and thrive in the Apple ecosystem. You’re competing with your colleagues all the time to win the [rat]race. Without that level of rigor, a product is never perfected. See how much effort they put (including marketing/media companies that work with them) to create perfect videos, demos, and things as such. Every button, every UI component, everything is perfected. I loved the details they added on the reflective surface of the iPhone body.

You will see examples like this one all over the place. They do it all the time — that’s their culture. If your employees lack the amount of rigor it needs to perfect everything they do, they probably would not be there.

Quality is reflected in the tiniest detail

There is hardly ever a glitch in an Apple Event. From the precise camera dolly movement to changing the slides, everything is seamless. Also, notice how lighting is always top-notch. The audio is always crisp. This really shows how you are as a company. 

We, common people, struggle to change our slides, often lose our words, but never with Apple employees. They have rehearsed and choreographed things time and again until it’s perfected. Why is this important? Because who they are as people needs to be reflected on what they’re selling. If they come across as people who struggle to play a video within the slide, users will not “feel” the Apple touch to it. They need to be perfect. See how perfectly the floors of the theatre are mopped. How spotless the glass is. Everything combines together to make Apple who it is.

Consistency really matters

If you look closely, all the men presenting at the Event wear shirts, denim, and sneakers. Their shirts are pretty much always blue or green. Steve Jobs used to wear a black turtleneck. Tim always wears a shirt — also notice how others are dressed similarly. This is a deliberate effort from what they wear to what they make (in terms of products). The reason why iOS, iPadOS, and MacOS look so similar? The reason why a space gray phone, an iPad and a Mac put together look so beautiful? Consistency. It’s like the ultimate touch of branding they put in the things they make. This is necessary to make sure everything fits in together and nothing feels out of place.

Scalability is of scale

Apple Events are mostly live; the exception October 13 2020 event that they pre-recorded most of it so they were able to do cool things like building an entire house to demo their HomePod Mini. We don’t know how much of it is set and how much is digital, but they have incrementally made these events more and more immersive lately. To do this, it takes a large team to coordinate things at a precise time. If we flashback to older events from 2018 or 19, we will see how efficiently they hand off the presentation or call or send off people from the stage. 

Eat your own dog food

To those who don’t know, dog food is basically you yourself using the product/service you created. If you see, the slides they create are made in Keynote. Look closely and everyone is wearing an Apple Watch. They use their own software to design their hardware, and the code that makes the system run is all written using a Mac device. This is something other companies enforce as well — eg., a friend of mine who worked in a car company had to drive the same car their company sold. It helps send out a message.

So yea, all in all, Apple is a wonderful company. It is an inspiration. They really care about who they are, so there is so much pressure they put to put the best foot forward. Apple controls everything that comes out with their name on it, that’s why everything they make, and everything they do comes out as a part of one. This is really important if you want to become better and be known for becoming better.

So the next time you watch an Apple Event, what will you be inspired from?

*Originally published on https://swapnilacharya.com/apple-events/

Swapnil Acharya

Swapnil Acharya is the Principal Product Designer at Leapfrog.

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