4 presentation lessons from Apple’s virtual stage event

Tech giant Apple recently hosted their much anticipated iPhone 12 launch event – taking the keynote presentation to the virtual stage.

These iconic ‘keynote’ events, made memorable by former CEO Steve Jobs, typically take place on a vast stage in front of swathes of excited tech fans. Some of the videos and snippets from these epic events literally go down in technology history.

And with COVID-19 restrictions putting paid to the usual format, this year Apple chose to make it a virtual event.

Apple takes to the virtual stage

Screenshot from Apple's October 2020 virtual event

Screenshot from Apple’s October 2020 virtual event

The eagerly awaited launch of the iPhone 12 promised to be even more exciting (for those of us interested in virtual presentations, at least), as we waited to see how Apple would cleverly adapt their famous in-person events for the virtual world.

And, overall, it was good. The virtual sets looked realistic enough for the audience to occasionally forget that the presenters were in fact not on set. With Apple launching their new products with impact and generating a similar level of excitement to their usual in-person keynotes, it went well. That’s one of the great benefits of virtual studios, as opposed to regular online presentations. And we immediately spotted 4 lessons companies can learn from the event to create their own virtual stage events – and make them even better than Apple did!

Lessons in virtual presentations

COVID-19 has pretty much made many in-person events impossible. Most companies are taking their all-hands meetings, conferences, seminars, product launches, and more, online.

The additional challenge for most is how to make these virtual presentations, interesting, engaging, and interactive, so that audiences don’t switch off.

Screenshot from Apple's October 2020 virtual eventScreenshot from Apple’s October 2020 virtual event

And virtual events and presentations are an ideal solution. Future Present’s Lead Video Producer Howard Mosley says: “Virtual presentations were something of a novelty at the start of the lockdown in the UK, but as remote working has become the norm, so too have video calls and presentations.

“Attention spans are small, and there are plenty of distractions, so to keep audiences’ attentions companies need to do something different.

“Virtual presentations don’t have to follow the same format. In fact, we’re seeing more demand for our virtual studio, which enables presenters to deliver and stream high-impact live presentations to audiences any size, anywhere and at any time. Without needing a physical venue. And that’s what Apple did.”

Howard adds: “There are lessons businesses can learn here, and ways companies can go further than Apple did to really wow their audiences.”

4 ways companies can create brilliant virtual stage presentation experiences

1. Use a visually interesting backdrop and lose the 360 degree motion control

Apple’s HomePod backdrop was flat, using domestic background images that weren’t very visually interesting or realistic.

You can make yours instantly more interesting and credible by choosing a more interesting stage graphic with a background that resonates with your audiences. Don’t try and pretend you’re somewhere you’re not. Use a stage graphic that looks like somewhere you’re expected to present from.

2. Don’t over script your event – make it more natural

The scripted interplay between the presenters and crossovers made the transitions feel overly worked and forced. It’s better to have a loose script for presenters to work from so that their personalities can shine through and it feels like a more natural and engaging conversation.

3. Stay close to your subjects

It’s very easy to lose the connection the audience has established with the audience if you include far too many extreme long shots, as the presenter quickly becomes a tiny dot on screen.

To avoid this, stay close to your presenter and go for long shots only when needed and where they add value.

4. Get the lighting right

In ‘Uncanny valley’ the backgrounds are photo-realistic, but used too often and too smoothly. The key here is don’t try to be too clever with your backgrounds. Simple sets can look great, as long as attention is paid to realistic elements like lighting and reflection. Also, lighting ‘images’ must match with the subject on the set. Big bright light images as part of the background will look odd if the subject isn’t then lit bright enough.

Definitely include these in your next virtual presentation

And what we really love about this launch, and definitely recommend you incorporate into your virtual stage presentation are:

  • Changing the background images works really well when showcasing different types of products.
  • The text appears to float next to the presenters – not on a screen, or virtual framed screen.
  • Establishing shots of the ‘venue’ totally grounds this and makes it visually impressive.

You can watch the Apple iPhone 12 launch video here.

To find out how we can help you deliver an amazing live event on a virtual stage, get in touch with our experts here.