What Apple Has Taught the World About Putting on Big Events

There was a time when conferences and other corporate events were barely tolerable. It seemed more like a punishment to get sent to one on behalf of your company. It was a necessary evil that someone had to do. If you were very unlucky, that someone would be you.

Almost everything about the experience was bad. Here is a list of things that could still stand improvement:

  • Venues that are hard to get to
  • Limited and expensive parking
  • Limited and expensive lodging
  • Insufficient food options
  • Poor connectivity

One way to deal with the problem is to organize the event as if money were no object. But that is out of reach for most companies because money is always an object. Apple once built an entire building next to the Flint Center to give the press more hands-on room. But even they couldn’t bus everyone in from the airport, put them all up in a nice hotel, and take care of all of their needs throughout the conference.

That said, Apple has done a lot to revolutionize how corporate events are done. And the industry is better for it. This is some of what they taught, that every business needs to take to heart:

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Event Apps

For some time, Apple has offered a custom app for its annual World-Wide Developer Conference (WWDC). It is mainly focused on streaming the sessions to developers that cannot be in attendance. For developers, it is one of the most important apps Apple makes.

But theirs is not the only kind of mobile event app on offer. Apple did not just inform the industry that they should provide apps for events, but that they should provide custom apps suited for their particular priorities.

You might prefer a mobile event app that is designed to increase engagement through activity feeds, gamification, live polling, Q&A, surveys, ratings, and reviews. Perhaps your app is more about managing announcements and scheduling changes. Or maybe you would prefer to have some kind of internal chat client that helps participants stay in touch with one another.

Whatever the driving force behind your seeking a custom app solution, there is a way to get it. Apple knows how to keep attendees engaged via event apps. That is a solution now available to everyone.

Polish the Presentations

Some say Steve Jobs was more P.T. Barnum than Thomas Edison. While he surrounded himself with inventors, Jobs was more a salesman and showman.

When he took the stage, it wasn’t just a keynote; it was a Steve-note. That has always made the more traditional PowerPoint slide-driven presentations feel stale, sad, and pathetic.

Jobs weaved around himself what came to be known as the reality distortion field. Even when he was announcing a lackluster product, it seemed like a world-changing advance at the time.

Tim Cook is no Steve Jobs. But in all fairness, no one is. What Apple presenters are is extremely well practiced and polished with regard to their presentations. This polish makes announcements feel important, even when they’re not.

Conference keynotes from most every other company still feel a little PowerPoint. But they are starting to improve. If you want people to stay awake and engaged with your message during and after the program, you have to do a lot better at presenting. Preachers study the art of homiletics. It is past time conference presenters follow in Apple’s footsteps and do the same.

Ubiquitous Wifi

Finally, these conferences and special events are being covered by the press. The press are not using paper notepads to do their live coverage. They are taking photos and publishing blog posts in real time. That means the room has to be blanketed with ubiquitous wifi.

The single most disastrous Steve-note was in 2010 when the wifi was so bad, Steve couldn’t do the demos. He had to beg, cajole, and threaten the audience to turn off their wifi devices that were hopelessly clogging the pipes. Apple has had other keynote problems. But they never repeated that one. Neither should anyone else.

Make sure your next event reflects these lessons: Commission an event app. Polish those presentations. And feed the press all the wifi they can eat.

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