Siri: “How long should a keynote last?”
As anyone who watched Wednesday’s nearly three-hour livestream of the Google I/O kickoff, the answer to that question should be 90 minutes or less.
As the event dragged on, the tone on Twitter went from restrained interest about Google’s somewhat underwhelming announcements to reports of sleeping reporters and jabs at the ponderous presentation’s length. “Apple just launched a keynote shortener,” tweeted Dave Pell.
Sure, it’s just a keynote for coders. But these big events can be much more than straightforward data dumps for the developers in attendance: They give the tech fans a peek inside a business’ corporate operating system. They offer a golden opportunity to capture the public interest – or send would be fans yawning to the competition.
Apple, which set the bar high for keynotes during the Steve Jobs era, stumbled in the years after his death. But at its Worldwide Developers Conference last month, Apple got its mojo back in a big way.
Here are some pro tips for kicking ass, Apple-style, at the next Google I/O.
Keep it short: Droning on for more than two hours is the most obvious way Google’s I/O presentation went awry. Next time, set a timer: You can even use Google Now to do it hands-free.
Bring a bombshell: Most of Google’s big announcements (Google Fit, a new version of Android known as the “L release”) had already been leaked. In contrast, Apple unveiled a new programming language called Swift and a game development tool called Metal that turned heads at WWDC.
Nail the product names: One of the day’s biggest shockers is that we didn’t get a proper candy name for the next version of Android. Throughout the presentation, Google execs kept calling the upcoming KitKat successor “L.” Maybe that’s the full name, but it’s a lot less catchy than rumored contenders like “Lollipop” and “Lemon Drop.” And speaking of Apple’s Metal, that’s a pretty good name. Google’s initiative to improve gaming graphics? It’s called Android Expansion Pack. I have no idea how these two things will affect game development, but I can tell you which one has a memorable name.
Find your Steve Jobs: Tim Cook is no Steve Jobs, so Apple looked inside and found a suitable replacement to become the face of the company. Apple exec Craig Federighi emerged as the company’s new “Superman” presenter at this year’s WWDC. Google’s Sundar Pichai might be “the most powerful man in mobile,” but he’s no Federighi.
To look like a team, dress like a team: Although nerds aren’t known for their fashion sense, Apple’s team looks coached to win with similar office-casual ensembles. The Googlers ran the sartorial gamut from scruffy beards and hoodies to a derby-ready dress with T-strap shoes.
Write a couple of good jokes: The few jokes cracked onstage by Google execs fell flat. At WWDC, Apple figureheads actually made people laugh. One could argue that entertainment is not the point of a big tech keynote, but any good presenter knows that comedy is a crucial tool for keeping an audience engaged, whatever the topic.
Put enterprise on the back burner: We get it. Enterprise means big business. But Google’s interminable deep dive into its enterprise initiatives is probably what put the nodding journalist to sleep. Apple wisely kept its enterprise update brief at WWDC.
Don’t bury the good stuff: Google Fit — the open platform for mashing together all the data being produced from wearables, health and fitness devices, and related apps — will compete against Apple’s similar HealthKit. It should be a major initiative, but it got buried at the tail end of a tedious keynote.
Paper the room: Apple is very selective about which partners they call out during keynotes, and the announcements almost always get a response. Most of Google’s partnership deals drew crickets at this year’s I/O. Maybe Apple just does a better job of seeding the room with their “people,” but the lack of enthusiasm from (possibly napping) developers does not generate the kind of positive energy that woos users — and future partners — to your platform.