How to Get One Million Views on SlideShare

One million views on SlideShare. Image © SlideShare

One million views on SlideShare… and counting.
Image © SlideShare

On the week of January 12, 2014, I cracked the one million views mark for my presentations on SlideShare. I’m now well on the road to two million.

I’m definitely not the first (or the only) one to reach this point. Many presentations have hundreds of thousands of views – a few even have millions. And since several publishers on SlideShare are quite prolific, there must be numerous accounts who have reached – and far surpassed – this sum.

Even so, I did a happy dance. Can you blame me? I was an early adopter of SlideShare; my first upload dates back to July 21, 2007. That’s nearly seven years’ worth of use. I started using SlideShare less than a year after posting my first tweet and first status update on Facebook.

You might be aware that there are benefits to being an early adopter of a nascent network. Even so, if you’ve ever seen me speak, then you know that a favorite topic of mine is my own non-exceptionalism. I can’t think of anything I’ve done that anyone else couldn’t do (or do better).

So I believe that with the right methods and approach, just about anyone can reach one million views on SlideShare. My goal is to help you do that.

Do great work that’s worthy of being shared

Out of all of my presentations, the above talk on core values is my favorite. It took me seven years of practice to create something of this level of quality. It may not be a big accomplishment to you; that’s okay – it was to me. And hopefully I can do much better work in the future.

While it should go without saying that we have to challenge ourselves to do the best we can, how would you explain why there are so many bad presentations being given so often? To understand, we have to start from a position of empathy; I think that the majority of bad talks aren’t given on purpose.

Most of the time, I think that speakers are in a rush, or haven’t prepared well, or are nervous, or are distracted, or don’t understand how to design slides, or don’t want to speak in the first place, or feel intimidated, or aren’t held accountable to give a good performance, or any number of other factors and challenges. I certainly know what all that feels like; I’ve given bad talks under circumstances just like these.

The good news is that all of these problems can be solved, all of these weaknesses can be improved upon.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at my first few presentations. I leave them online in my SlideShare account to remind me of how I started out – with no natural talent, design sense, or storytelling ability.

My recent talks look much better and have far more views and shares.

The rest of this post explains is an introduction to how I made that happen.

Invest your time in the SlideShare community

C'mon, Tim O'Reilly, look at me. I'm RIGHT OVER HERE. Image © SlideShare

C’mon, Tim O’Reilly, look at me. I’m RIGHT OVER HERE.
Image © SlideShare

SlideShare isn’t just a repository for PowerPoint files. It’s a community. And like any community – real or virtual – you get out of it what you put into it. If you just publish there without engaging the community, don’t expect them to engage you back. Like all things in the field of inbound marketing, you have to earn people’s trust.

SlideShare is one of my first stops every morning when I’m drinking my coffee. I budget time to find new presentations, explore conferences and other events, and see what my connections are up to – who are they following and what presentations do they like? All in all, it’s about 20-30 minutes of activity each morning.

What does this commitment in time look like in aggregate? I’ve favorited over 3,000 individual presentations on SlideShare. That means that I’ve reviewed each one from start to finish. I follow over 2,400 accounts; that means I get a notification whenever those people upload something new, favorite a presentation, make a comment, or follow someone new.

I’ve grown to love discovering new presentations from new speakers and sharing them out. It’s part of why I’m regularly listed on the Who to Follow on SlideShare list. The SlideShare community produces a lot of great content and I’ve learned quite a bit about all kinds of fields outside of my own. Time well spent.

Watch as many presentations as you can

Want to be a better presenter? You've got to watch other people present. Image © JD Lasica

Want to be a better presenter? You’ve got to watch other people present.
Image © JD Lasica (Creative Commons license)

Let’s say you want to be a great writer. Stephen King says that you need to start by reading. “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write,” he says. I’d agree.

Similarly, if you want to give great presentations, then you need to start by watching some. But it’s so expensive to travel to events and pay for registration, right? Not necessarily. You can watch TED talks online for free – many of them are quite good. And all of the amazing talks from WebStock and Web Directions are online and free, too.

But what about your local community? Smaller events like Pecha Kucha and Ignite are fun (and cheap!) to attend and also publish free videos. There are unconferences and meetups, too. Colleges and universities often hold free public symposia with all kinds of speakers and topics. Can’t find a local event to attend? No worries, just roll your own.

The more you see people present, share experiences, get their audience engaged, and communicate and teach new ideas, the better you’ll be able to do all those things yourself. And not just when you present, but in your daily life and relationships as well.

You see, from a certain point of view, you’re always presenting. Or, better still, you’re never presenting at all.

Think on that.

Support other speakers by sharing their work

Supporting other speakers creates a larger audience for everyone. Image © Ganesha Balunsat

Supporting other speakers creates a larger audience for everyone.
Image © Ganesha Balunsat (Creative Commons license)
Changes: cropped to remove watermark and for size/placement considerations

This is the key; there’s nothing more important than this.

Listen: if you want to build a community, if you want to attend or organize better events, if you want to increase the quality of talks, if you want people to learn, if you want to build a brand, then there’s one thing you must do: share the best work.

It doesn’t matter if you know the person or the subject. If it moves you, inspires you, changes your mind, or teaches you something new, then it’s worth sharing. The people who create those talks usually take notice and are appreciative. But it’s still worthwhile to share people’s best talks even when they don’t notice. Because when you continually share the best work available, you earn other people’s trust.

My first conversations with some of the smartest people in Content Strategy and Information Architecture started with sharing their work on SlideShare. I’m looking at you, Karen, Sara, Christina, Kristina, Abby, Dan, Dan, Ian, Peter, and several others.

I’m excited to see what they build next. And, of course, I can’t wait to share it.

Show the URL for your presentations when you speak

Look at slide #3 in the above presentation. It has a URL where anyone can find the talk. Pretty hard to miss, isn’t it? But just in case, I show it again just before the end.

I learned this from watching Rand – it’s a great tactic that everyone should use. Use a slide at the beginning and end of your presentation and put the URL for your talk on it. Say the URL out loud when you talk. Linger on the slide long enough so that people can type it into their device, take a photo, or jot it down.

PRO-tip: shorten the URL using or another service to customize it and make it memorable. The shorter and more obvious the URL, the better.

For example, the URL I used for my keynote talk for the Society for Technical Communication 2014 Summit was “stc14” was also the hashtag for the Summit, so many people were already aware of it. It was short, memorable, and was shared widely.

You’ll never get a better chance to let your audience know where to find your presentation then right now while you’re speaking.

Use the SlideShare network effect

Much like Facebook, SlideShare has a news feed (requires login) that acts as a social log of everyone’s activity. When the people you follow take an action (such as uploading, favoriting, commenting on, or sharing a talk), you can find out about it in the SlideShare news feed.

So if you want to discover more new talks, if you want to see if your favorite speakers have done something new, or if you want to find out what’s going on at a conference, just start following people. Not sure who to follow? SlideShare has some great suggestions.

And if you want to earn attention from your followers, then start favoriting and sharing the very best talks that you find. Start using comments to get into conversations with the people who create them.

As you do these things, SlideShare informs your network of your actions via their news feed. They’ll see when you follow a new person. They’ll see the comment you leave. They’ll see the talks you favorite. And when they see that you’re highlighting only the best content on the network, they’ll become more engaged with you and your work.

When you upload your next presentation, they’ll already be attuned to your name, profile picture, and activity. That makes them more likely to view and share it.

Earn trust by promoting people’s best work. Build on that trust by helping people learn.

Get embedded (but don’t spam)

Don't just rely on SlideShare for views; other publishers can embed your talks, too. Image © SlideShare

Don’t just rely on SlideShare for views; other publishers can embed your talks, too.
Image © SlideShare

I want to be very, very clear about this: DON’T SPAM PEOPLE.

What? That wasn’t clear enough? Let’s try again: DON’T SPAM PEOPLE.

Yes, you can earn more views for your work when your presentation is embedded on sites outside of SlideShare. That said, I’ve taken a very passive approach to this by not pitching or soliciting people to embed my work.

Rather, I set out to create the very best work I can. Remember that point above about doing great work that’s worthy of being shared? Well, if it catches someone’s attention and they decide to embed it, awesome. If not, then haranguing them about it isn’t going to help your cause.

If you spam people with embed requests, you’ll quickly lose all of that trust that you’ve worked so hard to build up. So don’t do it.

My passive, non-spammy approach works. The above chart shows the monthly views of this talk of mine before and after it was embedded in this post on Hubspot’s blog. I didn’t ask them to do this; they chose it on their own, organically.

As you can see, once it was embedded on their high-traffic blog, the presentation went from receiving ~2,500 views/month to a level that’s now approaching nearly 25,000 views/month. That 10x growth comes from views driven entirely by this single embed.

Thanks, Dharmesh and Hubspot!

It’s a long path… stay on it

My seven-year road to success on SlideShare (with apologies to Rand and Geraldine) - click to embiggen. Image © Jonathon Colman/SlideShare

My seven-year road to success on SlideShare (with apologies to Rand and Geraldine).
Click to embiggen. Image © Jonathon Colman/SlideShare

Anything that’s worth having requires effort. Usually a lot of effort.

Sure, there will always be folks with natural talent who blow away their competition with ease. But for the rest of us, there’s blood, sweat, and tears… and no small amount of late nights.

Listen: you’re going to be tempted to give up. Tempted hard. Especially when your first effort fails.

Or your fifth. Or your twenty-fifth.

But if you earn enough trust and goodwill, if you provide people with enough value, and if you keep refining your craft, then it’s far more likely that you’ll eventually make it. And perhaps sooner rather than later.

That’s because there will always be a market for people who tell good stories.

I’m going to help you do that in future posts. But for now, this is how our story ends… Not with a bang, nor a whimper, but with another pot of coffee. Keep at it!

About Jonathon Colman

Jonathon Colman is a UX content strategist at Facebook, keynote speaker, and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter @jcolman. Feel free to contact him directly.

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33 Responses to How to Get One Million Views on SlideShare

  1. Pingback: Internet Marketing News, Tutorials & Tools Roundup May 2014

  2. John Collins says:

    I’m curious about your thoughts on the gap between slides and the content of the spoken presentation.

    I’ve seen you give two of your talks (Wicked Ambiguity and Sine Qua Non). You use plenty of slides, which stand on their own fairly well, but you also said a fair amount of (good, funny, useful) words in addition during those talks.

    Slides from talks that are done in “Presentation Zen” style don’t lend themselves well to Slideshare. Any thoughts on that? (And what about surprising your audience with humor?)

    • Totally agreed, John; designing slides for success on SlideShare is a somewhat different discipline from designing them simply to present. Many of the best practices are similar, but for a presentation to do well on SlideShare, you have the additional challenge of designing to provide the context that’s lost by cutting out the speaker. There’s a whole future blog post I’m planning around this – more to come!

      Also: many thanks so much for coming to my sessions at STC and at the PHX Content Strategy Meetup! 🙂

  3. That’s crazy. Slideshare didn’t even cross my mind. Time to start building presentations.

  4. Sav Szymura (@savszymura) says:

    When you use Creative Commons images such as this one you need to indicate if any changes have been made – have a look at the license again! 🙂

    • Excellent point, Sav; I’ve updated the post to indicate that I cropped the image. Thank you so much for pointing this out – meant to do it when I originally created the post and forgot. I’ll start going through my other posts as well to see if I’ve made this mistake anywhere else. I’m planning an upcoming post on use of photography and this is a really important point! Thanks again.

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  6. Tim says:

    I’ve used Slideshare here and there but haven’t been able to fully harness it’s power. This is a really helpful post. Thank!

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  9. Eric Tachibana says:

    Thanks J – I’m stuck in that preceeding long-tail which can be so disheartening. So mych effort for every 1K views. Your words of encouragement are…well…encouraging

  10. If anything, this post not only inspires, but also shows how to make a great presentation. I’d put it this way… clear thoughts > clear steps > clear implementation. Just curious to know how long it takes to make such a great presentation.

    • Thanks for commenting, Partha. I’ve got a future post planned around my process. It takes me several months of research and outlining and other preparation to be able to build a set of slides like these in a few weeks.

  11. Excellent article, thank you very much! We recently really started using Slideshare to leverage seminar, workshop and other Power Points. And we’re using it for clients by creating visual representations of key data they need to communicate to their prospects. The ability to embed the presentations on websites is excellent as it allows rapid assimilation of data for visitors. Since everyone has Power Point – or should – this is an excellent way to distribute your data.

  12. Neil Ferree says:

    Nice article Jonathan. 1 million views puts you in the big leagues! I’ve been a SlideShare user and fan even before LinkedIn acquired them. When it fits, I like to embed a short YT video into my Deck to emphasize the concept or the value prop I am presenting. Then when I embed the Deck into my blog post article, the content is more consumable by the reader, or at least that’s the feedback I’ve gotten. I tried the Soundcast audio routine, but obviously that feature set wasn’t a hit since it was retired no so long ago.

  13. Jonathan I haven’t heard you speak but I am quite taken by this idea of non-exceptionalism – will you be writing a piece on it?

  14. Matt Press says:

    I’m just starting out on SlideShare, so a very timely and inspiring post – thanks!

  15. Seth Waite says:

    I appreciate the level of effort that has gone into every slide that has led to your million views! Congratulations.

    As a fellow deck monkey I have found that not only are presentation decks a lot of work, but they are also incredibly rewarding. I have put a simple deck from a presentation I gave earlier this year onto SlideShare and am getting about 50 views a week with no effort. I would love to add many more of the presentations I have already done but am curious about how often your presentations on SlideShare turn into opportunities, leads or contacts? I would love to hear more about that in a future post.

  16. Lisa says:

    Hi Jonathon,

    I’d like to create some slide decks for SlideShare, but haven’t seen many 16:9 aspect ratio slides, which look so much better with the video of my presentations.
    I notice yours is. Do you have a recommendation for the best way to do this?


  17. Mary Collin says:

    I’m so happy to have discovered you Jonathan! I’ve been way too passive and laid back about SlideShare. I’m starting to see that it needs to be a fundamental part of what we are delivering. I can see how sharing our best work in SlideShare decks will really help us to help others too. Got an 8am meeting tomorrow to move things on! Thank you. I’m following you to learn!

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  21. Nick Logan says:

    Amazing! I really like your slideshare presentations. Your post made me think. Slideshare is not something I do in terms of marketing but I will definitely give it a shot.

    Thank you!

  22. Keith says:

    Hey Jonathon!

    Great post!

    Im a total noob when it comes to slideshare, but this was very inspiring!


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  24. Vivian says:

    I knew nothing about Slideshow until now. Great article about how presentations can make an impact!

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