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.
The rest of this post explains is an introduction to how I made that happen, but I’ll follow up with a series of posts that gets into the details of planning and creating great presentations.
Invest your time in the SlideShare community
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
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
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 #4 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 bit.ly 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 bit.ly/stc14. “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)
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.
It’s a long path… stay on it
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!