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I Hate SlideShare

A Snarketing post by Ron Shevlin, Director of Research at Cornerstone Advisors

I hate SlideShare.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against the company or the site. In fact, I think the site does a pretty good job of what it does, and I certainly don’t begrudge the company’s right to make an honest, ethical business out of what it does. 

But as a self-professed psuedopsycho presentation snob, I hate that people find value in slide decks. 

So maybe that’s really it: I don’t hate SlideShare itself, I hate the fact that there’s demand for something like SlideShare. 

—————

I give a lot of presentations at conferences, webinars, and at clients. And I’m usually happy to share my slides with anybody who wants them — after the presentation, that is.

That’s because, as far as I’m concerned, the slide deck itself is useless.

The value of the presentation is what I say and how I say it. The deck is nothing but a prop.

But, as evidenced by the popularity of SlideShare, apparently there are a lot of people who don’t share my philosophy. It kills me when I see SlideShare users fawn over some deck that consists of little more than a bunch of slides showing high-resolution pictures of stuff with a pithy sentence plastered somewhere on the picture strung together.

—————

There are three components to a great presentation:

1. Quality of the content.

2. Quality of the delivery.

3. Quality of the material.

If I had to weight the three components, I’d say 60/30/10. Great content can compensate for a less-than-great delivery. And great delivery can compensate for butt ugly slides.

SlideShare captures #3. Which means — according to my book — it captures 10% of the value of a presentation. 

—————

Another reason I hate SlideShare: I posted a presentation I did a while back to SlideShare just to see how many people would download it. Here’s the sobering reality: More people downloaded that deck than will read this blog post. 

So, not only do people place higher emphasis on the least valuable part of the presentation (the deck), it’s become clear to me that one reason for SlideShare’s popularity is that a lot of people are just too damn lazy to read. 

—————

The irony is that I’m preaching to the choir. By reading this, you’re proving that you’re not one of the lazy-ass heathen ruining the business world with crappy-ass presentations filled with nothing but stupid-ass pictures. 

What’s that? I sound mad? Can’t imagine why.

—————

I would ask you to tweet the link to this blog post so that others may partake of this presentation wisdom. But the reality is that they won’t read this because it requires too much mental energy. 

If I had half a brain, I’d take this blog post, split it out over 30 slides, paste it on top of a bunch of high-res pictures, and post it on SlideShare. 

UPDATE: Big thanks to @jameswester who created a deck of this post and put it up on SlideShare. Thanks, James!

Ron ShevlinRon Shevlin is Director of Research at Cornerstone Advisors. Get a copy of his best-selling book, Smarter Bank: Why Money Management is More Important Than Money Movement. And don't forget to follow him on Twitter at @rshevlin.

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Comments

  1. Wow, glad I didn’t just glance over this article. That would have proved I was too lazy to read. Thanks for the laugh and I agree. I have gone there and always leave empty handed and disappointed because I don’t know what the hell they were talking about.

    Though I probably should have realized that before getting my hopes up as most presentations aren’t that great anyways.

    In a related note, I still haven’t seen you speak so you are good.

  2. Good post. I agree with you on Slideshare. I am asked quite often if I can provide my slide deck after a talk. Because of these requests, I’ve posted many of my decks on Slideshare just to make it easy on me and the conference organizer. Like you said, they can get thousands and thousands of views. And they are deck full of pictures without any context. It’s bizarre.

    From the other side, I’ve tried to use Slideshare when I am researching a subject or looking for other points of view, but I’ve found it impossible to gleen anything from the decks themselves.

    Here’s some somewhat related irony: You recently added a Pin it button to your blog (or maybe WordPress did that automatically), but as far as I can tell, you almost never have any purdy pictures to pin. You need to move all of your social media and thought leadership activity to Instagram. Or better yet, deliver every blog post as a infographic. 🙂

  3. If you really want to get your point across I would recommend less text, and maybe add some ‘high impact’ charts or graphics…. hmmm, now if there was only a way to share that content 🙂

  4. Tim: My inclusion of the Pin It button was simply to see if anybody would ever click on it. True, the vast majority of my posts and 100% text, but when I switched over to the current template, I went thru, selected a bunch of buttons to display, and haven’t thought about it since then. As for you infographic recommendation, I have seriously thought about that many times. I have, however, resigned myself to be the Last Man Writing.

  5. SW: You so don’t get it. Writing a text-based blog post is a customer segmentation strategy. I get the people who actually read, and not just those that claim that they know how. The IQ of the readership is 34% higher than the average Pinterest user’s IQ. And people who comment on this site have an IQ 7.3% higher than the average reader. And that ain’t no quantipulation.

  6. note to self: Shevlin may not pick up on sarcasm in his comment thread

  7. Most presentations really don’t need any slides at all. I know mine don’t, but I use them anyway. You could probably throw away 14 out of every 15 slides shown at any conference.

  8. A conservative estimate, for sure.

  9. Matt, I have seen Ron speak. Is he any good? Yes. I could share how good with an 18 page slideshare deck but I do not want Ron to make fun of me.

  10. Shawn, I got your sarcasm. Ron’s response was priceless. Score +1 for the reader.

  11. @rshevlin: maybe you should combine the best of both worlds. Create a slidedeck presentation that can be shared with everyone, but load it with text so everyone knows exactly what you are thinking…. I think that is your winning ticket!

  12. You make some very valid points. I think some people gravitate to slide decks after hearing presentations in the same way they might keep a ticket stub after a concert – to prove that they were there for the experience. The presentation was so good, so insightful, that they wanted it to stay with them and conjur up those ideas by looking at the deck later.

    Like you said, the best presentations come from the delivery, not the deck. But the deck serves as a very valid reminder of the experience, and the ideas beyond the deck.

    Plus, what’s better than having stacks of cool looking presentations laying around your office or falling out of a folder at a conference than to say, yes, I too was there. That, I too, think about these larger issues, are tied into the latest thing (insert cool kid toy or concept or social network of the moment). Maybe that’s part of it too. Eye candy.

    I certainly use slideshare for research to tie in concepts for something I was working on. (but am increasingly watching for video posts of those same presentations because, you’re right, you need the delivery, the context, the addition of everything else that goes into a presentation). Posting a presentation on a site like slideshare ensures it’s always there, in the cloud, available as reference, or in some cases inspiration.

    Some people might also use Slideshare to “borrow” other people’s ideas, or even worse, copy their original creative work. I understand being influenced by something, I understand quoting with proper references and permission, but like every other creative endeavor, there is a probably a bit more than ‘borrowing’ probably going on.

    Which is why sharing your work has alwats been a dual edge sword. Post content to gain traction for your ideas, but don’t be surprised one day if one of your charts shows up in some other person’s deck.

    So we might need some other math added to your 60/30/10, where at minimum 20% is re-purposed. Which is why I like the movement toward more ways to digitally stamp origonal images, photos, and even presentations. Because you always need to cite your sources.

    I look forward to hearing you in person one day as well Ron. Cheers.

  13. WordPress comments need a spell check I see.

    Oh, and add a picture or two – I’ll re-pin it. : )

  14. Let me make something clear that probably didn’t come through in the blog post: If there are any presentation decks on SlideShare that are ABOUT ME, then I’m sure that those are the highest quality, most valuable presentations on SlideShare. 🙂

    Oh, and please tell your friend Shawn that his sarcasm wasn’t lost on me. I simply chose to respond in an even more sarcastic way.

  15. Bradley Leimer writes: “what’s better than having stacks of cool looking presentations laying around your office….”

    YOU HAVE AN OFFICE? Bastard! The rest of us lowlifes are toiling away in tiny, little fu*king cubes, and you got an office to toss around copies of the presentations you’ve attended?

    And how many conferences do you go to, anyway, Mr. Bigshot? Future of Money one week, Finovate the next week. Nice life, buddy.

    I’m thinking now, that maybe you need copies of these presentations cuz you’re too hungover from partying the night before to hear what the speakers are actually saying. Or maybe that’s you hanging out in the back of the room playing with your stupid little iPhone and not even listening to what the presenter has to say.

    🙂

    Seriously, though, I do agree w/ you on the “sharing” point. I, too, have combed thru SlideShare looking for charts, pictures, inspiration, etc.

    But I will tell you why I don’t share more presentation decks: If a conference organizer pays me to speak, then my feeling is that they “own” that deck, and I don’t have the “right” to post it on SlideShare. And unless we agree to otherwise, it’s their prerogative to post the deck or not.

  16. Actually, it probably is me at the front of the roomier tweeting snarkety comments about the presentation, because most of them that I go to aren’t probably as good as yours. : )

  17. My all time favorite presentation is located here: http://www.norvig.com/Gettysburg/index.htm

    It is President Lincoln’s Gettysburg address turned into a Microsoft Powerpoint presentation. It is very educational.

    Enjoy!

  18. Matt: Same here: Usually leave empty-handed. I prefer to search Google and tell it to search PDFs and PPTs.

  19. I use slide decks as I have a faulty memory. I do not like to admit this to myself as I have always felt that i am good to mentally retaining information but over the past 5 years my wife has proven me wrong on enough occasions that i do now have to doubt my own ability to remember stuff. What’s worse is that my wife can now easily have one over on me by taking advantage of this weakness;-)
    Anyway, my point is that after I have seen a good presentation or attended an interesting webinar and learned something I want to retain that information. Slide decks are a good (and quick) way to jog the memory. I do not like to take notes when listening to a good speaker as i find it distracts me from listening. It’s a bit like videoing a fun moment of your life for future value and missing out on taking part at the time.
    However, your take on it is a lot more amusing than mine so cheers for another entertaining post.

  20. So if more people download the presentation than the blog post you should probably make sure the content you post there is good. Shit presentations will be shit whatever platform they are shared on, be that real life or Slideshare. Great presenters know how to make their content great for other platforms. Add an audio cast or a text description to your presentation for posting on Slideshare so you can share what you said and even how you said it. You took the effort to make that presentation make the most you can of it. Also people learn in different ways, some like to read a thousand words, some like to hear a thousand words, some like thousands of pictures and a whole mix in between. A great example here http://www.slideshare.net/dings/just-add-points-what-ux-can-and-cannot-learn-from-games

  21. Joel: Thanks for commenting. No doubt, having a place to go to download a deck after seeing a presentation is useful. But many conference organizers have a site for that, or send the decks out, or put them on a CD. I’m really not railing on SlideShare as much as the mentality (that I sense that many people have) that believes a presentation deck — IN AND OF ITSELF — is something worthwhile.

    Having said that, I wonder if conference organizers are taking advantage of the platform that SlideShare offers.

  22. If you really feel that a presentation isn’t worth without its presenter’s voice then you can add your voice to your uploaded presentations on slideshare or if you feel that your presence is also what makes a difference then you can add a video as well in your slides.

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