Update: Now the #twutorial slides are on SlideShare’s “most popular” page, with more than 14,000 views.
SlideShare ranks way behind Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest and lots of other social tools in the social media pecking order. But some slides I posted there last week (above) got more views than all but one blog post I ever wrote. And a slide show I posted last year got more views than any blog post I ever wrote.
My experience with SlideShare shows how even second-tier or third-tier social tools offer important engagement opportunities that journalists, educators and trainers should keep in mind.
I am as likely as anyone to make fun of PowerPoint presentations. I’m more likely to be annoyed by someone who reads his slides to me than I am to remember a speaker’s slide presentation. I’ve never browsed SlideShare myself to look at others’ slides and I seldom browse very far into a deck when I find one online with a blog post or linked to from a tweet or Facebook update. I’m not the audience of SlideShare, but I certainly am a user.
I believe in results. And SlideShare metrics show that slides work for some people. So I keep using slides in my workshops and SlideShare keeps showing those slides to far more people than my workshops reach (my 130 presentations and other documents have more than 220,000 views on SlideShare).
I didn’t use slides for my first several years of training in newsrooms. I developed handouts to supplement my speaking and exercises and was amazed at how those handouts, posted online at No Train, No Gain spread my reputation as a trainer among journalists around the world.
At a Poynter conference of newsroom trainers a decade or so ago, Ed Jones
a discussion leader whose name I can’t recall (I’ll ask Howard Finberg and Evelyn Hsu if they remember) presented some research on adult learning. I don’t recall the details either, but he made the point that receiving information in different ways (hearing, reading, doing) strengthens lessons. I’m not sure if this is what he said or how I interpreted it, but I concluded that my workshops would have more impact if I were showing my key points on the screen as well as making them with what I said and with the exercises I led.
Update: Howard Finberg, director of partnerships and alliances at The Poynter Institute, recalls making the same point many times in presentations about News University. I recall him making those points, though I think I heard it first (or it sunk in first) from Jones (at a Poynter conference organized by Howard and/or Evelyn Hsu). Anyway, Howard gave me permission to use a slide making the point, saying, “I think I have used it for every e-learning presentation I have given.” By the way, I’m a big fan of News U and developed the course Introduction to Reporting: Beat Basics, introduced initially in 2005 and updated in 2011. Here’s Howard’s slide:
Back to the original post: So I started using slides in most of my workshops. My slides lack visual appeal. They are a mix of bullet points (black type on white background) and screen grabs. A friend who owed me a favor (and who does much better slides than I do) gave me a personal PowerPoint lesson and I ignored most of his advice (which is why I’m not naming him here; it was good advice) because it seemed like too much work and I usually need to throw my slide shows together quickly.
About four years ago, I learned about SlideShare and started posting my slides there. I often embed the slides in a blog post, with tips for that day’s workshop and/or links to earlier posts relating to the topic. I figured that some people might prefer the slides to the blog posts (which long ago took the place of hard-copy handouts in my workshops).
I seriously never expected the slides to be useful on their own to people who don’t attend the workshops. But virtually every presentation I post reaches hundreds or even thousands of people who never attend my workshops. I can’t recall ever speaking to a group of 1,000 (just a few times was it even possibly over 100). But 70 of my SlideShare posts have 1,000 or more views. And two dozen of them have topped 2,000 views.
Last Thursday’s slides accompanying my workshop for the Farmington Daily Times on using Twitter pulled some of the points of my #twutorial blog posts together into a single workshop. I expected the slides to do well because my Twitter slides usually do (Twitter is a primary topic of nine of those shows north of 2,000 views and a secondary topic of more).
But then Twitter and SlideShare intersected with a social media event. Tweeting Sunday from Social Media Weekend at Columbia University, Sree Sreenivasan praised my slides.
— Sree Sreenivasan (@sree) February 17, 2013
I don’t know how much of the traffic came from Sree’s 43,000-plus Twitter followers or how much came from the 55 retweets (or retweets of the retweets). Some might have come from people reading one of the hashtags that Sree used. But the views on the slides began to soar. I got a message from SlideShare that my slides were “being tweeted more than anything else on SlideShare right now,” so they were being featured in the “hot on Twitter” section on the SlideShare home page. The screen grab below, which Sree used in a blog post (more on that shortly) showed that it had topped 2,000 views. I tweeted my thanks to Sree:
— Steve Buttry (@stevebuttry) February 18, 2013
By this morning, the slides had been viewed more than 13,000 times. Embeds were critical to the spread of the slides: They were viewed more than 8,000 times on CNET embeds (compared to 469 on my blog post).
Social media slides are exceptionally popular on SlideShare. My most-viewed slides (pushing 27,000 views) are about engagement on Facebook (embedded below, just to help push them toward 30K).
A few tips on using slides, from my experience using them in workshops and posting to SlideShare:
- Content is more important than appearance (but content with better appearance than I usually manage would be great).
- Social tools help you achieve more than your purpose. I post slides primarily as a follow-up reference for the people attending my workshop. But SlideShare, helped by Twitter and other people embedding the slides on blogs, extends the learning to many more people.
- Keep your slides simple, your words few and your fonts large. Except for the too-long leads in my workshop on writing leads, I try to present a few simple points that echo or supplement what I’m saying.
- Don’t read your slides to the group you’re presenting to. They can read. Look at them and talk. (I try to position myself so I can see the slides on my laptop and they function as my notes, but I don’t read them and I don’t look at the screen.)
- Tell workshop participants that you’re posting the slides to SlideShare (or on your blog), so you don’t need to worry about advancing a slide before they’ve been able to copy down all your points.
Two do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do points:
- If you have a blog post related to the slides, be sure to add the link to the text accompanying your slides. I often forget this. Since I embed the slides in the blog post, I upload the slides first, before I have the link. Then I forget to go back and add the link (I did that belatedly on the #twutorial post).
- If you are essentially updating an earlier slide show, you should use the editing options to upload the new version, rather than posting multiple similar presentations. I have too many presentations on frequently requested topics such as Twitter, liveblogging and mobile strategy. In reviewing my presentations for this post, I noticed that I had a lot of similar slide shows that were adaptations, updates and combinations of earlier presentations.
If I’m not doing a workshop, I can go a few weeks without even looking at SlideShare. My conversation on it is almost nil. I can’t remember the last comment on that site that I received about my slides (the conversation is all on blogs and Twitter). Perhaps because I was thinking about this blog post, I did click on a SlideShare link in an email yesterday, but as I did so, I couldn’t remember the last time I had looked at someone else’s slides.
SlideShare is not as robust or conversational as other social platforms and I probably omit it when I’m listing important social media tools more often than I mention it. But it’s damned important to me. And you should be on the watch for niche social sites that might be similarly helpful to you.