I like Zest. Sure, not all content it throws my way is a masterpiece, but every once in a while I come across something that makes me stop and think for a bit.
I like Zest primarily because to some extent, it spices up the otherwise bland new tab on Chrome, and till the time I find another extension that can add value to that real estate, Zest is here to stay on my computer.
Anyway, I digress. Today, this is what the first item on my new tab was:
Now, I am a curious cat, so naturally I clicked on it. Maybe there is something to learn in there. This is what it took me to:
I have to admit, the moment I saw the LinkedIn logo over there I knew I wasn’t going to get much out of it. In my experience, LinkedIn does not come up with the most valuable content. A lot of it (if not all of it) is targeted on selling its own products, and there is very little value to be offered to the audience. So yeah, that was a bummer. But I was already in there, why not check it out for a bit.
And that is where it went all downhill.
There were 28 pages in there and I could barely make it to page 8. There was a lot that was wrong with that presentation, and let me try to summarize it down to the best of my ability:
#1. Misleading and Vague Title Slide
“Missed Var Opportunity” and “More Effective Strategy” do not exactly go hand in hand. If your content is aimed at helping your audience shape up (or fine-tune) a ‘more’ effective strategy, by definition, it is about optimization. When you are leading with a “missed opportunity” note, you make it sound as if someone missed the bus.
You want to know what a missed opportunity is like, Microsoft? That smartphone train you didn’t get on in time.
#2. Can we cut down the animation, please?
So, I was on slide #2, about to turn over to slide #3, and I notice new words popping up on the screen. OMG, an animated slide that turns over one bullet point after another with a second’s delay? For four bullet points that are supposed to be the section-headings of what comes next in the presentation? Did we just roll back to the 90s?
Don’t take my word for it. Here is how that slide actually goes:
And it gets worse in the next slides. There is a slide for “Key Takeaway”, and it takes a good second for even the text Key Takeaway to appear once you get there. So yeah, kudos!
I guess when the designer started building this presentation, they were fascinated with all that Adobe Indesign could do and decided to go crazy with it. The icing on the cake was when some elements of the background images start moving for no apparent reason. On Slide #6, there is a ball(?) on the desk that just rolls over from one point to the next. Come on!
#3. Way Too Many Words, Bruh!
Okay, this one is one of the lesser evils, to be honest. I have come to expect whitepapers and reports to have a lot of words, so I could have ignored this bit, but by this point, I had already been ticked off by everything else, so the smallest things were jumping out at me.
It is a lesser evil, but it is an evil nonetheless. You have no idea how many whitepapers and reports I must be having saved away on my computer that I have wanted to ‘get back to’. That never happens. Why not? Because they contain at best 10% content that’s meaningful and there is 90% in there that’s pure fluff. When you are trying to add value to your audience, why not give them as much as possible in the least amount of space/time? So yeah, it is an evil in my opinion — even in a whitepaper. But these many words in a ‘presentation’? That’s blasphemous!
#4. Unless Your Content is Crisp, It Won’t Work!
This is what the final slide of the whole presentation looks like:
That is way too long and complicated to be labeled as Final Thought. Your final thought is what you want your audience to take away from your whole piece. You want it to be impactful, memorable and hitting their problem statement hard.
And if you want it to induce action, you should even try to invoke a sense of urgency without sounding too desperate.
But no matter how you craft it, it is always supposed to be succinct and memorable. This slide absolutely failed to do that for me. I just read it and I think I’ll need to read it a couple more times before I can figure out what was the point of it.
THE CARDINAL SIN
They could have published it as a whitepaper and it would have been fine. Probably people wouldn’t even have noticed the 10 different things wrong with it. But they published it as a presentation!
You know what’s worse than a whitepaper? A whitepaper masquerading as a presentation!
Yes. It ticked me off primarily because it was a presentation, and as a presentation it blows!
And this is coming from the guys who own the platform that’s all about presentations. Come on, guys. Just for that, one would expect you to do better.
And just to prove my point, you can have a look at a pdf version of the presentation which they have made available. (Yes, there is a pdf version available, and if you go through that before you have gone through the presentation, it won’t activate your spidey-senses.)
Look for yourself:
WHAT SHOULD ALL OF US LEARN FROM IT?
- Start with a very clear objective. Remember, any content you create stops being about you the second you decide you are going to publish it online. It has to be about an audience, and it has to serve a need, address a pain-point of that audience. And that needs to be absolutely clear from the very first slide.
- Don’t jazz up presentations. Snazzy Jazzy websites are a thing of the past, so why is it that we continue to make presentations where we are trying to impress the audience showcasing our design and animation skills. Yes, design is important, but even the design decisions need to be made with one singular objective — improving content delivery and consumption. If it doesn’t help you with that objective, it doesn’t help your presentation.
- Less is more. The more information you put in there, lesser would be the chances of the audience (A) consuming the content, (B) retaining the takeaways later. Focus on delivering the maximum with fewer words. (I just replaced “as few words as possible” with “fewer words”)
- Start with a beginning and an end. Start on a strong note, and finish on an even stronger note. The rest of the content is you leading your audience from point A to B. Don’t lose tempo, not even for a single slide.
- Read it 10 times, then read it 10 times more. This is slightly counterintuitive, and full of irony since I am not going to read this draft to edit and re-edit before I publish, but the advice is still valid. Read the content a few times, then read the draft on your mobile a few times more. Identify and isolate the fat and start trimming it away. Your message needs to be as crisp as a well-done bacon.
The Indesign guys may disagree with me. Microsoft and LinkedIn could disagree with me. But all I know is this — if I was part of the audience this content was meant for, it sucked! Why don’t you have a look and decide for yourself?