Friday, January 19, 2018

Famous Speech Friday: Mary Meeker's 2017 Internet trends report

She breaks every rule in the book with her annual presentation. She tends to wear unremarkable black. Her slide deck is enormous, with more than 300 slides for a 30-minute time slot. Her charts have too much type on them, many impossible to read from the audience. Her delivery is staccato, clipped, fast-talker fast, and often monotone.

But Mary Meeker, a venture capitalist with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, gives what is arguably the most famous annual slide presentation in any industry. Her slide deck this year has more than 1.8 million views on SlideShare at this writing and, unlike yours or mine, is pored over for clues and hints as to what this expert on the digital space foresees for the year ahead.

For Meeker, it is what it is. Her beginning--almost a warning to the audience--tells you this is not going to be some kind of inspiring TED talk: "This presentation is meant to be read, it's not meant to be presented, so it is online at KleinerPerkins.com and elsewhere, so please do not take notes and I apologize for the speed at which I will go through this." Her delivery is not without humor, pauses, or expressiveness, although it is a workmanlike effort to get through a lot of material.

The presentation is not as unremarkable as that sounds. In fact, it carries huge influence. For one relatively new private ad tech company, Vungle, being featured on slide 27 of Meeker's 355-slide deck this year meant instant fame: "Large investors, the type that you would dream about reaching out to you, are courting you and your board," [Vungle co-founder and CEO Zain] Jaffer, 29, said. "Now I'm being asked what I would do if I had an 'extra $100 million or $200 million.'"

What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Content matters: Meeker's annual report is sought after because of its unique and comprehensive look at all the major internet and digital trends of the day--not just a data dump, but trenchant analysis, distilled so it makes sense. Yes, you can have a 355-page distillation. On occasion. This presentation is eagerly awaited each year for the content, which is stellar. It adds value. Don't let anyone tell you your content doesn't matter. It does.
  • If you're going to buck the rules, explain how: Meeker's early disclaimer that the slides are not meant to be presented is there for a reason: To be sure her audiences (those in front of her and the virtual gang) understand her intention. But it's a useful reminder for speakers: Your slides are not the be-all end-all of your presentation.
  • Throw me a sparse summary to keep my understanding high: Throughout the deck, you'll see nearly blank slides with just a few words of summary highlighting and summarizing the trend data she's discussing. "Ad Growth = Driven by Mobile" is one example. Those short markers ensure her audience can follow along and get the gist of what the longer, more complex data slides will back up in later reading.
This isn't necessarily a format to emulate, but one to marvel at in the hands of a master. I follow Meeker's report every year, and learn much from it. You can see the full slide deck here, and watch the entire talk in the video here or below:


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