Slide Tips: Meet Charlie, His Friends and the Franchise

June 3, 2008

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Scott Gavin founded Applied Trends after a number of very successful years as a Project Manager bringing Enterprise 2.0 to a fortune 100 company. Applied Trends now works with organizations of any size to exploit Web 2.0 culture and technology for business benefit. Scott is also working with Dion Hinchcliffe as the manager for Web 2.0 University in the United Kingdom, with the first event taking place on the 30th September 2008.

To find out more, visit Scott's Enterprise 2.0 Evangelist blog.

The success of 'Meet Charlie, What is Enterprise 2.0' has been purely accidental. It started with a need to communicate the ideas and practices behind Enterprise 2.0 to the British Computer Society in April 2007.

I wouldn't say there were any expectations to produce anything other than a standard PowerPoint presentation with me standing at the front delivering the bulk of the content verbally. However, I wanted to produce something which was different, would make people sit up and pay attention, to challenge tradition and most importantly something that would stand up on it's own without a narrator.

My discovery of SlideShare a few weeks prior to the creation of Meet Charlie had inspired me to abandon everything I thought I knew about PowerPoint. The diverse and rich repository of slide decks helped me to re-evaluate my use of PowerPoint as a communication tool. I'd never seen PowerPoint being used so creatively and effectively. I also hadn't seen much use of PowerPoint outside of boring meetings accompanied by boring presenters!

I settled on the theme of using a fictional character to illustrate how one might use a collection of web based tools to achieve their goals and structure their work. This worked really well, it brought the subject alive and provided the audience with a character they could instant connect with and compare themselves against. However the most effective attribute of the presentation was the simple, uniform and visually interesting slides. I forced myself to put the minimum amount of words possible on each slide, but enough to inform and guide the audience. It was also important that I kept a natural flow from slide to slide. It's so distracting when slide decks jump in and out of topics/themes without a natural transition, so I made sure each slide had a natural lead into the next slide.


I posted the slide deck (with mistakes in the content!) to SlideShare for the sole purpose of allowing the participants of the meeting to view it at their leisure. I was not expecting what happened next. Within hours it was featured on the front page and was clocking up thousands of hits and comments. It took me completely by surprise, after all, Enterprise 2.0 at the time was a very niche topic, yet it was inspiring and entertaining thousands of people around the world. That's the power of SlideShare right there! One year on and we are well past 100,000 views with many embeds and comments.


Soon people started to contact me asking if they can translate the slides into their own language. Of course I encouraged it and now we have versions of Meet Charlie in Hebrew, Spanish, French, German, Japanese and Italian. I also started to hear from people who wanted to use the slides in their own presentations or at their work. I gladly agreed and began to keep a record of where Charlie was appearing, but it soon became impossible to keep up.

In my own circles at the time, Meet Charlie was being used in the pharmaceutical industry to promote the use of Web 2.0 tools behind the firewall. Another version was soon created, Meet Charlotte, a fictional scientist working in the style of Charlie to enhance her productivity at work. Charlotte and Charlie went on became the official mascot for any Web 2.0 related efforts at the company.

Here's a list of where I know Charlie and his 'friends' have appeared:

  • Presented to the board of a handful of fortune 500 companies
  • Shown at scientific to technical conferences around the world
  • Adapted for use at many companies to promote Enterprise 2.0 related efforts
  • Conferences such as Office 2.0, Enterprise 2.0
  • In excess of 50 presentations in the style of Meet Charlie posted to SlideShare
  • Promotion of company products/services

It's amazing to think that Charlie has penetrated so many industries and events!
I think it's great people are taking inspiration from Meet Charlie and I hope it carries on and evolves. I continue to find inspiration and ideas on SlideShare and of course Meet Charlie was inspired by the brilliant Meet Henry.

I doubt very much we would have seen this amount of success without SlideShare.