Interview: Jesse Desjardins - how to create a global fan base with presentations

August 25, 2011

We love to see rising stars come up from the horizon and make a name for themselves with their presentations. That is just the case with Jesse Desjardins, also known as JesseDee. Jesse really caught the SlideShare community's attention during our World's Best Presentation contest last year. In this interview, Jesse shares what happened next - from presentation crowdfunding for events like South by Southwest and Cannes, to landing his present job in Australia.

How did you get started on SlideShare?

Just over a year ago I was asked to do a social media workshop in Australia. I had seen SlideShare presentations before so I thought it would be a good way for me let the 100 or so people who were there get access to my slides. A few hours after uploading my deck it was featured as the top presentation of the day and was seen by over 10,000 people a few days later. From that moment on I was hooked.

You have a very unique presentation style, how did you come up with it?

Jesse DesjardinsAn excessive amount of hours playing around in Keynote. There's no secret really apart from the fact that a great presentation takes a lot of time to put together. It took me about 30 hours to put together some of my most popular presentations on SlideShare.

That may seem excessive for a deck that takes 3 minutes to read, but some have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times over so I like to think my obsessiveness has paid off. I don't have a design background, I mostly learn from looking outside of where most look. That, and you can pretty much learn how to do anything with Google.

What's your process for creating a new presentation?

You really don't want to be near me before I have to give a talk. My wall can sometimes be completely covered in colored post-it notes, it's like Christmas, really. I need to put all my ideas on the wall and to take a step back to see the big picture, then remove, add and move things around. It's very hard to do that when you've been staring at the screen for too long.

I also collect new ideas weeks beforehand. Evernote is amazing for this. A lot of time is spent finding or creating the right visuals. Vintage images just make me smile for some reason, but it can be a challenge finding a series that goes well together. I think I just like them because I have to sit through so many corporate presentations with the slide that has the token one member of every ethnicity shaking hands around a boardroom table with SUCCESS written on top. I just can't deal with it anymore, so I'm doing something different.

What have been your favorite presentations to create?

You Suck at PowerPoint was fun. I was at a conference and one of the speakers blamed PowerPoint for his lame presentation. I felt like saying it wasn’t the program that sucked, it was him, he needed to learn how to use it properly. Instead, I just decided to make a presentation about it and the World’s Best Presentation contest was on. I was very late to enter so I locked myself in a room for two days and managed to pull it together right before the deadline. I came in second place, which was cool.

It's been viewed by 450,000 people so far on SlideShare and embedded on 800 or so blogs. It was funny because a few weeks ago I sat through a pitch from an agency and before they started one of the guys turned to me and said that he had seen my presentations on SlideShare and that his presentation was about to suck. I'm not going to comment on how it went.

Cannes Lions Festival of CreativityThe Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity was pretty amazing this year. The parties are legendary, but I skipped out to get a front row seat to all the seminars so I could take pictures for my 100 Most Beautiful Slides presentation. Some days it was so packed in the auditorium that if you left your seat for a minute you wouldn't get it back for the rest of the day. I would pack food so I wouldn't have to move, but one day I forgot. I had to survive from 8 to 6 on samples of Vitamin Water and Magnum Ice Cream so I wouldn't lose my seat.

After the conference I had a 33 hour trip back home so on the plane I put together two summary presentations and uploaded them to SlideShare. I've been able to share what I learned with 360,000 people so far. It was all worth it. And the ice cream was pretty good also.

What opportunities have come to you as a result of your presentations?

Last year I was working at an ad agency in Paris and my contract was about to end. Instead of applying for another job I just put up some presentations on SlideShare in my spare time to see who was out there. I didn't really know what the outcome would be, but it seemed the more I posted the more doors opened. A conference organizer contacted me and asked if I could do some social media and presentation work in Jordan and South Africa. I jumped on that. I traveled a lot during those 6 months. People would find me through SlideShare and offer me projects to work on.

LifehackerA few of my presentations got posted on popular blogs like lifehacker and then things got a bit crazy from that moment on. In May I was asked to speak at a tourism conference in Australia and when I arrived in the country there was an opening at Tourism Australia to be the social media manager. It ticked all the boxes and I knew that it was exactly what I wanted. It's a government organization so I sent in my standard c.v. and then put up a visual version on SlideShare and tweeted it out once and overnight it was seen by a few thousand people. People who had been watching my presentations for a while wrote some really nice comments with their endorsements. The next morning someone who worked for Tourism Australia saw it. He had been following me on Twitter and forwarded my presentation to the entire office and executive team. I was called in for an interview that morning and few days later I got the job.

Now that you have this great job, what comes next?

Australia is such an amazing place, I'm having lots of fun here and there’s lots of presentation work to be done. I still connect with amazing new people every day through SlideShare, sometimes through presentations I created 12 months ago, I don't think I could ever give that up. So, whatever comes next is going to involve a lot of what I've been doing the past year. The more I put out there, the more amazing things seem to come my way.

Jesse has submitted a South by Southwest 2012 panel proposal entitled "You Suck at PowerPoint". Panelists will include Nancy Duarte, Carmine Gallo, Scott Schwertly and SlideShare's Ross Mayfield. You can vote for this panel of presentation rockstars on the SXSW Panel Picker site through Sept. 2, 2011. Good luck, Jesse!