Why good design can sell bad ideas? You’ve likely heard the news about the woeful organisation of the latest festival-flop Fyre Festival. If not, you can read about it here. The one question nobody seems to be asking is: how did this inexperienced, underqualified and overconfident team pitch $25 million dollars in investment to put this festival on?
Absurd, yes. Seemingly full of untruthful statements, yes. But what isn’t being talked about is the fact that this pitch presentation opened wallets. Likely, a LOT of wallets. As comically-tragic as the whole debacle was, it is a lesson that good design can often carry more weight than a good idea.
Let me say it again, as I don’t even completely believe it myself:
Persuasive presentation design can influence business decisions more than the merit of the idea itself. Fyre Festival is proof.
Read on to see the full pitch deck from the ill-fated Fyre Festival
If you need to go for a shower to wash off that creepy ‘sellout’ feeling, now is the time.
The idealistic, wide-eyed, open-hearted man inside me likes to think that people make decisions based on their merit alone. That everyone that saw this deck should have read the bios carefully and seriously questioned the figures and logistics behind the whole festival. Maybe someone did. But the designer in me thinks that people didn’t invest in the festival because they’d scoured the festival food menu (sliced cheese on whitebread, served on a Styrofoam plate) or dug deep into the festival’s plan for lighting (there wasn’t any) or ticked a box for basic water provisioning to guests. People invested in the festival because they bought the dream. They bought the idea and the emotion of the festival. The pitch deck packaged up everything you’ve been told you want in life (especially in the investment demographic of the US) and plated it across 43 slides that emotionally connected you to a veritable who’s-who of Instagram’s top influencers. The Fyre management team (or cringeworthily self-proclaimed ‘Fyre Squad’) and their creative team, wove their Brand into the mesh of beauty, fashion, cool and shameless hedonistic-island life. Then they peppered the best statistics across the pitch presentation, in short-form, bite-sized chunks. It’s as if this Pitch Deck combined the imagery of Instagram and the character limit of Twitter and invited you to slide-after-slide of visual enticement. And it works. I hate it, but it works.
Here it is:
So what can you learn from it?
Hopefully your key takeaway isn’t to invent a festival on your nearest island and start work on your beautiful pitch deck. We can learn three things from this example:
1. Good Design = influence
You can develop a greater understanding of the power that visual communication plays in every presentation you do. To your boss, your team, your client or your supplier. Every presentation matters, both from a persuasion perspective, but also from an overarching brand perspective. Good design can literally be the gap between your idea and the buy-in you need. It frames your information in a way that weaves into your audiences’ psyche. Think Inception, but with PowerPoint. You need to put your presentation deep into your audiences memory and the best way you can do that is to tap into an emotional connection.
2. You’re not just competing on merit in business (even if you think you are)
This one has been in the works for a while and can be classically demonstrated with Web Design. Let’s say you want to buy a new hat. You go to two websites selling hats and they both have the exact same hat for sale. Once website is professionally designed, with imagery of people wearing hats and they look really nice, there is also a short discussion about the hat you want to purchase, including its history and who designed it. The other website is just a list of hats for sale, with old-style blue hyperlinks and nothing about the hat. If they are priced the same, I will presume you’d prefer to buy from the professionals. What if they were a dollar more expensive? Two? Three? Four? What you’re doing is quantifying the value of design. Now in business, you don’t often get this opportunity and you’re not buying hats (unless you’re a milliner). You’re presenting ideas worth thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions and even billions of dollars. So quantifying the value of design becomes harder, but even more important. You want to be viewed as the best for the job, not just on price, but on quality, professionalism, trustworthiness and success. You can achieve that through design. Not just design of your pitch collaterals, but design of every touchpoint your client has had with your business. Your competitors may very well be pursuing this already.
3. Short is sweet and social media rules our lives.
The Fyre Pitch deck adheres to the minimum text/maximum imagery rules of PowerPoint. Every day we’re swamped with social media and the dynamics of what we consume online are changing the way we consume in business. Research has shown we get a dopamine hit when we are acknowledge in social media (Likes, Retweets, Shares, etc). It makes us happy (albeit in a short, drug-like way) at a chemical level. Facebook’s video-first policy changed the way corporations communicate on a global level. Companies are no longer funnelling advertising budgets into 4 seasonal 30-second TV commercials. The scope widened to shortform, 10-second clips for social at one end of the spectrum and out to 5minute content videos. Instagram changed the way we view images and twitter changed the way we structure our sentences and deliver information. Everything is becoming shorter, faster and more emotion-linked. Consumption of information has changed, if you’re still presenting bullet points, you’re going to be left behind.
If you can capitalise these fundamental consumption changes within business presentations, you’ll start seeing more buy-in from your audience. Just ask the Fyre Squad, they may have proven to be failures at ground-level logistics, but the one thing they succeeded at was convincing people to invest millions-upon-millions into their idea. They knew how to communicate.
Looking for more inspiration for your next presentation design? Take a look at our Portfolio page to see how you can pursuade your audience
Or, keep your finger on the pulse of presentation design. We don’t spam. Ever.