Friday, November 2, 2012

Presentations: Slide Guidelines & Makeovers

Wow, what a great workshop at Virginia Tech's Faculty Development Institute yesterday! Twenty of us, including students, faculty, and staff from 17 different departments came together to learn and share about designing user-friendly electronic slides. After intros, we reviewed the Durso et al (2011) evidence-based PowerPoint slide guidelines and then broke out into groups to start makeovers for 3 different sets of slides, provided ahead of time by willing participants. Part 2 (open to anyone) will be 11/8/12 at 10 am!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

HFES User-Friendly Presentations

CANCELLED Sign up now for my workshop, User-Friendly Presentations: Pitches, Guidelines, Makeovers & Tools, on Monday, 10/22/12 as part of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society's 56th Annual Meeting. CANCELLED
  • Want to design a presentation that is both easy to deliver and easy for your audience to follow and understand?
  • Did you know oral communication skills was ranked #1 and presentation skills was listed as another important work-related skill in a HFES member educational needs survey?
Join Dr. Erik CB Olsen starting at 1:30 pm for HFES Workshop #7 - a new, interactive presentations workshop.
·         After individual “personal pitches” participants will then learn a method of organizing their ideas into a presentation – before turning on the computer.
·         Then we’ll review Durso’s 5 PowerPoint slide guidelines on font, color, layout, charts, and comprehension.
·         We will then collectively learn to conduct slide makeovers.

The workshop will benefit a mixed audience including students and people new to human factors as well as experienced presenters who want to fine-tune their presentation skills.
  •  No experience making presentations is required but knowing the basics of PowerPoint or Keynote is useful.
  • Participants are encouraged to submit electronic slides prior to the workshop.
See the full HFES description online, visit the registration page or go to

CANCELLED Register today to reserve your spot! CANCELLED

Friday, June 29, 2012

23 second slide video: Introduce 1-element-at-a-time

Erik showing the 1-element-at-a-time concept
I just made a 23-second video (from my longer videos) for my User-Friendly Presentations playlist - this video explains and demonstrates the power of splitting up a slide into elements and building the slide up by showing and explaining each element one at a time. You can still use the full slide as an overview, but then introduce each portion of that slide one part at a time to make it more understandable to your audience, who is not familiar with your data, slides, or presentation.

Friday, June 15, 2012

3 quick slide makeovers in a minute

Want to see a slide makeover in action? How about 3 of them in about a minute? Check out the video below I made recently.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

User-Friendly Presentations: Pitches, Guidelines, Makeovers & Tools

I just received notice that my 1/2-day Workshop "User-Friendly Presentations: Pitches, Guidelines, Makeovers & Tools", was ACCEPTED for the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society's 56th Annual Meeting, tentatively scheduled for Monday, October 22 in Boston, MA! Registration details to follow. UPDATE: should know by 6/19/12!

I also have a 2-part June workshop called Perfect Presentations in Blacksburg, VA for June 13 & 20, which will be similar but spread over 2 separate sessions.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Slide makeover in under 30 seconds

This quick slide makeover example was recorded to show a sample of how I help people makeover their slides.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Toastmasters International in Blacksburg, VA

This is a plug for Toastmasters International "... with more than 13,000 clubs and more than 270,000 members in 116 countries." It is for anyone who wants to be a more effective speaker or story teller, including:
  • Those who are pretty good speakers
  • Anyone who is scared to death to speak publicly
  • Students, community members, professionals, retirees, locals, internationals
  • Anyone who wants to learn
Even polished sales people and motivational speakers join Toastmasters.

Here in Blacksburg, VA there are 2 groups that meet twice a month for an hour. Come by and check one or both out! And the dues are cheap  - pennies a day for coaching, guidance, workbooks, a magazine, and more free resources. I'll be attending this week and most days there is a meeting - to continue my own learning, be around supportive people, and to practice and improve my own public speaking skills.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Are you a user-friendly presenter? 5 questions

5 questions will help you tell your presentation & interface design story.

  ① What personal story can you weave into your talk, website, & interface?
  ② Start with your conclusion/tagline early so we remember the deal.
  ③ Do you structure your talk or interface using numbers so it is easy to follow and remember?
  ④ Do your slides/interface clarify your message and are they easily visible?
  ⑤ Tie to your story and conclusion/tagline throughout.
Answer these 5 questions to have a user-friendly talk, website, or interface.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

7 Butler U presentation tips

To maximize presentation effectiveness, here are 7 presentations tips.
  1. Effective speakers have a conversational delivery
  2. Support your speech by creating visual aids that are effective
  3. Have an intro, body, & conclusion as elements of a speech
  4. PowerPoint presentations tips include text font size, consistent color/graphics, & strategic blank slides
  5. Before presenting with PowerPoint arrive early, preview, & plan
  6. Use transitions after your intro, between points, & before your conclusion
  7. Use visual aids to support your speech
Based on Student Resources, and posted in honor of the passing of Prof. Paul Sandin, announced 4/11/12 who developed the Butler University Speakers Lab.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

TechPad Testimonial

I had the good fortune of hearing Bob Summers give a TechPad presentation both at the Roanoke Blacksburg Technology Council (RBTC) Tech & Toast on 3/15/12 and at the Lyric as part of Community Voices on 3/27/12. His presentation was excellent! And even Bob was pleased with input to improve his slides for next time.

What Could Have Been - Simulation of slide makeover for Bob's opening slide: Fonts were changed from grey to black and increased to 60, 36, 24 Tahoma font to increase readability and counter the bright stage lighting that washed out text, especially near the bottom of the screen.

 "This is awesome! We had some discussion about the lights during the sound check process. Main problem is the lights are on or off, which washed out the slides. Your suggestions would have made a difference and could have easily been incorporated on the fly. Did not even think to change the slides that way. "
- Bob Summers, TechPad Founder & Director at 460 Angels, March 28, 2012



Last Impression and Contact Info - Example makeover of final slide:
The logo image was increased 30% from 3.08 "(h) x 3.79 "(w) to 4.0" (h) x 4.91" (w).
The font was increased 100% from 18 point font to 36 point font.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

It's a boy! No, wait, it's a Man - PitchMan!

PitchMan was born Sunday March 25, 2012 in the wee hours of morning while the sun was still sleeping. PitchMan was introduced to the world at a presentation to the Virginia Tech Human Factors & Ergonomics Society (HFES) student chapter the very next day. Witnesses learned from his lovely shape how to construct a simple 30-second pitch that could be used as an elevator speech, for introducing someone else, and for various situations.


The concept is pretty simple, and starts with having a clear purpose. Then go from the feet upward.
  1. Starting with with the feet, state your (first) name and organization.
  2. Next are the legs - your position and department.
  3. a & b - Arms & Body
    • arms are two responsibilities in your position (or research or sales idea) and the
    • body is a very short case demonstrating how you use those responsibilities (and how that relates to your audience's interests).
  4. Then you restate your name and organization (head).
  5. The final step is to ask a question - referred to as a Closing Action Question. This could be as simple as "can we exchange business cards so we stay in touch?" or an ask for a sale, or a "did you know" fact to leave the audience pondering an issue you will then talk about further if given the chance.
  Keys include:
  • PitchMan is easy to remember.
  • PitchMan's feet stand on a solid purpose.
  • PitchMan is malleable depending on your purpose.
  • PitchMan is short! Only 30 seconds!
  • PitchMan is young and may evolve.

And now Part 2 of 3,  PowerPoint Guidelines is here! 
And Part 3 of 3, Makeover Examples too!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Crafting an Effective Elevator Pitch-10 Tips (Business Week)

  1. Know what you're trying to achieve
  2. Know your target
  3. It's not about you
  4. Keep it real
  5. Be specific
  6. Preparation is key
  7. Solve a problem
  8. Let your passion show
  9. Practice
  10.  Keep it short

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Pitches, Guidelines, Makeovers, & Tools

This week I submitted a workshop proposal called "User-Friendly Presentations: Pitches, Guidelines, Makeovers, & Tools" - and I think this sets the stage. The elevator pitch is a short 30-second summation of what you offer or what your organization does. Design guidelines such as those outlined by Durso and colleagues (in HFES's EID, '11) or by Dave Paradi's ThinkOutsideTheSlide are useful for designing user friendly presentations that the target audience can enjoy and remember. Participants will then learn how to do slide makeovers by applying what they learn to improve their own slides. Then we'll overview useful tools beyond PowerPoint such as a Color Contrast CalculatorPechaKucha, SlideShare, Ignite, and Prezi.

The slide is a great example that was improved by identifying the purpose which is that the Huckleberry Trail is for adults and kids. A new version of the slide demonstrates both the need to have one purpose and shows a better use of images and text. The long quote should be eliminated, and if essential moved to a new slide and read aloud or summarized. The new version of the slide also includes an image with no image reflection. The title is straight-forward text with no shadow used. The slide uses a large, readable font and a lighter background to provide a high color contrast between the black font and the light blue.

The original slide here shows a table that could likely be read in a printed report but that is an unreadable when presented on a slide. The details are unnecessary. The purpose of this slide appears to be to show the cost of the orange line and three of its components. The slide on the right shows how this same information can be reconfigured to be much more clear to the audience. The slide also uses a large, readable font and a lighter background to provide a high color contrast between the black font and the light blue.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Toastmasters International - Proposals and Pitches

Toastmasters International's straight-forward method for proposals & pitches to persuade, following 4 steps:

  1. Determine your purpose.
  2. Analyze your audience and determine its needs.
  3. State your main message and support it.
  4. Urge the audience to take definite action.
For the local Blacksburg Toastmaster's club visit their webpage at

Saturday, March 17, 2012

User Friendly Presentations - Intro

Today's podcast: 03-17-12_Intro.mp3 - Introduction to Erik and User Friendly Presentations (background soundtrack, "Ocean Blues" by Jeff Nix and Jeff Mahoney, permission pending)

TRANSCRIPT: Well hello! I am Erik Olsen and this is my first podcast to tell you about me and about User Friendly Presentations.

I took my first public speaking class 25 years ago and then changed my major to Speech Communication because I saw the improvement I made during that semester. Since then I've given hundreds of presentations and prepared slides for meetings and conferences and for fellow staff members.

Now for the User Friendly part of my cause - I received my PhD in ergonomics which is the study of people and how they work with equipment, technology, and various systems. The idea behind ergonomics is to design things that are easy to use or user friendly.

My idea for User Friendly Presentations is just that - to help people make easy-to-follow presentations that clearly express their idea to an audience. The audience could be a person you met who asks you what you do; the audience could be a group of business people you are presenting your pitch to for funding of your new idea; the audience could be people hearing your talk at a conference, at work, or another organization.

Erik's poster presentation in 2002
I've had the idea to develop User Friendly Presentations for a long time - and I am now working on a draft to articulate my plan. But the idea was kicked off again by a presentation I recently heard, where the presenter was struggling to communicate. The slides being used were hard to understand and overly complex - they were definitely not user friendly. 

My mission is to assist people in making user friendly presentations so they can clearly communicate the ideas they have so that the audience can follow along easily. Then the audience will leave with a clear understanding of the main points of the presentation.