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.