Clever Use of the Olympic Rings to Show World Data

Data doesn’t have to fit boring old bar charts, pie charts and line charts. If you’re creative enough, you can visualize data a lot of ways.

Here’s a really creative approach by artist Gustavo Sousa, using the Olympic rings. It doesn’t give exact measures, but in this case the artist wants to make an emotional point by the size of the rings. There isn’t even a legend – asking you to guess which color goes with each continent. What do you think? Effective?

I’m working on a second book – tentatively titled “Storytelling with Graphs” – to give you tips on how to present business data with more impact. Subscribe to my blog to be alerted when it’s available.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

3 Best Elevator Pitches

An elevator pitch is how you respond to the question “So, what do you do?” But most elevator pitches don’t work. Who wants to be answered with this 60 second infomercial:

“I’m Regional Vice President of Sales for Puffery Manufacturing. We manufacture office furnishings, electronic casings and belt buckles out of recycled asbestos, so you know your dollars are going toward making a greener planet. And we have manufacturing partners across the United States and Asia, which means we can ship finished product to your warehouses faster than the competition. Here’s my card. Maybe we can set up a time to meet and talk about your office furniture or belt buckle needs.”

Fortunately, I’ve found 3 elevator pitches that actually work. They are different than the boring 60 second “talking brochure” because they are:

1. CONVERSATIONS.  The goal is not to deliver your 60 second advertisement; it’s to have a two-way conversation.  A successful pitch is where the other person relaxes and says “Interesting. Tell me more.”

2. SHORT. 60 seconds is a long time to talk uninterrupted. An elevator pitch is NOT a sales pitch. Think 10 seconds, not 60!

3. EVERYDAY LANGUAGE. Avoid words like “synergy”, “optimize”, “efficiency”, “ROI” and so on. These words SCREAM “sales pitch” and will have your panicked prospect looking for the exit signs.

In fact, here’s a tip: write out your pitch, then take a red pen and cross out all the cliches and marketing-speak. Replace them with one-syllable words.

 The Three Best Elevator Pitches

#1 Brian Walter

Brian Walter is one of my favorite speaker coaches. And his elevator pitch method — the WOW, HOW, NOW approach — is the simplest and most fun.

1. WOW. Say something intriguing (even puzzling) that will make the other person want to hear more. A creative summary of what you do that demands some clarification. Ideally, the prospect’s reaction will be to cock their head and ask “what does that mean?”

2. HOW. Answer the stated (or unspoken) question and explain exactly what you do.

3. NOW. Shift into storytelling mode, giving a concrete example of a current customer. The key phrase is “Now, for example…”


Prospect: So, what do you do?

Me: I help build PowerPoint muscles.

Prospect: Huh?

Me: I teach people how to use PowerPoint more effectively in business. Now, for instance, I’m working with a global consulting firm to train all their senior consultants to give better sales presentations so they can close more business.


#2 Chris Westfall

Chris is author of The New Elevator Pitch.

1. Start with a story/humor/news/etc. Don’t launch into your company spiel. Instead, start with something you expect to hear in a conversation: humor, a story, referring to recent news. Choose something that highlights a problem you help customers solve.

2. Add an emotional benefit statement. Say “That’s what I do.” Then summarize the RESULTS you achieve for customers. It should be an emotional benefit, not a hard-headed business benefit.

3. Quantify your success. Now you add the proof of your benefit statement, using numbers if possible.

4. Use the “velvet rope close”. The velvet rope close suggests your offer is only accessible to certain types. For example, if you’re an investment advisor you might say “I normally only talk about investing in gold with my high net worth clients. But I think it might be right in your case.” Rather than closing like a hungry dog, inappropriate for a social meeting, let the prospect come to you. In your elevator pitch, the key phrase to use is “I’m not sure if I can help you, but…”


Do you remember about 10 years ago when the space shuttle Columbia was destroyed on re-entry? It turns out the engineers tried to warn NASA about the danger. But the PowerPoint slides they used were  a complete mess and no-one understood the danger.

That’s what I do. I train people how to make sure their PowerPoint slides aren’t a complete disaster.

For instance, students who attend my workshop can create slides that are 50% more clear and 50% more convincing by the end of the training, based on scores students give each other before and after the workshop.

I’m not sure if my training could work at your company. It really depends how much you use PowerPoint and what’s at stake if your PowerPoint is unclear. But I’d be happy to talk to you about it.


#3 Richard Fouts

Fouts is a Gartner analyst who created the S.I.R. Framework based on storytelling principles: creating conflict, escalating the conflict and then resolving the conflict. It’s a bit too much of a monologue for my tastes, but it does feel more conversational than the “talking brochure” approach.

1. Situation (conflict). Illustrate the pain current customers face.

2. Impact (escalate conflict) – Explain the impact of that situation. How is this affecting profits, market share, customer loyalty, or anything else the prospect is concerned about losing.

3. Resolution – Explain how you solve the problem. Focus on benefits, not products and services.


You know how most business people use PowerPoint but most use it pretty poorly? Well, bad PowerPoint has all kinds of consequences – sales that don’t close, good ideas that get ignored, time wasted building slides that could have been used developing or executing strategies. My company shows businesses how to use PowerPoint to capture those sales, bring attention to those great ideas and use those wasted hours on more important projects.


Those are my top 3 recommendations for building your own elevator pitch because they are conversational, short and use everyday language. Which methods would you add to this list?

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

Bruce Gabrielle Reviews PowerPoint 2013. Should Your Business Upgrade?

There’s a lot that’s slick and cool about Office 2013, from its snazzy welcome screen to the buttery smoothness of the way windows resize and open.

But my focus is on its usefulness as a tool for business communications – both presentations and documents. And I’ll limit my review to those features.


1. Defaults to 16:9 aspect ratio (widescreen). As soon as you open a new file, you’ll find it defaults to a 16:9 aspect ratio – fine for cinematic presentations. But not ideal for business presentations.

Why? First, it encourages people to put even MORE information on a slide when the beauty of PowerPoint is that it forces conciseness and brevity on its author. Second, because slides are often printed out as handouts or reading material – and it’s more common to find printers with letter-size paper than legal-size.

You can change the slide size in Design > Slide Size


2. Outline View is now hidden.  In PowerPoint 2010, the left window showed the Slide View and another tab with the Outline View. The Outline view is very handy for quickly creating PowerPoint slide titles (see this video). In 2013, Outline View is gone, probably to clean up the screen. This is a mistake. Outline View is a very useful, if underutilized, feature.

You can still find Outline View in View > Outline View

3. Inserts Online Images. In addition to adding clip-art and images from, now you can insert images directly from Bing Image Search. Even better, you can limit your search to Creative Commons images – images that are free to use, with some restrictions.

But this feature is too limited in its current form, for a number of reasons

  • The search results window is very thin – you can only see about 5 pictures at a time. You can resize that window but the default should be a large window showing search results, or there should be a prominent button saying “expand window”.
  • The license rights are misleading – Bing returns pictures with a Creative Commons license. But many of these pictures are NOT approved for “commercial use”. An internal business presentation or a sales presentation to customers is, arguably, a commercial purpose. You will need to visit each website where the picture was found to double-check the licensing rights

So, a good idea but not an improvement over the alternatives. I prefer to use, Google Image Search (choose license type in “Advanced Search”) and other tools for locating commercial Creative Commons photos.


4. Cropping. The new cropping tool is missing something. It used to be that when you were cropping an image to fit the slide, the cropping tool stopped automatically at the slide edge. Now, there’s no indication you’ve hit the slide edge.


5. Eyedropper tool. There’s a slick new eyedropper tool, located in the Shape Fill and Text Fill drop-down boxes. It allows you to pick up a color from anywhere on your slide and apply it to other shapes or text. So, if you want your slide title to be the same cherry red as the Ferrari in the slide photo, you select your text, open the Text Fill window, select the eyedropper tool, click on the red Ferrari and voilà – now your text is the exact same red.

Eyedropper tool in PPT 2013

There are some limitations to the eyedropper tool. It only picks up colors from that slide and not from, say, a website or another application. You will need to take a screen capture and paste it into PowerPoint to sample those colors. Or, just use a free tool like ColorCop.


6. Improved motion paths. I do love the new motion paths, which add a shadowy image showing where the animated shape will end up. This is a huge improvement over 2010, where it just showed where the path ended and you had to experiment and keep refining to get the image to end up in a certain location.


7. New Presenter View with Zooming and Panning. Presenter View has a slick new web 2.0 interface that is a vast improvement over the homely Presenter View in PowerPoint 2010.

But the most important new feature is the ability to zoom in on a place on the slide, and then pan around the slide in that zoomed-in mode. This is incredibly useful feature but it has some baffling limitations.

First, the zoom happens almost instantly – it’s not a smooth, slow zoom but head-snappingly fast. In addition, you can’t adjust that speed, nor the size of the zoomed area, which covers about one-quarter of the slide. You can’t zoom in a second time. So, a useful feature but curiously limited to pretty basic functionality.


8. More Presenter View features. Like in PowerPoint 2010, Presenter View has a timer so you can determine how long your presentation takes. But now it has pause, resume and restart buttons, to give you more control over the timings. In addition to the pen and highlighter tools found in PowerPoint 2010, you’ll now find a laser pointer tool, which directs the eye with a bright red point of light.


9. Better shape tools. I’m not a fan of the shapes and diagrams drawn by PowerPoint 2010 because of the inelegant look of their thick dark lines. The new PowerPoint produces more elegant diagrams and shapes, with thin light lines.

There’s also a new tool for combining shapes – the “fragment” tool. It shatters two or more shapes into smaller shapes based on where they overlap.


10. Better (and Worse) Charts. For me, the biggest changes was in the charts. And the changes were not always improvements.

a. It’s easier to create combo charts, like a line chart overlaid on a bar chart with its own y-axis. This was clunky to do in PowerPoint 2010 but now there’s a specific menu item for creating combo charts.

b. Better looking graphs. Instead of the forceful fruit salad colors in PowerPoint 2010, the new 2013 creates charts with less saturated colors. It also uses lighter gridlines, smaller fonts for the x- and y-axes. Even the handles around the chart, used to resize and move it, are slimmer. Overall, the graphs just look simpler and more elegant.

c. Gap widths is a mixed bag. Side by side column charts are created with slight gaps between the bars, improving their aesthetics and readability. But all  other charts are unchanged from PowerPoint 2010, with no gaps at all or overly large gaps.

d. There appear to be more features available for graphs. Every time you create a graph, or select a graph, a rich menu of options opens on the right. I don’t know if this is good or bad. On one hand, it gives you easy access to manage the location of the legend, the graph title and background fill. On the other, it tempts you into adding drop shadows and pattern fills. I did not have time to explore all these options, and they feel a bit overwhelming, but overall I’m more concerned than impressed.

e The Excel window that holds your chart data is smaller. When you want to edit your chart data, a small sliver of a window opens. I preferred when that window took up my whole screen, so I could see the data without distracting programs in the background. In addition, only ONE Excel window can be open at a time. I am in the habit of grabbing data from one Excel window and pasting it into a second Excel window. So, I was disappointed to discover another limitation.

f. It takes MORE CLICKS to find the chart type you want to create. In PowerPoint 2010, when you clicked Insert > Chart it opened a window with all your chart options. In 2013, it only shows a few chart types at a time. You have to click several times to navigate to the chart you want.

Chart Chooser in PowerPoint 2013

This review is based on the PowerPoint 2013 preview so I hope when it’s finally released some of these limitations will be lifted. I’d especially like to see improved control over the zoom function in Presentation View.

If having a slick and cool new interface is important to your business, the upgrade may be worth it. I was impressed with the web 2.0 color palette and the seductive way that windows opened, slid around and resized with a light bounce. But based only on the new functionality I see in the software preview, I would pass on the upgrade. There are other tools to accomplish many of these tasks.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.





The Only Way to Beat a Story is with a Better Story

Presumptive presidential candidate Mitt Romney is on the ropes, with the Obama camp pummeling him on his record as an “outsourcing pioneer” and a rich man “out of touch” with working America.


Romney’s response? To be defensive, demand apologies and throw desperation punches like “This is Chicago-style politics at its worst.” And that strategy will fail, just as it did in his 1994 run for Massachusetts senator.

Here’s some advice for the Romney camp, and it applies to business communicators as well:

The only way to beat a story is with a better story.

The Obama camp is painting a story of an anti-hero (a greedy out-of-touch Romney) with a goal (to protect his rich friends) and an enemy (the working class voters). Romney can’t erase that story by whining “no fairs!”. He has to come up with a better story, where he is the hero and champion for the American people.

Even telling the truth would be better than just denying Obama’s story. He could say:

It’s true my companies increased profits by outsourcing jobs. But that’s the point. American manufacturing has become non-competitive with the rest of the world. That’s why we face a serious problem in this country: how to make our manufacturing sector competitive again. We can’t expect business owners to keep jobs in this country based on patriotism alone. That isn’t sustainable. We can’t just add taxes to businesses that outsource jobs. That just drives up the cost of goods and services for Americans and makes us less competitive with foreign companies. We need radically new thinking about how to keep manufacturing jobs in America, or retrain displaced workers.

This creates a new story: the hero (reformed villain Romney who is now on our side) with a goal (to fix the outsourcing problem) and a new enemy (policies that make America’s manufacturing sector non-competitive). Americans love a reformed sinner.

Throwing up your arms to cover your face is no defense. Romney’s camp needs a better story. Keep this principle in mind if you’re arguing your case in the face of opposition.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.


Slide Transitions Could Be a Game-Changer

One of PowerPoint’s worst weaknesses is how there are few smooth ways to transition from one slide to the next. Each slide transition is an abrupt jump from one idea to another idea.

If Prezi has one advantage over PowerPoint, it’s the ability to transition smoothly from a big idea to its parts. This can be critical for some business, sales and instructional presentations.

I was intrigued when I stumbled across this site with a cool feature. As you scroll down the page, one image moves with you linking one scene to the scene below it. Visit the site, or watch the video below to see this cool effect.

Transitions is really one of the foundations of storytelling, linking one scene to the following scene. Microsoft, are you listening? Can you make it possible to have an element on one slide move and maintain continuity to the next slide? This could be a game-changer.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.