Making the Sausage for a Soft Skills Challenge (Part 2)

Acknowledgment & plug: All of the work shared on this blog yesterday and today are derived from the work of Dan Roam and most specifically, his new book, The Pop-Pitch: The Two-Hour Creative Sprint to the Most Persuasive Presentation of Your Life.

The Pop-Up Pitch by Dan RoamIf this process for prepping a persuasive presentation appeals to you, go directly to the source. Dan Roam offers some of the material, like the 10-slide pitch template, as free downloads on his website, Digital Roam. Buy the book — or any of his prior books like Draw to Win to delve even further.

Better yet, join us over at the Napkin Academy, Dan’s subscription service for ongoing presentations, support, and networking if you’re interested in visual thinking and design.

Today, I follow-up our Visual Decoder from yesterday, using it to guide me in filling in the 10-page Pop-Up Pitch template for the FlexQuest challenge I am designing & developing to help high school interns learn and practice soft skills.

Every presentation tells a story, and the pop-up pitch uses a specific, consistent story arc. That’s what makes the template work so well. Dan starts by describing 4 basic types of storyline typically used in presentations:

  • Flat: Quarterly business report — boring trip, so nobody cares about the outcome
  • Bumpy and down: Shakespearean tragedy — interesting trip, negative outcome
  • Bumpy but up: Myths & blockbuster movies— interesting trip, positive outcome
  • Chaotic: Kafka & the surreal — awful trip triggering car sickness

While all 4 serve their own purposes, if you’re trying to persuade people, the obvious choice has to be the “bumpy but up” plot trajectory.

In building a template for this storyline, Dan further breaks the storyline down into 10 slides with a beginning, middle, and end, leading to the desired response. In the book, he explains how each slide addresses a specific emotion in order to engage the audience, drawing them into and through the story to our positive outcome.

Here’s Dan’s diagram of the flow of a pitch designed to persuade an audience:Dan Roam's Pop-Up Pitch — 10-page pitch storyline

One fantastic aspect of Dan’s pop-up pitch structure is the flexibility of delivery it provides. Within the book, he provides 3 examples where individuals successfully used this template to pitch an idea. The least formal presentation was an email simply stating the 10 steps in text form, broken into slides. One fellow used a simple Powerpoint built with images from his hand-drawn Visual Decoder. The third prepped a full-blown whiz-bang show for a major corporation’s decision-makers. Yes, all 3 sold their ideas to their audience by building out a pop-up pitch storyline.

For my FlexQuest project, I’m starting with the least formal structure today, simple slides, with only text so far. My next step will include a few simple images to quickly convey key messages. Each slide is titled and the associated emotion included in parentheses.

Remember: this is my perfect first draft.

TITLE (Clarity)

Welcome to FlexQuest: Building Skills to Meet & Beat Future Challenges.


We know we all need to prepare for the future.


But we don’t know what we will need to know. Hard skills learned in formal schooling and training, such as coding, CAD drafting, or network ops are constantly changing. Yesterday’s skills fall out of use, stranding some people behind like dinosaurs, struggling to get by with obsolete skills and knowledge.


What if there was way to build your own set of skills that will never grow obsolete?

There is — the so-called “soft skills” like communication, collaboration, creativity, self-management, and adaptability that can empower us to forever meet changing challenges.

FALSE HOPE (Sobering reality)

But these soft skills are hard to pinpoint, describe or discuss, much less teach and train in students. No wonder so many people say these skills simply can’t be taught or learned.


But what if we could turn the problem of learning and practicing “soft skills” into a challenge — a game?

Games guru and futurist Jane McGonigal has said, “Gamers always believe that an epic win is possible and that it’s always worth trying, and trying now.” Adopt a gamer’s mindset to accept the challenge and improve your own soft skills.

FlexQuest provides a place and process for people to learn and practice these skills by designing & playing their own game — while working towards a self-chosen Epic Win!

WE CAN DO THIS (Courage)

FlexQuest builds on the proven framework of Jane McGonigal’s award-winning real-world game, “SuperBetter” that helps individuals build resilience and overcome health struggles.

FlexQuest uses similar gameful elements such as a self-chosen Epic Win, chosen and assigned Quests, Allies to aid and assist you, Bad Guys such as negative traits like procrastination, perfectionism, or lack of focus, and Power-Ups to give you quick boosts to keep going.

CALL TO ACTION (Commitment)

We’re still building the FlexQuest challenge — and I need your help.

Several things have to happen to make this work. We will provide the game framework for working on these soft skills as well as information, examples, and feedback on each of the soft skills we focus on.

You, in turn, must commit to accepting the challenge to improve your soft skills, building out the custom elements for your personal FlexQuest, and finally, committing to play the game.


Simply by accepting the challenge, you already start to gain the benefit of a gamer’s mindset. Setting an Epic Win prompts you into better planning. Identifying allies who can help you and “bad guys” who might thwart you allows you to build support and overcome common obstacles in your pursuit of better soft skills.

THE LONG WIN (Aspiration)

Playing this game will help build the soft skills to win an endless string of Epic Wins in the future. In essence, improved soft skills become future-proof superpowers that will always enable you to meet — and beat! — challenges you will encounter in the future.

In summary, this quickie pitch outline provides a backbone for further development of our FlexQuest program. A key hallmark of FlexQuest is maximum flexibility for our intended audience, so I suspect we will find uses for this original outline of a pop-up pitch.

Thanks for dropping in to take a look. Please let me know what you think — it’s a work-in-progress!

About bullersbackporch

I am a native Austinite, a high-tech Luddite, lover of music, movies and stories and a born trainer-explainer.
This entry was posted in games, Learning and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.