Earlier this year, I attended a pitch event for young entrepreneurs seeking funding for their start-ups. The room was packed with over 200 business people and there was a buzz in the air. But two minutes into the first powerpoint presentation, things began to shift. Spectators started to squirm. A few of the panelists sank back in their chairs and checked their watches. Within ten minutes, eyes were glazing over as the unlucky presenter droned on.
Does this situation sound familiar?
Luckily, there’s an easy fix for a dull pitch: tell a story.
To help you pitch a product or sell an idea more effectively, here are “5 Rules for Telling Stories with Your Pitch”. Follow these guidelines and you’ll have investors throwing money at you before you know it.
1. Make Your Opening Count. It’s important to start your presentation off with a a bang, so make your first few lines memorable. Your first lines should establish (a) the problem you intend to address with your idea or product; (b) the characters, or players, in your world; and © a hint at the solution, or where you’re going. Paint a picture for your audience!
2. Be Vulnerable. Investors are not expecting everything to be perfect – if everything was perfect, you wouldn’t need help – so be open to sharing challenges. The easiest way to do this is to talk about what happened in the process of growing your business. What obstacles did you face? Remember: don’t pass judgement on yourself or your customers. It’s better to open up about that something didn’t work during your pitch than have it come out in a Q&A. Your audience will thank you for it.
3. Build Tension. As I’ve discussed before, the way to build tension in a pitch is by identifying the emotional arc of the talk. Pitches, like stories, are about the subtle changes in one of the five essential emotions (fear, love, anger, sadness and joy). What happened to you along the way? Did you start the business confused and wind up feeling excited? Maybe you felt confident and now feel frustrated? Once you know the emotional arc of the pitch, your job is to take the audience on the journey. Show us what happened and your audience will begin to care about you and the product or idea.
4. Revisit Your Value Proposition. The best pitches are organized around a central idea, or theme. In business, the central idea is known as the value proposition. One quick way to identify the value proposition is the answer to the question: why should a customer buy this product or service? Use the answer to this question (i.e. to have easy access to the world’s information online), to segue into your vision for the future.Show people how things will change in the world you’re creating with your product or idea.
5. Have a Clear Call To Action. Once you’ve taken your audience on an emotional journey and they know your value proposition, the last piece is having a call to action. A good call to action will give your audience something to do with the information you’re imparting. Do you need $1.725 million for capital equipment? Six additional staffers for a new team? The key here is to be specific about what you want and ask for it. The more specific you are, the easier it will be for investors to understand your needs and give you what you want.
Not so bad after all, right? Now you’ll just have to figure out how to deal with Aaron Sorkin when he wants to make a movie about your life.