Good storytelling can be one of the most powerful tools in a new start-up’s arsenal. Especially when looking you’re for investors. And the best part is, it costs nothing, except for a little time and effort.
People have used storytelling as an effective way of teaching history, instilling morals, and preserving and evolving culture for millennia. And now more than ever, in our content-driven world, story is everywhere. It’s in the movies we watch, in the books we read, the music we listen to, and even in the advertising and marketing content we consume.
So why should your pitch deck be any different? After all, most people would rather listen to a short story than have facts and figures thrown at them for minutes at a time.
As the pitch decks of successful start-ups can show us, you’ve got a much better chance of inspiring investors if you’re able to create an emotional response in your audience. A good way to do this is to follow the same beats as a best-selling novel or blockbuster movie: set the scene, introduce conflict, and offer a resolution.
Even investors like stories.
Before you get started on writing your story, though, you should try to get the key components and structure of your pitch in order. Try to at least have an idea of how you would answer the following questions:
- Who will be the main characters of your story?
- What will be the core themes running through your pitch?
- What events will move your story forward?
- What will be your call-to-action?
- In what style do you plan to write?
You should also give some thought to your audience. Your story is for them after all.
Make sure you know who you’ll be pitching to, do some research on what pitches (stories) they’ve responded to in the past, and practice your delivery.
Your presentation should start with some exposition.
If you were telling a story to a friend, you wouldn’t open with the twist, and crime writers wouldn’t advise that you reveal the identity of the killer on page one.
You have to set the scene first and raise some tension, before you launch into the details. That way, when you start to reveal more later on it’s going to have a greater impact. Business pitches should follow the same logic.
In a pitch deck, that means describing the environment in which your business is going to be operating.
Do some world-building by offering some background information that will help investors understand the story you’re trying to tell, and why it needs to be told.
The best way to do this is to highlight a major change in the business environment, a universal shift in thinking, or the emergence of a new technology that’s going to have a long-term, real-world impact.
Ideally, this should be something relatable and relevant to your business, and to your investors, that creates a sense of urgency around your product, and captures the attention of your audience.
Think of it like a novel. There needs to be something at stake that’s going to drive the actions of your characters.
It can also be a good idea to use the first few slides of your pitch deck to explain how and why your business came into being. Tell your origin story, but try to be brief. If you’re not driving your narrative forward or revealing key facets of character, you don’t need it.
Once the scene is set and you’ve outlined a few of your key characters, it‘s time to introduce your conflict. This is the force that kick-starts the story. In a pitch deck, this means identifying a common problem faced by your target customers.
Your conflict will (hopefully) not be as high-stakes as an alien invasion or a natural disaster, but should still be something that, at least from a business perspective, is going to create real-life winners and losers.
Try to detail the problems or issues you expect to arise, or that have already arisen, from the changes outlined in your introduction, and demonstrate how the people that don’t address these concerns risk being left behind.
Here you should also give a taster of the benefits that investors and customers can expect to see from your business. Don’t give away too much just yet, but make sure they know that this an opportunity that they don’t want to miss out on.
Having you given your audience a problem to consider, you need to offer them a resolution.
This is arguably the most important part of your pitch, as the ending of your presentation has the potential to affect your audience’s overall impression of your story.
A great ending can go some way to rescuing a bad pitch, while an unsatisfying resolution can dismantle all the good work that’s gone before it.
Ultimately, in a business pitch, the resolution is where you need to demonstrate how your business will solve the problem identified in your earlier slides.
Here you can get more involved with the key features of your product and outline how they help your product achieve the goals you’ve set out. You also need to highlight what makes your product or service stand out from the crowd.
Remember, your product is the hero of the story and you have to convince your audience that it’s the only one that can save the world.
People are more likely to put their faith in a hero who’s saved a few princesses before. So, if your business has already achieved results, it’s important that you show that to your audience. If you have regular customers, reach out for some eye-catching testimonials, or alternatively offer some demonstrations of your product in action.
REVISION AND REFINING
With a novel, the first draft isn’t usually the one that goes to print. It should be the same with your pitch deck. Go back, edit and rewrite, making sure that your presentation stays on message, is succinct, and conforms to a cohesive, engaging narrative. And try to cut out any overused business phrases.
If there are aspects of your presentation that are too detailed, too slow, or that don’t move your narrative forward, consider removing them altogether. Work through a second and third draft, and make sure you have something organized, refined and focused to present to investors.
Now all you need to do is get some presentation practice.
About the Author: Martin Luenendonk is CEO of RoadToFunding.com. He is a 2x entrepreneur, former venture capital investor and investment banker, and I am sharing everything I know for free in order to help entrepreneurs (and people interested in entrepreneurship) raise money for their startups.