Storytelling in Startup Pitch: How to write a compelling and persuasive story

When comes to writing a startup pitch, lots of people will say having a story is essential to pitching your startup, what do they exactly mean? And how to write it effectively that can help raise millions?
Storytelling in Startup Pitch

Why is storytelling a much-needed element in startup pitch decks?

Investors (Everyone is!) are bored with spreadsheets, valuations and numbers. What would you expect an investor to get from your deck full of numbers/words if they only scan your deck on average 3-4 minutes! If they want detailed information, they will ask for it in the meetings. What you can offer that no term sheet can convey is the story behind your startup. That is why storytelling is recommended in startup pitch decks.

Storytelling in startup pitch deck is a scientifically-proven way to capture a listener’s attention and hold it. It helps to make your pitch unforgettable. Everyone loves a good story, even the most data-driven investor.

Investors invest in stories, not businesses

Babak Nivi, Venture Hacks / AngelList Tweet

2 key changes you need to make to write a compelling story for your startup pitch

The next question many people will ask is HOW to tell a story in a startup pitch deck? After all, it is just 10-20 slides deck without you “presenting” in the background. (Your goal is to get the ticket for a meeting with investors to present in person!)

You first need to make 2 key changes:

Change #1: Your mindset

Your number 1 goal in your pitch is not just about talking the facts. Instead, focus on grabbing interest and getting your audience excited. Your deck doesn’t need to be the complete guide to your business. It just needs to generate interest so you can move on to the next step. 

That is why storytelling is a recommend technique. Tell a story and engage people emotionally. Everyone loves to hear stories, even the investors. So tell an exciting story about your startup. A good pitch balances business and emotional needs. Whether you’re pitching to a company, an investor, a customer, or a potential partner, you have to hit a person on both emotional and business levels. Without this, your pitch is almost certain to fall flat.

In order to engage the audience emotionally, you need to know your audience first.

Understanding who you are pitching to is absolutely key in creating a killer pitch deck.

For example, when you are trying to teach “How to create a Powerpoint slide” to a 25-year old educated friend, the message/story you tell will probably be different than the one you will give to your grandma, right? 

The same applies to a pitch deck.  The audience will be the filter of what you present in your deck.  Know your audience, and you are off to a winning start.

Remember audiences listen in order to gain value for themselves. Pitches aren’t about you or your startup. The goal of your pitch is to communicate what’s in it for the audience.

Change #2: Your Approach

When writing the startup pitch, what most people do is open up PowerPoint, start chucking in text, maybe following some format and hope that it sorts of addresses all the key points you have decided you want to say.

Only… you end up with a crappy deck and no narrative.

You need to change how you approach writing your pitch deck.

Starting with planning a storyboard

First you need to tackle all the MUST answered questions for the investors in a pitch deck:

  1. [Value proposition] What is the problem and is it worth solving? Why is now the right time to solve it?
  2. [Team] Does the team have the vision and the wherewithal to build this company?
  3. [Competition] What is the competitive angle that will enable this company to succeed where others have tried and failed?
  4. [Sales effectiveness & product validation] Who does the startup sell to? Which customers have used the product and how have they received it?
  5. [Product distribution] How does the company acquire customers cost effectively? What are the unit economics (customer acquisition cost, contribution revenue, and churn rates)?
  6. [Revenue model] Does the company have the revenue model to build a big business with good margins under reasonable assumptions?
  7. [Market size] Can the market enable or bear a $100M revenue. Or is this product in a quickly growing market or riding a disruptive wave?
  8. [Risk] What are the risks of the business (e.g. legal risks, technology development risks, value chain implications and so on)

To save your time, we have analyzed and broken down all the key questions/points that VCs want to answer and list them out in the template.

startup pitch deck storytelling board

Download the template, try to answer all the key questions there.  

After filling the template, you will have a sense what your key selling point is. And what are the things you need to highlight in your “story” in your startup pitch deck. 

3 ways to tell a story in a startup pitch deck

There are 3 key elements contribute to telling a compelling story in a startup pitch deck.

Element #1: Sequence of the slides

Good deck flow is even more important than the graphic design of the deck. Make sure you have the flow and story to tell. Look at what you have written in your storyboard template, try to figure out your storyline by moving around the sequence of the points you are trying to make.

One of the best ways to do is to tell stories about how your customers use your product, how they currently experience problems that need to be solved, and how your company will make the lives of your customers better. The more you can tell stories that investors can relate to, the more you’ll be able to build excitement for your company.

Element #2: Title of each slide

Title serves as a narrative of your story. Every slide should be able to stand alone and be able to tell a distinct part of the story. The purpose of PowerPoint deck is to deliver your message, and each slide should tell a distinct part of the story. If left behind, each and every PowerPoint slide should be able to stand alone with its action title and contents.

In order to do so, the TITLE of each slide must be a complete, standalone thought. It should be a concise and complete sentence, with clear and specific message.

Element #3: The Content

Data/graphics/text you use in each slide to support your message.

Start decluttering, stop stuffing things in your slide.

Investors only scan your deck on average 3-4 minutes! That is why it is important to make the simplest yet catchy pitch deck for investors and VCs. In essence, the three keys to powerful pitch decks that get funded are:

  • Clear and simple
  • Compelling
  • Easy to act on

To do so, in your content, you should

  1. Avoid use lots bullet points / lots of photos in one slide. Try to use different ways to “list things”
  2. And remember you can’t cover everything in a presentation; have the courage to cut the non-essential. Most presentation that fail do so because they include too much information and display it in a cluttered way that does not engage the brain. Does your data/content help you to reinforce your main message? If not, then let it go.
  3. Summarize your idea / points in a sentence or two
  4. Use the Power of “Three”. 3 is the smallest number with complexity. It is easy for people to remember/get engaged to. Bring complex things down into threes

How to structure your startup pitch deck?

How to write the best startup pitch / investor deck

Unlike other presentation, usually start up deck has a rough standard structure. But the challenge is, everyone has their own opinion on what the total number of slides should be and what to be included in a pitch deck. Some, like Guy Kawasaki, argue that a pitch deck should be 10 slides MAXIMUM, while others put this figure at around 20 slides.

We will not re-invent the wheel here. We researched the popular structure that set in the market, created the framework, tested it in various scenarios, and there you are – the most essential & effective 12 slides tell your story in a clear, memorable, persuasive way.  Check out the link to find out more.

What to write in each of the slides in startup pitch deck?

A toolkit is created to show you what to write in each 12 essential slide, with best practice of legendary startup decks, so that you can learn from the best. 

The Toolkit contains: 

  • Content Vault: Step by step guidelines, worksheets, best practice of 30+ legendary startup pitch to guide you through the writing process
  • Design Vault: We took care the design for you so you can spend less time focusing on the little details that go into making your deck and more time out there actually pitching!

Subscribe to our channel to follow our video clips on how to write all 12 essential slides in the startup pitch deck

Tell your story and tell it right in your startup pitch deck. You’re bound to gain attention, and the funding will follow.

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