5 Rules for Telling Stories with Your Pitch

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5 Rules for Telling Stories with Your Pitch

A while back, 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 power point 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 (c) 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.

 

5 Rules for Telling Stories with Your Pitch

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Design in Mind: 5 Steps for Telling A Design Story

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How to tell a great a design story

Over the last three years, I’ve worked with a number of designers who have great ideas, but struggle to get colleagues or potential backers to see the power of their vision.  So if you’re a designer, how do you talk about your work effectively without falling back on blueprints or drawings?

The answer, not surprisingly, is pretty straightforward: tell a story.

To help you share compelling design stories, here are “5 Steps for Telling a Design Story.”  Check out our handy infographic, follow these guidelines and you’ll have yet another tool for amazing potential clients or fellow designers.

 

1. Start with Your Values

As designers know, good design starts with values, or core principles.  The first step to articulating your values is to answer the question: What is the experience you want your end user to have of the product?  Are you trying to achieve efficiency of space or economy of motion?  Is the goal to save time or increase the number of clicks on a particular page?  Start with a big idea (i.e. efficiency) and then break it down into its component parts (look, feel, etc).  The clearer you are in answering these questions, the clearer you’ll be in articulating the overall journey, or experience, you’d like a potential reader, listener or user to have of your design.

2. Identify a Moment of Vulnerability

Since there are no shortage of vulnerabilities in the design world, this part is pretty easy.  The challenge here is to try to find a moment where the failure hit a nerve on a personal level.  To do this, identify a moment or experience in which the value you want your design to demonstrate (i.e. efficiency) was absent, and the impact that absence had on you.  For example, if the experience you want people to have is about spatial layout, think about a time when you were jammed against a wall and couldn’t escape, or a time you created a space that had that same effect on someone.

Once you pinpoint the moment, take time to highlight each of the design failings (be specific!), how you reacted (be honest!), and any feelings you experienced, either in the moment or afterwards (make it personal!).

3.  Demonstrate a Shift

After you’ve clearly identified a moment of vulnerability, outline how you responded.  What did you do? Did you have any conversations about this design failing? Again, be specific about these conversations and actions.  For example, after seeing a cabinet that was placed improperly, did you research and discover any trends in cabinet design?  Did you share your experiences with your team?  These moments and conversations will provide context for your listeners about both your solution and the design process.  Many designers gloss over important details out of fear of bogging the audience down, but a detailed description of your response will actually draw people in by making design comprehensible.  Again, be specific!

4. Present Your Solution

After you’ve created context for both the design vulnerability and outlined your response, walk the audience through your solution.  This doesn’t need to be a complex breakdown of the idea (unless you’re speaking to fellow designers who want to hear it), but it does need to address the vulnerability identified in part 2 and the shift in part 3.  Describe how the solution speaks to the initial problem and realizes the design value laid out in part 1.

5. End with a Call to Action

The final part of a good design story is to end with a compelling call to action. Your call to action should articulate what’s possible in this new, well-designed world.  If you’ve already implemented your design solution, tell people what happened afterwards.  Did the industry embrace your ideas?  Did anyone offer praise or feedback?  What became possible for users and designers in this new world?  Did your solution provide secondary benefits that you didn’t initially anticipante?

If you haven’t implemented the solution yet, get people excited about the future and you’ll be amazed at the response.

How’s that for a design hack?

How to tell a great a design story