5 Key Elements of Pitching a Memorable Startup Story

The most effective presentations tell a story.

Stories are engaging. They pull you in. They force you to follow along. Good stories give you the power to inspire, captivate, and inform your audience. They connect you with your audience and with luck leave a lasting impression.

Startups that use storytelling in their pitches, marketing, or presentations have an advantage.

Pitching a business idea can be tough, and honestly, most startups are not very good at it. They seem to get engrossed in their day-to-day struggles and lose sight of why they are doing what they’re doing. They end up focusing their presentations or pitches on what they’ve built—but not why they’ve built it. They need to take a step back and maybe enlist the help of someone who can give an outsider’s perspective.

The startup story can take many shapes. These stories are directly influenced by time, location, and audience. Some pitches are quick and to the point. Others take a bit more time. Some even include a demo or video. One day you might be pitching to a sea of people, in a place you’ve never been. You might be pitching in a board room, to the wealthiest individuals that you’ve ever met. Don’t forget your customer. How are you selling your vision? The point is—you have to be prepared. Be ready to tell your compelling and memorable story.

Here are my suggestions on how to pitch a memorable startup story:

1. Involve real people and a real problem

Let’s pretend your startup’s product simplifies the home buying process for first-time buyers. Your platform has tools and an ecosystem to help them make the correct decisions, with expert support at their side. It’s great that you are identifying a real problem, with real customers, but now you need to draw us in. Make us empathize with being outbid 8 times. Tell us about the difficulty in finding a trusted realtor. Show us the complexity of home loan approval. Help us understand the helpless feeling of not being in control of the home buying process. Make it personal. Use real people with real names. Make them, and their problems, stars of the show.

2. Use large pictures and bold statements

Use a photo of the first-time homebuyers; show us the hopelessness of being outbid. Let us see the overwhelming mess of paperwork spread out on the dining room table. Clear visuals connect you with your audience—in photos as well as graphics. A simple bar chart showing the increasing number of first time homebuyers over the past 5 years gives your audience a clear visual of the market opportunity. Just keep it simple; leave out superfluous grid lines, numbers, and other elements that might distract your audience from the intended focus.Words also play a role. Use brief and bold statements to support your story. Quick statements, facts, and supporting data are more memorable than a paragraph and even a bulleted list. Too much content gives your audience the opportunity to drift off. Keep the audience hooked into your story by being brief. Select only the most important facts and figures.

3. Be remembered

Whether it be through a well articulated vision, your target market’s pain points, or your solution to the problem—grab your audience’s attention and don’t let go. Your audience is probably also listening to other startups pitches. You want to stand out. A unique story, anecdote, or a surprising point of view can make your pitch memorable. Include a personal fact in your pitch, like, “My wife and I lost our dream home the day before we were to close. And there was nothing we could do. Can you believe that?” That’s the type of anecdote the audience will remember, especially since it leaves the listener wanting to know more. The day before? Really? You don’t need to be on a mission to change the world; just use your enthusiasm and authenticity to establish memorability.

4. Weave your story throughout the pitch

Like any good story, there is a beginning, a middle, and an end. An easy way to keep your audience’s interest is to weave the story throughout the presentation. If you create a persona, reference it every few slides. This will create a nice flow and a more cohesive presentation. Don’t worry; not every part of your pitch will be mesmerizing. Not everyone in the audience is going to care equally, but that’s all right.

5. Be an entertainer

You don’t need to be a comedian; just make the audience smile. Laughter can break up your presentation and help you feel relaxed. You’re an expert in what you’re pitching, and now you’re making your audience laugh; that’s a confidence booster. Humor will help you be perceived as more authentic and relatable.

6. BONUS: Practice, practice, practice

Know your pitch inside and out, and always be prepared to recite it at a moment’s notice. For a large presentation or just an elevator pitch, the story and message should be consistent. On the presentation side, some of the best advice I’ve gotten was to practice my pitch without slides. Create them, perfect them, and then put them away. Practice your timing, yes, but practice without the slides. The only reason to be looking at your slides during a presentation is for reassurance. Pitching is hard. Storytelling is hard. It takes a lot of time and practice. However, the power of telling an engaging and memorable story is unmatched. Great storytellers are some of the most memorable and persuasive people.

Are you currently working through your own startup pitch? Do you need help telling your own story? Reach out to us at hello(at)roketco.com. Let’s chat about how we can help you craft a compelling and memorable story.