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Do you know the secret of a great joke?
Naturally, this particular one-liner works better in verbal form than written, but even if it’s less funny here, that does not make it less true. Timing is vital. It shows you are reading the room — that you understand the inferences and implications of a discourse. It also shows that you know how to tell a story, which is one of the oldest and most crucial skills a human being can have. This ability goes far beyond communicating anecdotes; it’s how we share ideas and values… how we convey who we are.
And this is as true for businesses as it is for individuals. Storytelling is how a business communicates its purpose, both externally and internally. Its success is decided by the story it tells as much as by the product it sells. Entrepreneurs and founders must be masters of telling theirs, especially when they are in the process of securing funding. Here are key strategies to embrace when pitching to investors.
1. Know your numbers, but breathe your story
Any entrepreneur worth their salt will know important company figures and stats like the back of their hand, including growth targets, projections and capital requirements. But these are simply table stakes: such knowledge won’t distinguish you from the rest.
Investors don’t just buy numbers. They invest in people, and people come to life through narratives. The best storytelling will weave a business into the wider fabric of society — illustrating how it fits in and can shape the world of tomorrow. They key is to illustrate that this is not a ride they want to miss out on. In a sense, you have to generate FOMO.
If your company has been in business a while, an investor might ask why it has taken so long to grow. This type of difficult question is also better answered with a story than a number. You can explore the challenges of the past and demonstrate why they make you ready for the opportunities of tomorrow.
Related: This Is the No. 1 Mistake You Can Make When Pitching Investors
2. Use your deck wisely
A presentation is a common ally for those selling their stories to investors, but the deck should be a companion, not a crutch.
Keep your insights simple and digestible. The presentation is the spine of the book, but you are its pages. Ensure that your deck explicitly speaks to three key elements:
• Product vision: The first objective is to outline the purpose of your product — the long-term challenge you’re solving and how that product will do it.
• Market context: A good deck will clearly explore the opportunity in a market, using strong data and financial projections to present growth potential.
• The people behind it: People buy people before they buy products. As much as you may be the face as the founder, it’s important to show others within the business who are going to make it all happen. Make the company human.
Related: The 5 Slides You Must Have In Your Pitch Deck
3. Be the most positive person in the room
Realism and optimism are not opposites. Successful founders acknowledge the challenges of launching a business, but do not let them diminish their excitement. So, when pitching and presenting, be the most optimistic person at the meeting. Enthusiasm is infectious, and it can spread throughout a pitch, a deck and a room. Make sure optimism is part of the story you are telling. The investor likely hears hundreds of pitches, and if you aren’t excited then you will fall at the first hurdle. And if the nerves begin jangling, remind yourself that you are hugely lucky: you own a business and have an idea. The people in front of you are appealing for the chance to have a slice of it.
Whether telling jokes or pitching investors, entrepreneurs should never underestimate the art of storytelling. More than product/market fit or the financial projections of a business, the story you tell — both about yourself as a founder and your business as a whole — is what will distinguish you in the mind of investors.
Related: 8 Tips That Will Help Your Storytelling Deliver