Topic of the article

Pitching for founders can be a nightmare, especially for early-stage pre-seed startups that are not yet used to persuading investors or people. While creating a structure and having key elements of data required is important, how do you ensure you make a lasting impression to capture the interest of that stakeholder or audience on the key message you are sharing? An excellent comment by Brock Settlemier III speaks to the current reality of the day. AI has killed pitch decks and commoditized them. So how do you ensure you stand out and capture your audience?

It all now goes back to your creativity and playing the game differently. Having worked with startups and VCs for about a decade coupled with two decades in sales pitching to clients and stakeholders, I would like to share two concepts to help you with that: Storytelling and elements of persuasion.

Storytelling During Pitches

Storytelling, the ability to share information in a manner that invokes emotion and relates to an audience is something even AI cannot do for you. Storytelling brings out the humanity in your pitch. Sometimes, with vulnerability, it passes your message with the emotions that cause the audience to act. As a founder, you should be ready to have a <3-minute pitch about your startup for just an elevator pitch, a quick shot at a high-value potential investor who is so busy, or an accelerator workshop where you are only allocated a few minutes.

Then, you should have a longer presentation for Angel syndicates or VC. Key elements you want your story to convey are:

  • The problem you are solving,
  • The solution you are proposing, and
  • The value you bring.

When the story is personal, it conveys vulnerability and can be impactful. While it does not have to be personal, consider painting a picture of a strong character. Telling the story to evoke emotions, an element of surprise, or conflict are ways to achieve this.

Elements of Persuasion

The second element to consider in your pitching is the elements of persuasion used a lot by salespeople. Tell your story or present it in a way you can speak to Ethos, Pathos and logos.  This is super useful if you are speaking to a mixed audience. Using all three methods will ensure in one way or another that you have connected with all.

Logos appeals to the audience’s reason, building up logical arguments. It answers the question, “WHAT does the Data/Logic say?” Some good examples are: “Research shows that 50% of Adults in this sector are unable to…” or “80% of the Serviceable Addressable Market in this region is untapped because of…” The key factors here are logical arguments and data.

The Ethos appeals to the speaker’s status or authority, making the audience more likely to trust them. It usually answers, “Why are you the expert or credible persons to solve it?” Here, you should share your years of experience and accomplishments in the sector or industry you’re in or solving for. You can also share your history of experiencing the pain point and the experience or accomplishments of your team or experts in your team solving this problem.

Pathos appeals to emotions, trying to make the audience relate to the problem and express anger, sympathy, etc. Pathos answers the question “HOW do you connect with the audience?” This is where you use analogies, metaphors, or emotionally-charged words to evoke positive or negative emotions. You can use humour, body language, tone and visuals in telling your story. Practice and use elements of Pathos that works for your personality. You want to tell the story in a manner that is authentic to you.

Finally, just like with any new skill, mastery comes with practice. The more you pitch and practice, the better you become. Consider practising in front of a mirror, friends, a friendly audience, etc.

I’m excited to share that I have a full course on Pitch Mastery on the Tekedia Institute platform. Check it out for more in-depth information on Pitch Mastery.