Human beings are wired to enjoy a good story.
Investors are inundated with pitches from people who believe they've created "the next big thing". They might be numb to impressive data and aren't amazed by powerpoint presentations and business plans.
The difference between getting their attention (and potentially their $$$) and a cold shoulder might be in crafting a pitch that makes them personally invested in your team and your product's success through basic storytelling techniques.
Studies have scientifically proven that different regions of the brain are stimulate and hearing a story can change how we act. Storytelling can be a powerful tool in differentiating your investor pitch from others in the market. Not only will they enjoy your presentation When we hear stories, our brains release dopamine. This will allow those investors to remember your story and fit the crucial details of your business into context.
Starting your pitch to investors with a list if statistics that prove your product is worthy might be impressive, but putting those facts and datapoints into context will make your pitch memorable and easy for investors to share with others.
"If you don't set the narrative for your company - someone else will."
Here are a few of the key elements to include in a pitch that tells a great story:
Instead of simply proclaiming your product's function and mission statement (which is typical of an opening pitch statement), consider telling a short story of how you got to that conclusion. Andrew Stanton of Pixar describes this process best as the Unifying Theory of 2+2=4 in his TED Talk. Make the audience put things together. Don’t give them 4. Give them 2+2.
The challenge to creating a compelling pitch story with a hint of suspense will be staying concise. You can't afford to waste time, but creating a compelling story that peaks curiosity and gets them "invested" in the outcome will be worth the extra time.
A character they can root for
It may seem counter-intuitive to talk about the insecurities or potential pitfalls of your business, but talking about your team as if they are characters in an interesting story can help build immediate rapport. It's important to reveal a personal angle that shows a common vulnerability. Build the characters of your origin story in a way that investors can relate to and intuitively want to help.
Every story needs good characters. Showing that in same ways the odds are stacked against them and that the investors could make the difference between epic success and failure (or worse - humiliation) can be the difference between investing in your team and product and someone else.
Balance positive outcomes with negative experiences and failures
Listing off the many ways you've succeeded as a team will be impressive, but in storytelling it can also be boring. Don't forget to pair success stories with a few of the failures along the way. No investor will believe that you've never made a single mistake. It's experimentation, testing and pivoting that is celebrated by the startup world, so talk openly about your failures and explain why they were important to the process.
Investors don't want to fund a team that has done everything right at each turn. They want to know that you can face adversity, come up with creative ways to address the problem, fail and still find the motivation and inspiration to continue forward.
“At Facebook, Sheryl [Sandberg] used to talk very publicly and encourage other leaders at the company to talk very publicly about things they tried that didn’t work and what they learned from it,” says Faul. “She would tell specific stories about the smartest people she knew, how they had stumbled, and how they had worked through failure. The way she told these stories, the people were very real to us. The feelings they experienced when they failed were very real. But the idea that the company was learning and moving forward was also very real. She made it clear these experiences were the foundation of Facebook’s culture and something to take pride in.”
Put the product in context of the mission
Throughout any convincing pitch and any good story there is a common thread. A bigger idea that explains why the product is built the way it is, why you hired your core team, and eventually why investing in your product is the best move. That thread is your mission.
Everyone wants to be a part of something important. They want to do work they feel is changing things for the better. We no longer live in a world where investors will throw money at "cool" ideas, and even innovation for the sake of innovation isn't sustainable. There needs to be a higher purpose that each team member and investor feels personally connected to.
By telling a story with anticipation/suspense, great characters, flawed attempts at success you'll give each person a reason to invest in your idea. You can't convince them to become personally invested, you have to take them methodically down the path using good story telling.
Rewatch your favorite movies and ask yourself why you care about the outcome. Watch TED Talks and listen to the Moth Radio Hour. You'll start to hear similarities in the way they talk about characters, actions and events. Great storytelling is easier than it seems and there is a simple formula that connects most great stories. Borrowing this formula for your pitch to investors can be the difference between your products success and finding a team of investors that understand you, your team and why your product matters.