A few months ago, Paul Furiga, CEO of WordWrite Communications, launched a new web site for his Pittsburgh-based Public Relations firm. His message was very simple — “What’s your story? We’d like to tell it”. I fell in love with the idea, and not just because I’m known for my long-winded storytelling.
Storytelling is, at the most fundamental level, the way we humans have communicated for as long as we’ve been able to speak. It is absolutely critical to our ability to exchange information, establish social norms, build rapport and make an impression. As social creatures with limited time and attention, a story can easily summarize information in an understandable, digestible way.
This particularly hit home with me when attending the recent Three Rivers Venture Fair Boot Camp, a tune-up of sorts for entrepreneurs that will be making nine-minute pitches to venture capitalists and angel investors. I was fortunate to be able to watch four different presenters go through their slide decks, and, as a panelist, help to provide feedback. Each company targeted completely different markets (i.e. social media, security, manufacturing and space exploration) but presented in very different ways.
The first three presenters were able to articulate, more or less, the value proposition of their product or service. They could describe features and functionality, identify their key team members, explain their marketing and sales plan and demonstrate the depth of knowledge needed to lead a start-up company. However, while each company had an interesting product, the presenters had challenges being able to spark the “aha!” moment that investors need to take the next step.
I found myself suggesting adding a story to each presentation. I kept saying, “if you can put someone in the shoes of a purchaser, they will more easily see the value proposition of the product.” My fellow panelists seemed to agree.
The final presenter nailed it. He as able to articulate in about 45 seconds how his security product would be used in the marketplace. He very quickly was able to speak to the challenges faced in this market niche and how his product would make people safer. It was storytelling at its finest.
When pulling together a presentation to potential investors, educate them by telling a story of the average user. Put a human face on the product or service you offer and use that story to demonstrate that there’s a large enough market for you to earn the type of returns necessary for an investor to be interested. While a particular technology might be interesting, cutting-edge, innovative or game-changing, it won’t matter if you can’t make someone feel the pain that will compel a prospect to become a customer.