Pitching Hack: It’s Not What You Said, It’s How You Made Them Feel

This guest post is by one of Clarity’s top experts when it comes to pitching your idea – whether it’s to investors, the press or potential customers he knows all the tricks of the trade to help close the deal. Tyler Crowley (@steepdecline), Founder at Skweal, whose extensive background includes:

  • Assisting over 500 startups and almost a 1000 individuals with perfecting pitches through TechCrunch50 and the LAUNCH conference
  • Has been the “pitch doctor” for notable startups like Dropbox, Yammer, Mint, FitBit, Powerset, Red Beacon, Space Monkey, Brilliant and Room77

Let me start with a question…   What was the last power point or pitch deck you saw? Can you recall what was on slide 5?

Let me ask you another question… Ever see the movie Top Gun?  Of course you have. Now, recall for moment, in the movie, Maverick (Tom Cruise) and the tall sexy blonde flight school teacher get into an argument about her review of his flight performance.  Next we see her driving crazy in her classic convertible Porsche through the streets of San Diego just before the “Take My Breath Aaaawaaaaayyyyy…” scene.  Now, how did Maverick get to her house?  Think about it for a second.  Did he take a cab?  Maybe a bus?  The subway? His own car perhaps?

I’ve asked this to question to hundreds of people, and despite the fact that this movie was released more than 27 years ago (and nobody has likely seen it in the last 20 years) most people can still recall how Maverick got to her house.  Why are we able to recall an insignificant 30 second detail from a 90 minute film from 27 years ago when we can’t remember slide 5 from a 15 minute pitch deck seen yesterday?

Breaking down the mindset of pitching

The answer is very simple.  Our brains are wired from birth for visual stories.  I’d bet anything your parents read stories to you since before you could even talk.  But, have you ever shown a child a power point?  and why not?  Because the analytical mind is very, very different from the child-like story mind we’re born with.

The secret to connecting with people is to get them to SEE and more importantly FEEL what you do.

You want them to feel that same magical spark you felt when you realized your vision for “Uber for dogs.”

Normally, when you’re pitching, you make some faulty assumptions.

  • You have everyone’s undivided attention

  • They will remember every point you make

The reality is everyone is itching to check Facebook, Twitter and email on their phone 30 seconds into your pitch.  Odds are they won’t remember your name or 90% of what you put into your powerpoint.

They will however, remember how they felt, and for a very long time actually.  So, how do we connect your product with feeling?  While at the same time engage the audience in a way that’s more interesting than checking Facebook? The secret is telling a visually emotional story.  What does that entail exactly?  Basically, there are two simple, essential ingredients in a good story:

  • a character for the audience to project onto

  • drama that this character is going to face and overcome

“This is Jacob, (show full screen facial shot) and Jacob just found out he is getting fired after lunch…”

Now, ask yourself, are you interested in my pitch?  Did I hook you in the first 10 seconds?  Are you interested in what happens to Jacob?  Of course you are, this is how the human brain works. This is every hollywood film you’ve ever seen. This is a pitch which places the audiences psychology above the presenters need to make a logical argument.

Seducing the Investors

Some of you reading this might realize that this is also the same approach that “Pick Up Artists” commonly use to seduce women.

Why is that?  Because the mission is the same, to turn off the skeptical, analytical, critical mind, and tap directly into the emotional, child-like mind.

Once we’ve intro’d the character and the drama, we need to attach your product.

“Jacob knows he needs to find a job before he gets home or his fiancé is going to call off the wedding.  He’s tried all the conventional job engines and is scared shitless he won’t be finding a job before dinner tonight, but luckily Jacob recently heard about InstaGigs.”

Next, we’re going to use your product as the vehicle to carry the character from Dramaville to Happyending Land.  Paying careful attention to doing so from the perspective of the character which the audience has subconsciously projected themselves onto.

“So Jacob logs in to to InstaGigs, and the first thing he notices is… X”

Make sure that “X” is want the audience is likely to notice first.

“So Jacob simply selects his city, age, and salary….”

Driving your pitch home

Next we want to drive the point of your product. Make a very conscious decision about what you want to focus on at this point. Is your product the fastest way to do ABC, the cheapest way, or maybe the easiest way? The most robust? Make a very clear decision what your benefit is, and then use this in the story.

“Jacob instantly sees a complete list of every job in his area in 3 clicks. But what Jacob really loves is that these jobs are not just listings but actual offers based on his job history and criteria.”

Make the product benefits driven by the characters needs/wants.

“What Jacob really wants is Y, and now with 1 click he can do Y”

Next we need to tie things back to resolve the drama at the beginning….

“So Jacob selects the job offer at ACME Corp, and he’s starting work on Monday.  Now he doesn’t have to worry about his wife sleeping with the mailman.”

This step is very important to the audience which is emotionally invested in the outcome of Jacob’s drama, which they will remember for a long time, and in the process, also remember the solution that made it possible, InstaGigs!

Mistakes to watch out for

In telling a story, never use the words… I, You, or We.  There is only the character.  Using I, You, or We will break the story mind state.  Also never use the word “can”  like… “Jacob can see…. Jacob can enter his name….”   Story happens in the past, there is no CAN in the past tense.  Everything is concrete.  So use phrasing like “Jacob clicks the button and sees…”   NOT  “Jacob can enter his name and now Jacob can see…”

One other thing, the story mind doesn’t like data in the analytical sense, so make your data points visual as well.  Instead of “385,000,000 mothers”  use “1 out of 3 mothers”   Simplified ratios or examples are far more memorable.

Lastly, test, test, test, your stories on your friends and family and ask them what they remember!  Make sure you also know for yourself which are the key points you really want them to remember 10 years from now.

To see lots of examples of story pitches in action check out the videos at – http://www.youtube.com/user/LaunchConf


If you need to perfect a pitch, call Tyler on Clarity!

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  • http://www.StartupBros.com/ Will Mitchell

    It took me years to learn this – where were you 4 years ago?! 🙂

    • Renée Warren

      Ha ha! Agreed.

  • http://www.visakanv.com/ Visakan Veerasamy

    Enjoyed this, thanks.

  • Pingback: Pitching Hack: It’s Not What You Said, It’s How You Made Them Feel @getmoreclarity | Executive 1

  • Mark Kopiwoda

    How often do you do LaunchConfs? I would love to attend one. Your pitch style is ridiculously simple and I would love to pick your brain. I am working on an idea for a combo brick and mortar/web business and this was so helpful. I want more!

  • rob

    I spend most of my time in the clouds, dreaming of ways to expand our service / product offering. Now the need to create a pitch deck to present to several very savvy German investors is here. Your help will be instrumental in grounding me in creating the PD and presenting it. What is the best way to connect with you?

  • Judith Mühlenhoff

    Great, concrete advice. I know it’s just a quick example, but in the rare case you have a woman among the investors you might think about another motivation of Jacob. Or you change Jacob to, let’s say “Susan”, the employee caring about her husband cancelling their wedding if she won’t find a new job soon.

  • Lawrence Yu

    saw you mentoring a bunch of startups at launch.co when we were consulting for boxbee a few years back. no bullshit, straight to the point and without offence. Was pretty amazing seeing this in action.

  • Tommi

    Nice, Tyler
    If product is designed for saving life, in our drama would it be better if someone die (result of drama “could prevent”) or only about to die (result of drama “fortunately prevented”)?

  • http://www.quora.com/Vo-Anh Viet Anh Waroc

    This is BS. This whole post is written in absolute terms and the writer treats investors as idiots. I have watched hundreds of pitches and never seen one that tells a bland like this Jacob’s before. And even if I heard one, I would rather look down to check my FB. The videos on the youtube link provided contain no storytelling like described here.