Everybody LOVES a good story, am I right!?
It doesn’t matter if you’re an impatient, terrible-two’d (made up word, parents will understand ?) baby boy – called Antonio, or if you’re a middle-aged VC investor – exhausted ’cause you’ve been listening to lame startup pitches all day.
When they hear a good story, people can’t help but grab the arms of their chair and hang on to every word, drooling with anticipation.
Can you blame them?
Good stories can be entertaining, funny and useful. They’re great to get a point across. And for the listeners, they’re a helluva way to learn (and retain information).
With me so far!? Good!
Let’s get personal.
There’s a book called Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell. It’s rated 4.8 (out of 5) with almost 11,000 reviews on Amazon. ?
What’s the book about, you ask?
Well, in very few words: The narrator asks the ZOO to send him animals, but somehow they are never a right fit – ’til the end.
I’m sure that if my son Antonio could speak (and type for that matter ?), he would happily add another gleaming 5 star review.
‘Cause he ABSOLUTELY loves it. He can’t get enough of it.
So, the other day I was thinking. ?
WHY!? What is it about THIS book that makes it SOOO compelling?
And once I figure that out – HOW can I apply it to the startup world?
Some context: I frequently pitch investors for BeLocal, my startup.
SO…. I NEEDED to crack this code!
I need to capture these people’s attention. Keep it. And make my points. I need to swipe these people off their feet – so they can give us their money.
Well, this is what I came up with.
Here… are the 8 Lessons a Children’s Book Taught me About Pitching to Grown @ss Investors ??
This is what you came here for, right!? Let’s get to it, then.
Talk about things they LOVE?
Antonio LOVES animals.
But Paulo, every child likes animals.
NO, my friend – he’s different.
Of the 9 words he can actually pronounce, 7 are animal sounds.
WOOF and ROAR are two of his favorites. ?
LESSON: Find something your audience is passionate about and talk about it.
IMPORTANT: This only works if it’s genuine. The trick here is to find a common ground. Some interest you share with the audience.
Probably don’t need to say this – BUT I’m gonna say this anyways.
It needs to (somehow) relate to your pitch.
You can’t go mentioning Spock just because you know your audience digs Star Trek.
Unless you’re pitching Enterprise Software! Ba Dumm TSSS.
HA – Get it!?
Enterprise software is software designed for big companies. And it’s also the name of the ship…. OH.. forget it!
Okay, moving on.
Visuals matter. ALOT!
In Dear Zoo, the illustrations are super cute, adorable – one might say!
They are simple, yet unique enough to draw him in.. and stand out from the crowd.
LESSON: Invest in high-impact visuals. Make them capture the essence of what you’re saying. Make them simple. Make them BEAUTIFUL.
There are plenty of resources (and tips) on how to do this, so I won’t spend much time here. Maybe, another day. ?
Use cliff hangers ?♂️
Authors and filmmakers use these all the time. And so do skilled storytellers, like this author!
When you end a thought with “…” literally or figuratively, the listener can’t help but try to guess the ending. And he or she needs to know what happens next!
Lesson: Use cliff hangers to get and KEEP your audience’s attention.
TIP: Try opening your pitch with a powerful story… and NOT finishing it at the end!
They won’t let it go. When you are done with your presentation, I bet they will plead you to finish. I GUARANTEE IT. Nobody stands open loops.
Add surprises ?
You know the feeling when somebody hands you a gift…And you can’t wait to start unwrapping it!?
This is what the author does at every couple of pages. Just like a present, you need to unwrap (in this case, flip) the flap and reveal the animal that’s behind it.
There’s a tiny (but palpable) adrenaline rush that gets released – and boy does it feel good!
Lesson: Use the unexpected to your advantage. Create suspense. Startle your audience. Surprise them… and be MEMORABLE.
Use words sparingly ?♂️
There are only a few words in every page. This is deliberate. Words dilute the imagery and hinder a story’s impact.
Like this author, make EVERY WORD COUNT.
Lesson: Don’t overcrowd your slides with words.
Slide decks are props. Not emails.
YOU are the presenter. Don’t let the slides hijack YOUR presentation.
The slides need to serve you! They need to supercharge your message, not compete with it.
Also, when you put a lot of words, your audience can’t help but read them. And what happens? You lose them for those precious seconds.
Entice your listeners with breadcrumbs ?
It feels good to crack a mystery doesn’t it? A skilled storyteller leaves little clues, (sometimes called breadcrumbs ’cause of Hansel and Gretel’s fairy tale – remember that story?) for you to find.
This makes the story that much more interactive. It’s as if the listener/reader becomes a part of the plot.
By wittingly exposing some part of the animal’s body – to offer a clue as to what animal is inside each crate – this author deploys this crafty tactic.
And it works! Antonio thinks he knows the answer, but he just has to confirm it for himself.
And ’till he does, he’s not ready to move on to something else.
Lesson: Give your audience clues. And help them answer the questions you posed… or solve the mysteries you have created.
A passionate delivery is key ❤️
Even if you may have the most compelling things to say. The most awesome visuals to show. And an offer your audience can’t possibly refuse, if you sound (and act) like a half-dead zombie after a bad night’s sleep – NONE OF IT WILL MATTER.
With my son, I try my best to change my tone, make exaggerated faces and interact with him as much as I can.
I also pay attention the cues he gives me (like startling expressions, giggles and laughs) as a way to gauge whether I’m doing well.
If I see him drift off, I just raise the heat. ?
Lesson: Loud is better than soft. Dramatic is better than lukewarm. Fireworks aren’t necessary. You don’t need to be a Shakespearean actor, but make it a show – nonetheless.
Use gestures. Walk around. Scream… if you have to.
Maybe you’re kinda shy like me. Maybe you don’t like to call attention. That’s fine.
Just don’t forget: whatever you do – do it with ALL of your heart.
Finish STRONG! ?
Great books. Great movies. Great meals. They all have memorable endings, right!?
They’re what people talk about as people leave the movie theater, or what sticks in your head when you finish a great novel.
And how about that ooey-gooey molten chocolate cake you had that time for dessert!?
Can’t seem to forget it, huh!?
This is partially because of “the recency effect” (the tendency to remember the most recently presented information best).
But… also, because if done properly, an ending can be the satisfying conclusion to the journey you’ve just embarked on.
You’ve taken your audience on a wild ride and although they’ve enjoyed every minute – they are glad to be back. And are thankful to you – for getting them back safely!
This is exactly what this crafty author does with the last line: “I kept him”.
Lesson: Use an impact phrase, visual or share the compelling ending of a story to finish your pitch. Your audience should deliver a collective “WHOA!” at the end. Even if they don’t hear it, it should be apparent in their faces.
If nothing else works. You can always end with a Mic drop. And exit stage, left! ?
OOOOF. That’s it! These ran longer than expected. Hopefully you enjoyed reading them (as much as I enjoyed writing them).
If these work for Antonio, trust me – they’ll work for ANYBODY! ? ?
Hope this helps, my friend. And good luck with YOUR pitches. Both to children and adults, which by the way…. sometimes behave in the same way – am I right!? ?
Oh- thanks for reading. ☺️
Here are some interesting resources you can read about pitching (and storytelling). And obviously, if you are also the father/mother of a child, buy the freakin’ book!
Ps. These are affiliate links and I could earn a small commission. Cause, why not, right!? ?