How do you go beyond the names and numbers with your startup pitch deck? For Doug Landis, the answer is a straightforward compound gerund: storytelling. It’s a word that gets thrown around a lot of late in Silicon Valley, but it could legitimately help your startup stand out from the pack amid the pile of pitches.
Landis knows a fair bit about the concept. Following stints at Salesforce and Google, he served as the “chief storyteller” at Box. These days, Landis is the growth partner at Emergence Capital, where he helps tell the stories of the firm’s portfolio companies.
Landis joined us on the first day of the TechCrunch Early Stage: Marketing and Fundraising event to offer a presentation about the value of storytelling for startups, whittling down the standard two-hour conversation to a 30-minute version. Though he still managed to rewind things pretty far, opening with, “400,000 years ago, men and women used to sit around the fire pit and tell stories about their day, about their hunt, about the one that got away.”
Connect the dots
More often than not, decks include a series of numbers and charts. The job of a story pitch is weaving a good narrative around these figures.
If you think about storytelling, and you think about the physiological and psychological elements — what’s happening between the storytelling and the listener — we’re actually looking for the patterns. If you think about it, it’s why those jingles and commercials get stuck in our head, and we can’t forget it, even though we don’t even know much about the product. But we remember the jingle, remember the commercial, we remember the brand. Because as humans, we’re looking for the patterns in our communication. Our job is to connect the facts and fill in the holes. And from those connections, we create a story. We create a story in our brain, because our brain actually processes information through story form. (Timestamp 3:20)
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Get to the point
They don’t call it an elevator pitch for nothing. And sometimes, even the best storytellers have a habit of rambling. Here’s an exercise for cutting away some excess when attempting to get your story in front of VCs.
When you tell the story at work, ask your peers or the listener to share back with you in one sentence what the point of that story was. Get immediate feedback, and you can then identify whether or not your story was on target or not. The story needs to be relevant to the audience who’s there, but the reality is, you need to be very clear about the point you’re trying to make with a story. (Timestamp 6:33)