Why Give a Damn:

This article explores the the single biggest problem that entrepreneurs have when it comes to pitching. Not knowing how to tell a good story. Read on for a great story, a great pitch and some stellar tips to skyrocket your pitching skills.

The author of this post, Teju Ravilochan, is co-founder and CEO of the Unreasonable Institute.

In my opinion, the single biggest problem that entrepreneurs have when it comes to pitching is that they don’t know how to tell a good story. And I don’t just mean one story somewhere in the middle of the pitch – I mean making the entire pitch one big story!

First, why should you make your pitch a story?

There’s a simple reason: people hate pitches and people love stories.

Why turn your pitch into a story? People hate pitches and people love stories.  Tweet This Quote

Why? Everyone gets weird about pitches. A lot of people turn into robots – they feel like they have to cram everything they can into a tight amount of time. There’s a loss of human connection in a pitch because a pitch-maker feels like they are only doing it to ask for something. Someone who hears a pitch feels like they are waiting to be asked for something. The whole thing is just…icky.

But stories – stories open people up. When you tell a story, other people seek connection with you. And if you lace in an ask or a request, people are much more receptive, as you’ve placed that ask in a more genuine context.

So this post explores one way, one example, of how to turn your pitch into a story. It’s inspired by one of my best friends, Unreasonable Mentor Eric Glustrom (founder of Educate! and Watson University)!

Tell the Story of How You Discovered the Problem.

Often times, this is the most moving part of an entrepreneur’s story. Well told, it gives an audience the ability to discover the problem as you did, to experience the surprise you felt, and to come to the conclusion as you did. This can get them very bought into your message, especially if there’s a logical flow and an emotional element to your story. Not everyone’s story lends itself to being a focal point of your pitch, but this is often a good place to start. Here’s an example (a paraphrasing of Unreasonable Mentor Eric Glustrom’s story):

    Eric Glustrom

    Eric Glustrom

    When I was in high school, I had been learning about the refugee crisis in Uganda, as a result of war in the DRC. I applied to Amnesty International to make a film about it. They turned me down saying I was “too young” and the trip was “too dangerous.” Nevertheless, I went on my own and visited Kyangwali refugee camp in Western Uganda. As I made my film, I became friends, especially with young refugees, like Benson Olivier. I was so moved by the terrible conditions in the camp that I asked Benson, “How can I help?” He said, “Help us get an education. If you do that, then we can help ourselves.” So I went home and did the simplest thing I could: raise money to provide scholarships to Benson and other students in the camps. And I was able to get some of the young refugees I had met into high school.

    A few years ater, I returned to Uganda to visit Benson and my other friends. When I came to see them, they were pleased to see me, but stressed as they were preparing for their upcoming exam. I asked them what they were studying and I found out that they and thousands of other students across Uganda were memorizing all of the regions of Germany, which they would soon have to regurgitate on their upcoming test.

    The education that could enable these refugees become the leaders to bring peace to their country, was instead teaching them to memorize the districts of Germany?!

    My stomach churned. Malaria and deadly diseases were rampant in their refugee camp. There was hardly any clean water. And most importantly, the bloodiest conflict since World War Two still was underway in their homeland, the DRC. Yet the education that could enable these refugees to free themselves from their circumstances and become the leaders to bring peace to their country, was instead teaching them to memorize the districts of Germany?! WHEN would that knowledge EVER be used? What’s more, memorizing these largely irrelevant facts was actually stifling their creativity!

    That’s when I realized it wasn’t enough to get these amazing youth into school. We had to change the school itself. And we had to change it fast.” (to be continued later…)

Create Tension with Your Problem.

In the example above, you can see that Eric comes to a logical conclusion that you understand. AND there’s a tension at the end. The tension is, “Yes I agree with you! We need to change school! But HOW?” You feel impatient to know what the solution is. What happens next?! Eric has you right where he wants you. He can milk it a little longer by saying something like this:

    Help us get an education. If you do that, then we can help ourselves.

    “When I shared my frustration with other people, they waved me off, saying, ‘Okay, maybe. But even if you were right, school doesn’t change overnight. There are 5,000 high schools alone in Uganda, teaching a curriculum mandated by the Ministry of Education. And you can’t just stroll into their office and tell them your story and expect them to change the whole country’s education system.’ They were right, I thought.

    But ten years later, that’s exactly what happened. 10 years later, my team and I finalized a partnership with the Ministry of Education of the government of Uganda that fundamentally changed the way the next generation is being educated, impacting more than 25,000 high school students every year.” (to be continued later…)

If you’re like me, you’re going “WHAT?! How did you do that? What happened?” You’re hooked. You want to know what happened in those 10 years. You want to know if this is real.

Your Solution Matters Less than Showing that it Works.

In Eric’s story, the next logical step is to explain his solution – what he did over ten years. But the truth is that his solution is going to matter less than how effective it was, than the traction that he achieved. He’ll show this through examples of how students who went through his curriculum were transformed and what they were able to do. He’ll show this through highlighting key partnerships, through showing his work was validated by the UN, and eventually adopted by the Ugandan Government to reach 90,000 students / year. The takeaway here is: people are rarely equipped (even experts) to gauge your solution to a problem. What’s far more important is showing them that it works. Here’s what Eric says.

    People (even experts) are rarely equipped to gauge your solution to a problem.  Tweet This Quote

    “Of course, I did not know what would happen 10 years later. But in that moment, I knew I had to do something to change the Ugandan education system. I knew, from my first conversation with young refugees, they needed an education that would empower them to change their circumstances. So I began, shortly after graduating college, to piece together a mentorship program and curriculum they could go through to actually become leaders and entrepreneurs. Teammates came on and helped me. We drew from places like the Transformative Action Institute. And once we built our curriculum for a two-year leadership and entrepreneurship course, we first went to schools and asked if we could start working with some of the students after school. They agreed. We added in mentorship from highly-trained mentors and alumni support. And we challenged our students to start businesses and programs that could improve their communities. One student in our program, Lillian Aero, started a company for HIV-positive widows to make beads. She exports those beads to several countries worldwide and has provided jobs and livelihoods to over 50 women. 50 women!! She’s a student. She may not know the districts of Germany, but there are 50 women who have new found dignity and can provide for their families because she’s providing them jobs. 50 women who can eat three meals a day. 50 women who can send their kids to school. When I saw what Lillian and hundreds more students had done, with our mentorship and training, I knew what we were doing would work. I knew that we could show headmasters and district supervisors and even the Minister of Education that there was a much better way to develop a student’s potential.

    The first 1,300 graduates started over 650 different businesses and community initiatives.

    Eventually, we partnered with 56 schools and had 8,000 students going through our program. The first 1,300 graduates started over 650 different businesses and community initiatives – ranging from planting tens of thousands of trees in heavily deforested Western Uganda to starting a successful youth-focused microfinance organization. And over the years, we had been trying to get the government to take note of our work. We found many introductions into the Ministry and related institutions such as the National Curriculum Development Center and spoke to dozens of people inside it. As we started seeing results, they grew interested. Simultaneously, the UN with support from the World Bank began to conduct a third-party evaluation of our results.

    Today, the government has implemented our curriculum in over
    1,200 schools across
    the country.

    The government was soon convinced. We sat down with key decision makers. We told them that we wanted to measure students’ potential on their ability to create jobs and change their neighborhoods, towns, cities, even the country, rather than on their ability to memorize random facts. Everyone agreed.

    Today, the government has implemented our curriculum in over 1,200 schools – public and private – across the country. Because of Educate!, they’ve changed the national high school exam of Uganda to measure students’ progress starting businesses in their communities. Today, the core competency that any Ugandan high school student must demonstrate is the ability to effect change. Today, the new curriculum empowers 25,000 students / year. Today, the dream of transforming the education system in Uganda is a living, breathing reality!!

    But we are not done yet…” (to be continued)

Be Clear About What’s In Front Of You (this sets up your ask).

At this point, the audience not only believes it’s possible to solve the massive problem of education in Uganda, but they also believe in Eric’s ability to do it. And that gives him credibility as he moves into what this speech is all about: getting the audience’s support as he moves forward into the next opportunity. Here’s what he says:

    Be clear about what’s in front of you (this sets up your ask).  Tweet This Quote

    If this model can work in Uganda, can it work elsewhere? Can it work everywhere? Our dream is to transform the education system of the entire globe, turning it into something that doesn’t simply produce job-ready, booksmart young people, but young people who can (and already have) changed their world.

    With Educate! going strong, I kept thinking back to my own education in the US. Where was the leadership and entrepreneurship training, where was the mentorship, where was the support our students in Uganda are now receiving? In other words, our students in Uganda have opportunities that I didn’t have at the best schools in the US! I knew our next step must be to bring this model to the United States to prove its global potential.

    This past fall, we launched Watson University, a new university model for college students dedicated to one thing: equipping them to change the world. And if we can get it to work in the US, and it works in Uganda, we believe there’s no place on earth this model couldn’t work.

    Here’s where we need your help. We have:

  • A proven curriculum
  • Dedicated faculty, including Scott Sherman, founder of the Transformative Action Institute
  • Nearing break even through student tuition
  • Partnerships with numerous universities
  • Exploring university accreditation (meaning we plan to offer real degrees for this program)
  • Over $100,000 in funding
    All we need now is $1.5 million in startup capital. That’s what stands between us and between being able to prove this model in five more countries by 2016. With these funds, we’d be able to:
  • Create campuses in five countries including the US, Uganda, and India
  • Build out Watson’s degree track, thus transforming the nature of higher education
  • Empower millions of young change makers across the globe through Watson online for free, for all
    I know that $1.5 million is a big number. But think of what it could mean. It could mean that for every student, in every nation, no matter what circumstances they live in, we could fulfill the request that Benson Olivier made of me that night in Kyangwali refugee camp in 2002: Give me an education. For with it, I will change the world.

    Thank you!

    [Thunderous applause]

Where is the leadership and entrepreneurship training? Where is the mentorship in our education?  Tweet This Quote

Notice how Eric sets up a list of the things that he needs to get the job done and all the things that he’s already got behind him. The $1.5 million he’s asking for is just the last piece of the puzzle. People in an audience feel much more able to support you if they are helping you “close the gap” as opposed to giving you resources in the absence of other progress.

Also notice how Eric lays out how he’s going to use that money and what it could mean for his impact.

Finally, notice how in his closing line, he ties back to the initial drive of starting Educate!

In Summary.

Assuming that Eric delivers the above speech well (with pauses in the right places, in a way that is engaging and exciting), the whole thing takes less than 5 minutes. It’s not complicated. It’s simple. And yet, you can see that it communicates everything important: what the problem is, who Eric is and how he got involved, what the solution is (notice that there’s very little said about it), how it works (more said about this), what the next steps are, and where Eric needs help.

There’s no formula.

There’s no “template” that will work for everyone. You’ve got to find whatever allows you to be authentic. But I am confident about one thing: everyone, including you, will be much happier if you turn your pitch into a story.

Everyone, including you, will be much happier if you turn your pitch into a story.  Tweet This Quote

About the author

Teju Ravilochan

Teju Ravilochan

Teju is co-founder and CEO of the Unreasonable Institute. He is driven by the desire to live in a world where every human being can be the master of their own fate, unbound by the chains of poverty, oppression, or injustice.

  • GrycowskAJ17

    I felt this was a great article. I loved the entire idea. Definitely going to give this a try.

  • Jeovany_Espino

    an interesting article and one that makes sense. The statement that
    while there is a civil war in the country and the curriculum of the high
    school are memorizing random facts such as learning the districts of
    Germany is troubling. How would this help them and what other countries
    have something similar where the curriculum is mandated by the ministry
    of education that doesn’t quite help in the future. I think it is a
    great idea, but not sure how this will work in the U.S. I think it is
    effective to list what one already has and to list what one needs to get
    the job done.

  • Logan Dohmeier

    I really like how this article incorporates the use of a story in giving a pitch. I definitely agree with how listening to a story is much more interesting (and less robotic) than a standard sales pitch. It gives you the opportunity to develop a slight connection with your listeners and that is all you need. Once they feel “you can be trusted” you already have one foot in the door. I would say that a large factor in this example is that progress was already made. I think that formatting your pitch in the form of a story is much easier when you have seen your plan in action displaying its validity. I think another important piece of this article is how the story displays the effort and care put in to following up and making sure what is happening is supposed to be happening. I think that aspect shows the dedication towards program. To me, that would be a large chunk of making my decision. The story is what allows you to put that dedication into a “visualizing” context. Not everyone’s ideas may be able to manifest themselves in a story the way this one did, but if there is a will there is a way. You just have to be the creative entreprenuer your set out to be. Great ideas.

  • Alyssa Borgrud

    I agree that this article was very interesting. As a fan of the ABC show “Shark Tank”, this article reminded me a lot of that. When the show comes on, you can really tell which people are passionate about their product because they do have a story that backs up their product… it is not just something that they thought up of randomly. A well thought out story does not just come from the product, but it also has to come from the inventor. If they are not passionate about the product, it will go no where. They need to have the drive to push their product to the top of the market. Are you a watcher or Shark Tank? Do you have any favorite products that have been displayed on the show?

  • amykahl8

    When giving a pitch maybe you don’t exactly agree with everything you say but you need to get that business deal. But when you tell a personal story it makes you more credible, makes you seem more honest, and it grabs people’s attention. What does a person do however, if he/she doesn’t have a great story like this to tell?

  • Joseph

    Two weeks ago i had to give a speech. Instead of throwing out all of these boring statistics I told a couple of different stories that my audience would be able to relate to. That is how i go about whenever I’m giving a pitch to someone or trying to inform someone about something. I feel its the exact same way with delivering a pitch. You have to get your audience engaged with what you are saying. If you don’t then you’re just wasting your their time and yours. When giving a pitch do you think its more important to throw some statistics out or is it better to use stories or a little of both?

  • Keeli Gilbert

    I loved reading this article. Obviously a huge eye opener as a college student. I mean I am not p;anning on going through this, but it helps in case I ever do. My only dilemma with involving a story, any story, within a pitch is having it be a sap story and turn it into a guilt trip. I understand that it is the businesses choice over all and they can stand strong and not fall for those people, but I also understand as a person that it is tough not to get sucked into those kinds of stories. Nothing against the article I really enjoyed it, just made me think about those that read this and end up turning their pitch into a sob story, a guilt trip, and the investor isn’t in it. Great article still though don’t get me wrong. Thanks for this!

  • Brittney Glende

    Thank you Teju Ravilochan for posting this article, you made a lot of great points that stood out to me. I think in our society today we love hearing stories and relating to as many things as we can. I think that you will be more apt to listen and not be so quick to judge if you hear out the story instead of listening to a pitch that could be really boring and something that is over used to every customer. Coming from myself I love to listen to stories and examples rather then hearing a pitch that someone says to everyone.

  • Brittney Glende

    I agree with everything you stated, by telling a personal story it shows that you care and that you trust the person. It will also show them that you are credible and it puts faith into the person you are talking to. By putting yourself out there and relating information will only grab the other persons attention, and thats what you want right? Telling a story and getting a little personal to help sell your business or your personal business is better then the same old boring pitch every time. I am also curious about what does a person do if he or she does not have a great story like this to tell??

  • Jack Delabar

    I agree, Amy. Telling a personal story that is directly related to the topic you are presenting makes the audience connect with you on a personal level and by that, they trust what you are saying more. The story can also act as an attention getter, but you must tell the story in an intriguing manner with a problem, climax, etc… Choosing what story you want to tell can be the difficult part. Starting your pitch with a poorly chosen story can lead to audience boredom. I also agree with a previous comment – make sure the it isn’t a “sob story” or a “guilt trip”, just a story relating to your topic.

  • kristinwagner32

    I completely agree with you Brittney and Teju-great article! Obviously if you are making a pitch you want to be the one that stands out and makes them not forget your story. People interested in the start up of your company do not care what you potentially have but the person you are to make it sell. I think it is better getting to know people through their personal stories and gives them a stronger connection with their audience. Thanks Teju!

  • Isaac Sawatzky

    Very applicable. People want someone who is so devoted and vested in an endeavor that they are less likely to fail. When you just put it out there without really expressing the relationship you have with the idea they don’t see the value the idea has to you.

  • jbrycewilson

    I like this a lot, and totally agree I wish more people told stories. I chuckled at the Shark tank background picture, mainly because my large contention with the shows format (Other than the ridiculous offers owners accept) is the cheesy scripted format of the show. This article does a great job with the anecdote where I wanted to keep reading after being drawn into the story.

  • Jen McKiernan

    This method can be very helpful for me as a college student even just giving a speech. It is always very hard to get the class to pay attention and listen to a speech or presentation so turning it into a story will help grab their attention and keep them interested. I know personally I would much rather listen to a story. How do you make sure you avoid going too much off topic when telling a story?

  • Teju Ravilochan

    I have only watched The Shark Tank once. To me that show is a bit…surprising. Most investors don’t make investments right after hearing a pitch. They want to build a relationship with an entrepreneur and come to trust them over time. The purpose of a pitch is to win a meeting with an investor to go into deeper discussion. And smart entrepreneurs will also consult with their co-founders and definitely a lawyer before accepting an investor’s terms!

  • Teju Ravilochan

    Brittney, great question. There is no formula for how to pitch and this is just my opinion, but I believe everyone has a great story to tell! Some are more obvious and some less so. A key part of pitching effectively is finding your authentic story, which takes time and maybe the support of people who can ask you good questions. Usually, I ask entrepreneurs how they found out about the problem. Sometimes, I even ask them to tell me their life story over the course of a few hours, and we eventually get to gems that can be used to craft their pitch.

    Also, if you don’t have a personal story, you can tell the story of someone who has been touched or affected by your product or service, and what they went through before you introduced something to them that helped them solve a problem.

  • Teju Ravilochan

    Totally agree. I think the key here is authenticity. You don’t want to choose a story simply to wow your audience or to “guilt trip” them. You want to choose something that either is a personal experience, or something close to your heart, that motivates you or that you personally find fascinating.

  • Teju Ravilochan

    Amy, great question. See my response to Brittney’s question below! I’d love to hear your thoughts on that!

  • Teju Ravilochan

    Sure, I think statistics can be valuable and there’s no reason that you can’t include statistics in a good story. You can see in the example above that Eric spoke about the number of students being affected by Educate! and the number of schools in which Educate!’s curriculum was being taught! I think can both can be a powerful combination.

    If you’re really interested in this topic, I recommend reading a book called Made to Stick, by Chip and Dan Heath. It takes about how to make ideas “sticky” (aka memorable). It speaks both about the importance of telling stories as well as being credible. While credibility can be earned in multiple ways, a few (not too many) stats can be helpful.

  • Teju Ravilochan

    Keeli, great point. I think authenticity in a story is the most important element. Whether that’s because it’s a personal story or something you’re authentically fascinated by. Your intention is not to guilt people into acting, but into defining what is and what could be.

    TED Speaker Nancy Duarte gives an excellent talk on the subject here: http://www.ted.com/talks/nancy_duarte_the_secret_structure_of_great_talks. She explains how great speakers like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Steve Jobs effectively inspired people to action through their communication, rather than guilting people or sharing sob stories.

  • Teju Ravilochan

    Jen, it’s a good question and I think it takes asking yourself constantly, “What is my core message?”

    When I’m coming up with a speech, I often sit down and write on index cards every idea I’m thinking about that I might want to share in the speech. I then sort and organize the index cards into a “storyboard” to make sure that the story has a logical flow and that all of them are on message. I will take some out when they aren’t relevant and create stronger transitions or explanations where needed (credit to my friend Mike Del Ponte for teaching me this technique). Then I’ll practice and get feedback from friends on the relevancy of the story to the core message!

  • Keeli Gilbert

    Thank you for that video. It helps me to know the qualities to look for in a pitch or story that will not make it into that guilt trip. And a reference for anytime I need to tell a story or give a pitch in knowing what to do.

  • Drew Cox

    Thanks for sharing this article. I believe the strategies and methods can be used and adapted on many levels from high school through college level. As if it wasn’t nerve racking enough for some students to be up in front of their class now they have to worry about students messing around or not paying attention at all. Being able to have things that relate to your audience might grab their attention so they want to hear more. I understand that knowing what interests your audience has overall is hard to determine but having that edge can really help a presenter out! My question would be how personal is ok and when is a story to personal or revealing to your audience. What is appropriate what is not? Thanks again for the blog hope to hear from you soon!

  • Teju Ravilochan

    Drew, I don’t know that I have a good answer to this question. This is a judgment call and it depends on how it’s done. I will say that I have never seen someone get too personal on stage (though that’s just my experience). I generally think vulnerability is a powerful tool for connection. I think the key is authenticity. What feels authentic and what feels like it’s still you?

    I’d watch some examples of personal TED Talks. Brené Brown, an outspoken advocate for vulnerability, delivers some beautiful ones. Here’s one: http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_listening_to_shame. Watching those talks can help you understand how to harness the power of vulnerability effectively!

  • Drew Cox

    Thanks for the reply and it makes sense that in the process i should only go as far as I feel comfortable. To many times I believe I’ve pushed my own beliefs aside trying to amuse my audience and it just hasn’t felt like myself after getting off stage or back into my seat. I guess I’ve always said what they wanted to hear instead of getting y own ideas across the table! I never really looked at it like this and hope to learn from your article. But thanks for the video share and insight, it only helps with my future speeches!

  • Hi Mr. Ravilochan, thank you so much for sharing. This article makes sense to me when I relate it to journalism. I completely agree with you about seeking connection through telling a story. I am a journalism student. Sharing and connecting plays such important role in building relationship and trust. During each interview, I never ever jump straight to my questions for an article, I try to take time out to get to know the interviewee and share a little bit of my story too. It really opens people up! Thank you for sharing!

  • Leija2014

    Thank you for sharing this article. I enjoyed this one because being a college student, we are always needing to get up in front of our fellow peers and give a speech. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to dose off simply because I’m not entertained. But what does keep me focused on the presenter is a great story teller because sometimes you’re able to relate to that person and get some sort of connection with them!

  • Amanda Laatsch ?

    I think this is a great article for many reasons. I think
    telling a story instead of giving a pitch is an amazing idea. Most people, me
    included, would rather hear a personal story or an interesting story rather
    than a silly sales pitch. A story brings people in more and gets them listening
    more than a pitch will. It gives them a way to connect with the product or
    person who is telling the story. My question for you, is how do you pick the
    story you are going to tell in place of the pitch?

  • MeierKM23

    I really appreciate you sharing this article because I strongly agree. Hearing a pitch from a salesperson can make them sound annoying and nagging just for them to get the money. Listening to a story, instead can help relate something to a person or a product they might actually want or need. I would much rather hear a story than a pitch that someone just came up with. Thanks again for sharing this!!

  • Brandon

    Thanks for the article!! most people want to listen to a story than listening to a sales pitch or entrepreneur trying to give a new idea. i agree with “help get us an education then you can help us” it can solve so many problems in the world today.

  • lex_alwaysMIA

    I think the best story to tell is the one from your heart that relates to the situation. Just be confident, honest, and true to yourself and everything should be fine. I feel the whole idea of a sale pitch is unauthentic and staged. I don’t want to hear what sounds good but, who you are and how do I connect to you. Great article!

  • Britnee_Kay

    Wow, this article is truly amazing. I felt myself engaged in the story so much by just reading it, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like in person. This is great advice and as architect student I think about when I have to present my designs to a client. My professors have always told me that a story about your design is always better than just going up there and telling them what it is and how it works; a lot like what you are saying entrepreneurs should do. I love discovering new organizations like Educate! that go out and help major problems in not only America, but our neighboring countries. The education system is definitely the first place to start in solving major problems. Thank you to you and your friend for sharing this story and starting a program like Educate!

  • mhansen11

    Thank you very much for this article!! This had some really great advice in it! I really enjoy the more personal stories instead of just a pitch idea. It really allows for more personal connection to who you are presenting to and that seemed very important. Keeping people entertained in speech or presentation you give is crucial and I think this provides a great way to do it.
    Thank you again!!

  • Tyler Steinmetz

    I completely agree with you!! When a presentation is bombarded with facts and statistics, it becomes very hard to follow and often very boring, but if the presenter adds a story or adds some sort of personal perspective to what he or she is saying, it really adds a lot to the presentation as a whole. Being able to relate to a story or an experience that is being told is so beneficial to the cause of the presentation and that can spark an interest that facts and statistics can not even come close to touching in the perspective of presenting.

  • Connor Driscoll

    This article is great and I would like to thank you for posting! It applies to everyone in the world because at some point we are all required to make some type of pitch. For example, as a current job candidate right now with an interview coming up, I need to make a pitch as to why I am a worthy candidate for the position. If I can turn my pitch into a story that the person sitting across from me can relate to, my odds of landing this job increase substantially. Teju, would you agree that making a story could irritate some personality types though as they might consider you to be getting off track?

  • Ashley Nicole Rietbrock

    Thanks you for sharing this article with us it was really great. It had some really good advice in it. I believe that his can help anybody well trying to find a job or for a pitch because you want to sell yourself to that person and by telling a story can really help it a connection with that person. This go with when you said that they enjoy more personal stories instead of giving a pitch. This article is very beneficial for college students who are starting to look for a jobs when there are done. I would agree with what you are saying in the article and will use it when I have a job interview. Thank you again for sharing this article I really enjoyed it.

  • Kyle Schiedemeyer

    I agree with your question about irritating the person you are pitching to by getting off track. I think that to an extent telling a story is great but if I was an investor I would want to know every fact possible so I know that I am not going to be risking or wasting my money. I think that giving a pitch for a product comes with experience and the more you do it the better you get at it, being able to judge when to use a story and when to use facts clearly will come with experience.

  • tjbaumeister08

    Thank you for sharing this article. I never thought of turning a pitch into a story. Making a pitch into a story definitely makes it more interesting. If Eric’s was done as a pitch instead of story I would have lost interest but since it was told as a story I was very into it. I kept wanting to know what would happen next. While I was reading this, I thought this could relate to interviewing. I’ve been told by my professors that when you interview you’re trying to sell yourself to that interviewer. Sometimes people get nervous and practice their “pitch” which makes it seem rehearsed. By telling a story, the interviewer would be able to really tell the kind of person you are. Have you ever turned a pitch into a story and the person didn’t like it?

  • GraceFelion

    Simply reading Eric’s story was amazing! I hope that this idea was funded and can be brought to other countries including the US. I certainly will be saving this article for future use if I ever need to make a pitch. Story telling is such an important skill. I actually was interested in this idea but had it not been told in story format, I don’t know if I would have connected nearly as much. Thank you!

  • AmandaBrom

    A story can go a long way and if you tell it right it is something to people will always remember. This article would be so helpful for the many students here at Whitewater. Many people believe that they have to have the perfect pitch but I agree a story is better. This semester in my philology of exercise class my teacher said don’t memorize the material just this of it as a story. It allowed me to learn the material and not just memorize the material. I believe the telling a story has so much more impact.

  • Evan Hibbs

    Teja, thanks for the article. I agree that turning a pitch into a story is very useful and innovative. Being able to story tell and get a room full of people to listen to you is a great talent. If you can inspire every time you talk, that’s a very great gift to have. Can storytelling all the time, lose your audience over time?

  • Steven Bichler

    Thanks for a great article, I also agree that turning a sales pitch into a story is very useful and unique. Which can often lead to people remembering yours which can be huge in succeeding. As a health minor my job is to sell myself as a health professional and teacher and the quote I love is “There’s no “template” that will work for everyone. You’ve got to find whatever allows you to be authentic. But I am confident about one thing: everyone, including you, will be much happier if you turn your pitch into a story.” Thanks again for a insightful article.

  • schrammjm26

    Great article, thanks for sharing! I myself am a sales major, so I can appreciate telling a story rather than just a simple pitch which can be considered annoying by some. I agree with you that the biggest part of getting recognition if first establishing doubt that things are being handled properly or identifying the need and conveying it to your potential prospects. If you can convince people of the that the need your trying to address is worth overcoming the barriers to addressing it then you have them hooked regardless of what your solution is. You inspire people by trying to solve the problem not by the solution.

  • strakaJA01

    I agree, @connordriscoll:disqus! This really does apply to everyone at some point in life. I am in the same spot you are right now with job searching. I am constantly getting asked the famous “why should we pick you” job interview question! The tricky part is answering it over and over without it sounding generic after the 5th time. I also agree with what you said about telling a story, it really boils down to the phrase, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. People love connections! Thank you, Teju for this great article!

  • Kevin Weber

    Thanks for this post!! I completely agree with the concept that entrepreneurs need to tell a story, instead of giving a pitch. By telling a story, investors can connect with you on a more personal basis, and hear where you are coming from and how your idea came about. You can inspire people to want to join your cause. I believe college students see this a lot from professors. If professors just read off the powerpoints no one is going to listen. But if the professors are coming up with ways to keep students engaged, students will pay attention. Just as long as an entrepreneur doesn’t get too sappy with their story, investors will give more focus to you, instead of a pitch.

  • Ryan Repta

    Thank you for sharing this article. I doubt that I’ll be making any kind of sales pitch anytime soon, but I still feel that this advice can be applicable to everyday life. In social situations in general, or even just amongst friends, you can keep your audience interested in what you have to say by telling a story. Is there anytime when storytelling would be ineffective?

  • Frank_Stanek

    This more or less could be applied to anytime during you day when you want to convince omeone to see something your way or to do something that you want. If you make it into something interesting and less of an argument to see things your way I know for a fact that this works. In my part-time job of retail when I want to better explain why someone should buy the product that would be best for them rather than the cheap alternative that they will regret it really does help to make it into an interesting story or comparison.

  • Andersonjc16

    Like others i am not sure when i will be giving a sales pitch but i have found with working with the public if you personalize something it is received better. People tend to relate more if they feel you are genuine and thus makes a memorable exchange and i feel this is a plus when it comes to business.

  • Caitlin Donohue

    Wow what an inspiring article! I can definitely see how telling a story rather than just asking for investments can make a difference. When people are emotionally involved, it’s for a good cause and you are given every detail you need to know the chances are bigger for getting investments. Thank you for this article and these tips!

  • Brittney Glende

    Wow thats great, I also agree that everyone has a story to tell. I think this article is very neat and I am glad I took the time to read it and write to you. So thank you for getting back to me and answering my question. I appreciate it!!

  • WolfgramKA06

    This is a great
    article. I like the idea of telling a story because I notice I pay attention and
    that the speaker captures the audience better. I feel that people can relate
    better and pay attention to the details and stay focused. It makes the person
    more memorable as well. I always remember this couple that spoke at Whitewater
    as the two that spoke about their story to success, and it was super inspiring.
    What is one of the most inspiring stories you have heard?

  • laurenkraft

    I agree, sharing a story to the audience definitely grabs their attention and brings them in making them feel almost closer to you as if they know a little about you. I went to a training meeting in Steven’s Point last year, and I will never forget this woman talking about her success story. She started off with pictures of when she was growing up all the way to the present, her successful self. It was truly inspiring, and clearly made an impact on me as I have not forgotten.

  • GrycowskAJ17

    The entire ideal of this article is so interesting to me. I absolutely love the idea thank you for the article!!

  • GrycowskAJ17

    Never really thought if it, but the emotional involvement is is critical.

  • GrycowskAJ17

    That “why should we pick you” question has to be worst and I see this being the best way to answer.

  • Caitlin Donohue

    I agree! There are many ways emotional involvement could be a great thing.

  • strakaJA01

    @kyleschiedemeyer:disqus, I think you are right about the experience thing, obviously that is going to come in handy in any situation. Same goes for knowing when to use the “tools” you have in your toolbox. There is no way to know EVERY little fact about someone, but there are questions to get as much information on an individual as possible. I think if this is the case and the interviewer isn’t getting quite the detailed information they want, it is up to them to clarify or dig deeper. How can an interviewee know that is what an interviewer wants if there is no indication of it? So then for example the interviewee goes the “story” route. Will this hurt them? I guess that depends on the employer now doesn’t it?

  • masterdan55

    What an awesome article! I bet it takes a great deal of skill to get people emotionally involved in what your talking about. Ill use what you said to help better myself in the future!

  • masterdan55

    I agree with you! Telling a story rather than a sales pitch will help you get them more involved in what your saying. Thanks for the comment!

  • GrycowskAJ17

    Definitely something worth passing on!!!!

  • Caitlin Donohue

    Definitely! I’ll have to pass it on and use it myself.

  • Jansscor16

    This is a fantastic article! It is amazing how wording a pitch differently and giving it more of a story could be the difference between getting the results or not getting them. This is something I will really take with me in the future!

  • Stephen

    This article is great. I feel like there is never really any good advice out there on how to sell yourself or your idea. The strategy behind this is also simple to incorporate in ones “pitch.” Getting people emotionally involved behind what you are doing makes so much sense. Business pitches can be relatively boring but when telling a story people become more interested. Thank you so much for sharing these tips.

  • Taylor Schulz

    I thought the same thing! I watch the show called shark tank all of the time and I have learned that it really does make a difference. The shortest sentence or even word can make or break a deal

  • Chris Williams

    I like this a lot, and totally agree I wish more people told stories. I chuckled at the Shark tank background picture, mainly because my large contention with the shows format (Other than the ridiculous offers owners accept) is the cheesy scripted format of the show. This article does a great job with the anecdote where I wanted to keep reading after being drawn into the story.

  • Natalie

    I really enjoyed your post! Thanks for sharing! I completely agree with how you
    should make your pitch a story. In fact, the best brands are those who can tell
    stories. Storytelling is not only creative, but it makes a brand’s product or
    service relatable. Being relatable is extremely important because people tend
    to buy things that they relate to.

  • Tim Rutkowski

    Teju thank you for the article. I don’t know if I completely agree with you. A story may be creative but it’s not always the best way. Is there any other ways that you can think off that would work?

  • Sarah M.

    Thanks for another great article, Teju! I have done bit of development work and particularly when you’re asking individuals for money (or how to contribute in other ways – like time) the importance of having a story that people can connect to and understand cannot be underestimated.

    And an an aside, what a great organization!

  • Camillewuensch

    I think that instead of a pitch you tell a story is great! Stories keep people more interested and can help open up so many more interconnections to your audience. Stories help your audience look at you like a normal person and this professional and all business all the time.

  • Cossioj14

    First off love the picture before the article, big shark tank fan. Telling a story is a pitch, tell them how this started and what youve done to get there, thats what they want to here. Tell them all the hours youve put in and see the results of the hardwork.

  • Brad Vogel

    Stories are great. They actually give people a much clearer picture of what an entrepreneur is trying to pitch. Give investors something to connect, and they will understand it.

  • TrumanHale

    I like the idea of this. It seams to me that giving an example of a problem opens the eyes of the listeners; you give them that problem. When it come time where they have no other way to solve it you introduce your amazing product and they’re sold. not to mention telling a story about how you came up with an idea is easier than just explaining the idea.

  • rped

    I think this was an excellent article. I completely agree that the new buzz word going around is the ability to tell a great story. This not only personalizes your brand, but it puts you on a very personal level to the people you are trying to get your idea, product, or brand to. It is so true that a people will start to instantly yawn when someone starts to give them a pitch about an idea. But when the same idea is interwoven in to a personal story, it is sometimes dificult to determine where the idea is and where the story is. Every person that wants to create something or change something is doing it for a reason. There are many reasons out there, but there reason is their own. People ultimately want to help other people. When I was watching Shark Tank the other night, I saw that one of the ideas that most of the sharks were into was an idea about a guy that had an app that helped students get scholarships. The presenter wove his idea and pitch into a story and the sharks loved it. And so did the audience, including me. I think the article explains this process nicely and I couldn’t agree more with the thesis and premise.
    Great article.

  • JakeEllis7

    So just basically take your pitch and explain the need and solution of your venture by using a story. Sounds simple enough.

  • Ashley Gardner

    I love this. I am doing a pitch in a class right now. Telling a story is key because people tend to tune out the ones that are just rambling. People like “real” people. In my pitch I tell a story and talk about real life things that pertain to the person I am pitching to.

  • Thomas Miller

    Very interesting and informative post. I was just reading another article about how to make a good sales pitch and one of their techniques was to tell a story. I think it’s a great way to make a pitch because it has no set way of doing it. You can invent your own way to tell the story and tailor it to your audience

  • Thomas Miller

    It sounds simple

  • Thomas Miller

    And the great thing about stories is that they can be slightly tweaked to adjust to the audience you are trying to connect with

  • Ashley Nicole Rietbrock

    Thank you Teju for sharing this article with us I found it to be really interesting and something that I could us. Nobody like sitting in a room and hear facts and pitches toward them. They tend to fall asleep or not even list to what you are saying. Telling a story is a great idea and helps it make it realistic for the people who are listening. If you put really people in it and make it personal you know for sure that it will make it easier to sell that product. Thank you again for sharing this article with us.

  • FalkinerRR23

    Definitely takes some practice. You don’t want to get up there and just start rambling on about the unimportant stuff. You really need to learn how to connect with the audience and even tailor your story to their needs/personalities.

  • kgonyo

    While all of this is excellent advice and makes for a memorable pitch, I think it’s important to remember that the information is the most crucial part. An informational but boring pitch will be forgotten, just as a flashy pitch without knowledge will be laughed off. The key to being memorable is the ability to combine these two in a way that leaves the audience wanting more.

  • ClaytonEI08

    I like the idea. It’s true that people can become almost robotic when pitching, spitting out rehearsed facts and information at potential investors who’ve been listening to the same bs all day long. It’s also true that people enjoy stories, but a story without any information or concepts is going to get you denied just as fast as a boring pitch. I believe the key, is finding a way to take the information you planned on providing in your pitch, and putting it into a story format. Just my opinion though.

  • jfaulkner35

    I see his point here, but I think the example he uses is vastly different from most attempts entrepreneurs will make at business and most won’t quite have the emotional aspect.

  • jfaulkner35

    I agree and finding a way to appeal to emotions like this story does is huge.

  • maxfunny

    I enjoyed reading this because I feel like i am very good at talking and even better at telling a story. Every time i have ever interview for a job or sell a item i always make sure i get them to believe in me first before they leave.

  • Austin Jones

    I know its exactly what you mean man! for a fundraiser we had to call people and try and get donations and i noticed this happening right in front of me. If you read the script word for word no one wanted to donate. but if you made it a story and and pitch really well you will be better off!

  • Julia

    I agree because I think people tend to zone out once they lose interest, which can almost happen instantly. If you start pitching something that is so basic and unimportant to that person, then any potential investor won’t be interest in what you have to say at all. I think your pitch should be in a story format as well. We need to show them how meaningful it is, how much it impact the world around them, and specifically how it affects them. If we can’t affect them, then they aren’t going to even listen.

  • This article was riveting article. I fully believe that stories make all the difference in closing the deal or remaining a dreamer. In my business, that’s all I do, invite and tell stories. If you’re interested and enjoyed my “why” I do what I do, then you will most likely think about how my business could affect your life, which is right where I want you. Thank you for this.

  • Making others believe in you is crucial. It’s equally important to believe in yourself more than you believe in the product that you’re selling or the team that you’r e joining. But always leave them with something. A story, a piece of you, something to remember you by because follow ups are key!

  • maxfunny

    Agreed you have to make sure they remember that it was you and your idea.

  • I hear you, but if you aren’t emotional about your start up or it doesn’t draw emotion from someone, you may need to reevaluate your start up. What are you trying to change and why should it be innovative? If you don’t believe in it more than the product that your replacing and you cant convey that emotion, they wont be able to connect.

  • Agreed. Finding the happy yet elusive medium between exciting and serious can be tricky. But that’s how business becomes personal. You have to give a piece of yourself.

  • But you have to be careful with that. If you don’t have a real life experience to match theirs, you’ll lose authenticity if you try to fake it just to appeal to them. I’ve tried that. And when they asked me a question I didn’t know and couldn’t answer, I lost them and a dozen other potential clients.

  • Radaya123

    Telling a story especially effective when you’ve reached levels others have only dreamed of. It makes the speaker the onle with expertise and knowledge seems more friendly, less like a god and more like a person.

  • I feel like the source is the most important part. If you have a great story, and people like it, but no one believes the source, then you’re wasting your time.

  • maxfunny

    Yea, it’s also bad when you lose your credibility if you are pitching a idea. I’ve seen it happen on a show called shark tank before where they catch someone in a lie then every shark backs out. You have to speak true and straight then you will be golden.

  • I think I know that episode. You have to approach it like you would any other thing. Unless if you don’t care about yourself or reputation.