31. Telling a Story


Once upon a time…

FOR TENS OF THOUSANDS of years, people have sat around and told each other stories. In today’s modern world, we still love stories. We’ve built whole industries around storytelling: novels, television, and movies, plus magazines, newspapers, and blogs.

Your audience has heard (and seen and read) tens of thousands of professionally-crafted stories. When you tell a compelling story, they already know how to sit back while being drawn in.

More importantly, your audience has probably already seen dozens, if not hundreds, of other company pitches, most of which follow the Investor Pitch outline. That’s how those expectations were formed.

The problem for you is that the standard investor pitch doesn’t have the form of a great story. If you want your audience to remember what you tell them and to be so moved that they tell others about it, you need to make your story captivating.


As described by Kurt Vonnegut (who knew how to craft amazing stories), all great stories take one of three forms: Man-in-Hole, Boy meets Girl, or Cinderella. I’ve only ever seen the first of these adapted for a company story. It goes like this:

A character is introduced, let’s call him Bob. He’s having a normal day when he unexpectedly falls into a hole. He frets. He struggles. He comes up with a plan. You the audience root for his success, despite the plan seeming impossible or desperate. With luck or help or sheer determination, he escapes the hole. The End.

This story has the typical beginning, middle, and end. In the beginning we meet the character and encounter the hole. Some stories might start in the hole, then flash back to tell us about the character before the drop, but either way at the start we have a character and a hole. The character might be a whole crowd or might be alone to start with and encounter others along the way. We may discover we’re part of the crowd down in the hole too, and never noticed the walls. The variety of the details make the story interesting but in all cases in the beginning of the story we always have character and hole.

The middle of the story begins with a plan to escape. Sometimes the solution is foreshadowed. Sometimes it is left as a mystery. Sometimes new characters are introduced who help the main character with the escape. Again the specifics are there to make the story novel and interesting. No matter those specific, the key piece of knowledge conveyed to the audience in the middle of the story is the belief that the character will ultimately escape and the key feeling is hope in that belief. In other words, somewhere in the middle of the story we the audience should want the character to succeed.

The end of the story is the climax and denouement. The hole is escaped. The character is saved. The audience feels relief and satisfaction, if not joy. For a story about a company, when done well the audience wants the company to succeed, wants to help in some way, and wants to repeat to their friends this amazing story.


HardcoverThe Next StepThe Next StepThe Next StepThe Next Step The Next StepThe Next StepThe Next Step



Recent blog posts