Telling Your Story Is Paramount

Posted: March 24, 2013 by Bill Cunningham in Leadership, Marketing, Startup

Bill Cunningham BioStarting a business requires many talents – marketing, sales, finance, fund-raising, project management among others. Communicating well is the critical thread running through all of these talents. Your ability to tell your story as founder, designer, programmer or sales warrior will make or break your venture. After all, if the world doesn’t know what you can do for them, then how will they be motivated to trade their hard-earned money for your product or service.

Make these ideas of your bucket list for becoming a great startup.

Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 Rule

Whether pitching an investor or giving a presentation at a conference, use Guy’s 10/20/30 rule as a guide.  ten slides, twenty minutes and thirty point type. If you can’t tell your story in ten slides, then your story is too complicated and your audience (VC’s or customers) won’t remember much of it. Timewise, don’t plan for more than twenty minutes max for presenting. In investor meetings, expect interruptions and questions throughout your talk (a good sign) – so planning for any longer means you won’t get to finish your story in an hour. Guy suggests using thirty point type as a minimum because a) people with money tend to be older and don’t want to squint to read your presentation, and b) using at least 30 point type limits the amount of information on your slide. After all, you want people to listen to your story, not read your slide.

Steve Jobs mastered the art of storytelling often using very large graphics and one or two words on a slide. His product introductions and press conferences are awesome – check them out at the Apple site or on YouTube if you are looking for a great role model.

Richard Currier’s Message-based Thought Leadership Strategies

Having worked at eight different software companies as CMO or CEO in Silicon Valley, Richard Currier developed “Mastering Market Leadership” workshops to help startups learn how to dominate markets through crisp, clear messaging. A few nuggets of wisdom that keep me on track include:

  • · “Own” a laser-focused, precisely targeted market
  • · Test your messages:  “How it will be retold, not how well it is told.”
  • · Create your message to first be “Different and exciting” then later in the sales cycle move your message towards “Better and safe”
  • · Speak in sound bites, use compelling visuals, create metaphors

Mr. Currier believed if your message makes you a thought leader in the industry, you can easily execute your market leadership strategy. He defines Buzz as the “Cacophony of other people talking about your product.”  You do this through short, catchy sound bites that people can repeat. You do this through great imagery giving your customers context of why you are on top of the pile.

GCVA’s Pitch Doctor Mantras: Learn, Practice, Repeat

  • LEARN – Greater Cincinnati is rich with resources to help you learn how to tell you story. C-CAP’s entrepreneur boot camp (June 3-4, 2013) addresses the basics of telling your story. Hamilton County Business Center offers Morning Mentoring and Sounding Board to refine your message. The Brandery, UpTech, Cintrifuse all offer “Pitch Doctor” sessions to learn from entrepreneurs who have the battle scars to prove it.
  • PRACTICE – Nothing replaces a well oiled story. You would be disappointed at Playhouse in the Park if the cast didn’t fanatically rehearse the show. Steve Jobs spent many hours making the presentation exactly right (of course, he had the budget to do that.) His attention to detail set Apple product introduction apart as the opening of a hit Broadway show.
  • REPEAT (often) – The Greater Cincinnati Venture Association offers opportunities to pitch at each of their meetings, and you must clear a screening committee. The committee’s job is to make you look great so you can get funded – so you will get immediate feedback prior to your presentation. Offer to make presentations to your bankers, your board of advisors, your family and well-selected sets of strangers.

Check out our blog at for links to books and resources to help you become the silver-tongued orator that sets you apart from the rest.


C-CAP/Queen City Angels Entrepreneur Bootcamp – June 3-4  CLICK HERE FOR BOOTCAMP INFO.

Greater Cincinnati Venture Association: Making Great Presentations

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