How can entrepreneurs persuade an audience and gain buy-in?

Take-aways from a talk in the Trust Center on 7/21/16

Your story has a goal, not just entertaining others


  • Stories are incredibly important for startups. You don’t really have much at this point but a good story can go a long way.
  • Tell a story that makes sense to your audience: the story you tell your investors is different than what you tell new hires, yourself or your team.


Why does storytelling work so well?

  • It is biological – people understand and connect better when you tell them a story.
  • Repetition of main points can help make a change. You are experiencing the same thing with your audience – emotionally and biologically and it makes your audience react.
  • Good story = money: people value good stories!


A good story is


  • This is an emotional journey! Your job as an entrepreneur is to guide your audience through this journey.
  • People need to understand: what are the states you are going through? Where is this story going? And what happens if you fail?


The opening message


  • The opening message sets the tone for the entire meeting. people need to:
    • Care! – People need to be emotionally invested so you can lock their attention.
    • Get it! – People need to understand your message – especially when you are presenting a new concept to the world.
  • Avoid too much depth – too many details can overwhelm others. The messaging might not be clear and you might lose the emotional connection with your audience.
  • The opening should clearly articulate:
    • Who’s the person you’re targeting?
    • What is their problem?
    • What prevents them from solving it?


Guidelines for a good story


  • Don’t waste my time: A good story makes a promise right at the beginning – people should know what to expect. Have a goal in mind! Is it raising money? Hiring?
  • Give your hero a spine: What keeps your hero stand tall? What do they care about? If you discover these things in your PMR make sure you communicate these learnings.
  • What are the stakes? You need to show that you understand that it’s not all perfect. And there are some challenges.
  • Stories have themes: Focus on one concept that everything you say relates to. Repeat it to yourself and refer back to it throughout your story.
  • Make people care!

Tactical techniques


  1.       I do need a reason to listen
  2.       Emotional impact early
  3.       You can weave multiple stories together
  4.       Draw from personal experience
  5.       Who are you in the story? (your company and you are different! The story of founding your company a different story than how you personally relate to the situation)
  6.       Believe in your story!
  • Avoid: linear and chronological stories. Even with investors, tell a story that has ups and downs – you learned things, you made a progress.
  • Improv technique for telling an interesting story: 7 lines story:
  1.       Once upon of time…
  2.       Every day…
  3.       Until one day..
  4.       And then…
  5.       And then….
  6.       Until finally..
  7.       And ever since that day…
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