Learnings From Successful Startup Pitches: How to Build a Compelling Presentation

The Internet is full of resources on how to make a great presentation, but when it comes time to build one's own startup pitch, most people grossly underestimate what it really takes to do it

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By Manglam Vashisht


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So here are learnings pulled together from analyzing many such pitches on what really works

First, many great presenters find it useful to think of presentations as a stage performance -having three parts:

1. The Story

2. The Props

3. The Act Itself

The Story:

It is impossible to overemphasize the importance of the storyline of the presentation

But what is a story anyway?

A story is not what happens, what happens is the plot.

A story has 3 clear elements: A protagonist, high stakes goal of the protagonist, and the spark that leads to the goal.

Best storytellers keep users of their product as protagonists and speak to their deep-seated high stakes goals. They then lay out a clear, believable roadmap towards the goals in the face of conflicts

Following is an example


This presentation cleverly used the key concepts of storytelling. Upfront it establishes the problems of average internet users (protagonists)- how they cannot easily share big videos via email. The spark or the solution here is Youtube itself. At stake is the deep need to connect to the community - which apparently is very important to the protagonists

The presenters then go on to make the solution believable in the face of technical difficulties by sharing how the solution works

A few books which will help you master the fine art of storytelling:

  • Pyramid Principle by Barbara Minto

  • Ted Talks Storytelling by Akash Karia

The Props:

PowerPoint presentation itself is one of the biggest props in the arsenal. It must look good.

The acid test is whether each slide can communicate the message in less than 3 seconds. Visuals do a better job than text-heavy slides to help achieve that goal.

Third party template services offer subscriptions to quickly make awesome looking slides using visual graphics. Besides, for most people, graphic design is not their cup of tea. Relying on such services can help presenters focus on their story and preparing for the actual act.

The Act:

Now for the D-Day, no pressure but- Steve Jobs used to practice his Keynotes to death just to make sure that nothing went awry.

Some ideas that may be useful

Hooking Audience:

First 10 minutes is the most crucial time of the presentation. Beyond that, the audience is easily distracted. Also, studies indicate that no more than 3 points per slide will stick at any stage of the presentation.

  • Pick a Power Spot: Not many people know, there is something called power-spot: that gives the presenters the most eyeballs. Usually, it is right in the front & middle of the stage

  • Use Personal Stories: People love personal stuff- probably human curiosity drove. Stories help create a connection with the audience

  • Appeal to Senses: People respond far better to vivid details that evoke senses. Keywords are OAO: Ocular. Auditory, Olfactory based vivid sensory descriptions

Minimize Distractions:

Some people end up being their worst enemy in the presentation. Some common pitfalls:

  • All Over the Place, Literally: When presenters pace around nervously- they evoke cringe-worthy anxiety in the audience. Staying calm, staying grounded has a pacifying effect on the audience

  • A Walking Cacophony: All that jangling change in the pocket needs to be removed and sounds other than those created by vocal cords need to be muted

  • Look Ma, no me: Some speakers want to hide in plain sight in front of their slideshows. When points don't need the screen shutting it off using keyboard shortcuts will help bring focus

Ending Well:

Well begun is half done; but: All's well that ends well. Often, the conclusion of an act defines the whole act. Great presenters always end high with positive messages that leave the audience uplifted


Memorable presenters tell a story with smart, rigorous preparation; They communicate passionately. They are the ultimate protagonist, -the knight in the shining armour, saving the princess - that their start-up deserves to be

Manglam Vashisht

Founder, SlideUpLift

The author is a founder of SlideUpLift- a  platform focused on helping entrepreneurs and professionals build outstanding pitches and presentation material. During  her MMM from Northwestern University  and her brand management career she recognized many professionals need help in telling stories and making presentations to their investors, clients, even their bosses. At SlideUpLift she has built high quality material that professionals can take advantage of  to better communicate their ideas and differentiate themselves

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