Eventually, we all have to pitch. Be it you pitching your startup idea and business plan to a group of investors or partners. Or you are making your case for a salary raise during your annual performance review. Even in our relationships and family life, we find ourselves making (hopefully) compelling arguments why we ought to fly to Hawaii for vacation, why getting married is the best idea ever, or why a dog would make our little family complete.
Pitching is nothing but story telling, and narrative creates meaning. To tell a compelling story (“Invest into my startup.”, “Let’s get married.”, “Can I have a dog?”) we are well served by spending time understanding how stories work — an art form which is as old as humanity. Much has been written about story, but the other day I came across the following — which made me pause and rethink how I craft my openings…
“A man stood on the roof of a seventy-story building.” Aren’t you already kind of expecting him to jump, fall, or be pushed off? You’ll be pleased if the story takes that expectation into account, but not pleased if it addresses it too neatly. We could understand a story as simply a series of such expectation/resolution moments.
It is such a great reminder that stories need a strong opener, one which keeps us in suspense but also gives us an indication where the story is going. One which makes us immediately imagine what’s next — and, at the same time, curious about where the journey will ultimately take us.
Next time you prepare a pitch — maybe spend a little more time on your opening and figure out what your version of “A man stood on the roof of a seventy-story building.” is going to be.