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While I was watching Shark Tank the other day, it occurred to me that you can tell right away when the “sharks” engage with a pitch by their reactions – smiles, aahs, nods. Their focus is entirely on the presentation. 

Likewise, you can definitely tell when they aren’t engaged. They no longer listen but interrupt with questions to cut to the chase and determine if there’s anything of value to them. Often this is because they get bogged down with long-winded details in a boring presentation.

No matter what kind of pitch you are making, it’s all about the story you tell. A story allows you to weave all the details into a framework that grabs attention, connects with your audience, and keeps them engaged – whether you have one minute or an hour.

Here are my top 3 tips to improve your pitch with storytelling.

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE. Telling a story allows you to show your personal connection – who are you and why do you care?

For instance, a guy on the show knew all the sharks were parents, so he started with a question they could all relate to: “What do your toddlers say when you ask what they learned at daycare?”

It’s nearly impossible to get a straight answer from your little ones. What exactly are they doing all day? Now, the sharks were interested in how he could resolve that problem. When he shared what his app could show, complete with adorable pictures of his daughter, the emotional connection was clear on their faces. (His company Brightwheel is now worth $600 million.)

USE A STORY TO SHOW THAT YOU GET THEM. You have the answer to their problem because you get their problem. But don’t just come out and say it. Illustrate it with a story.

When shark Mark Cuban bought NBA basketball team Dallas Mavericks in the early 2000s, their ticket sales were abysmal. He started ringing former season ticket holders to entice them back.

Did he offer them a good deal? Better seats? Nope. He asked them to remember when they went to a game as a kid – the excitement, cheering with a crowd, and time with their parents. Did it matter if the team played well or not? Didn’t they want to share the experience with their kids? He connected with a story that touched their values.

PRACTICE – BUT DON’T MEMORISE. Don’t focus so much on memorising words. A great story will naturally progress from one point to the next. Practice until it feels natural and conversational.

Now is your chance to weed out the critical information for your audience and present it in a way that keeps their attention engaged. It’s not the time to tell them everything you know to win them over. It is the time to connect emotionally, so they want to know more.

A Google search revealed that almost 60% of successful Shark Tank pitches told a story. A simple narrative structure can allow you to boil down the essential details into a captivating story.

I’m here to help you enhance your storytelling skills to make a winning pitch. Let’s chat.