How to Tell Your Story and Inspire Investors

Whether you are actively fundraising or simply running your business day-to-day, founders are almost always in pitch mode. We turned to Felicity Barber, former speech writer to CEOs and Presidents at the Federal Reserve, BlackRock, and Lloyd’s of London, for her tips on how to deliver a compelling presentation no matter who the audience. In case you missed our conversation last month, here are some of the highlights. 

Establish a Connection. Barber recommends starting your pitch with a quick personal story to build rapport. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable or include a bit of self-deprecation, as these are proven tools to quickly create a connection between you and your listeners. With this foundation, the rest of your conversation should flow more organically. 

Know your Audience. When preparing your pitch, try to anticipate two things about your prospective audience: what are they excited about, and what are they afraid of? You already know how to highlight the most exciting aspects of your business, but successfully addressing an investor’s concerns can be challenging. For example, investors may be hesitant to write a check without knowing who else has invested or before seeing a name they trust on your cap table. But what if you haven’t yet secured that first major investor? Barber suggests focusing on the “why”—why you started your business and why you are convinced it will succeed. Your confidence will be critical to the pitch. 

Five Tools for Persuasion. 

First, never underestimate the power of storytelling. The basic building blocks of any good story, a beginning, middle, and end, work for a reason. Start by describing an average day, and paint a vivid picture to draw the listener in. Next, talk about a challenge you’ve faced—whether it was your worst day or your biggest failure. End by telling the listener how you overcame that challenge and what the experience taught you.  

Second, what data and facts do you need to communicate to your audience to establish the logic behind your presentation? Be sure to anticipate your listeners’ questions and provide them with all the information they will need to make an informed decision to invest with you.  

Third, establish your credibility in a way that will resonate with your audience. Now is the time to share positive press you’ve received, highlight your track record, or feature seasoned advisors or board members who support your vision. In short, let your audience know they can trust you with their money.

Fourth, put your pitch into context. Take the time to explain how your business fits into the wider world and to signal that you are not developing your business in a vacuum. Barber cites ESG/DEI issues as a common example here. Make a clear connection between your business and the ESG and DEI initiatives that are most important to you, and explain to your audience how you plan to address them. 

Fifth, be clear with yourself and your audience on your core message. What are the one or two lines of your pitch that the rest of your presentation supports? Avoid getting lost in the weeds by always returning to that core message that you want your audience to take away from the conversation.  

Other Tips and Tricks. Always put your audience first by thinking objectively about their interests, depth of knowledge, and how they will best relate to your business. Practice emotional detachment. If you tank a presentation one day, don’t let it discourage you the next. If you are delivering a hard truth or something the audience doesn’t want to hear, acknowledge it head on. Dancing around the issue only makes it worse. Don’t over-rehearse your pitch. Finally, let yourself go off scriptthose moments are often the most engaging and relatable.

Further Reading. Interested in going further in depth? Barber recommends two books: Permission to Speak by Samara Bay and How to Own the Room by Viv Groskop. Interested in going right to the source? You can get in touch with Felicity Barber by visiting her website

--Molly Tranbaugh

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