Re-thinking your pitch: pitch the story, not the FAQ

Re-thinking your pitch: pitch the story, not the FAQ

Whether pitching to investors, customers, or other stakeholders, people make one common error: pitching the FAQ instead of the story.

Answering frequently asked questions is not what a pitch needs to do.

Knowing you have one chance to get it right can be anxiety inducing. Trying to cover all the bases–to anticipate (and answer) all the possible questions before they are asked–may feel like the right answer. It’s a sure-fail approach–but the better alternative is also more fun.

Earn the Right

When you have the opportunity to pitch an idea, investment, or product, your job is to earn the right to go into details. Think about that for a moment. It means the pitch is not the details, it’s something else.

Pitches underperform or fail when they begin “in the weeds”. Explaining the gears and describing the operations of a machine is ineffective until the audience has been oriented to the purpose of the machine and interested in it.

The pitch must begin where the audience is, the perspective they arrive from, and what they care about.

Don’t Pitch the FAQ

Many of us have been taught that presenting a strong case requires anticipating the questions and objections that may arise and being ready to address them. That’s solid advice—it means doing your homework and knowing your subject matter inside-out.

But that’s a tablestake; it’s not the pitch.

Weak pitches set out to answer all possible questions and defend against all possible objections before those questions and objections are even raised.

That’s what I call “pitching the frequently asked questions (FAQ)”. Remember: the pitch must earn the right to go into details. When the pitch is successful, the audience will lead a discussion into details. This is the ideal scenario for several reasons:

  • It gives you the opportunity to tell your story in your way. Many people I work with on pitching express a similar frustration: they can’t get far into their presentation before the audience interrupts and takes things off track. That’s a signal the story being told is not captivating.
  • It allows for a much shorter and tighter pitch. I give my pitch-coaching clients a budget of 10 slides (max) and 7-15 words per slide. We transform “Frankenpoint” slide decks into real stories.
  • When the audience leads the post-pitch discussion, you are at an advantage. This is where you’ll learn their real interests and preoccupations. You’ll be responding to their needs, not the needs of an imaginary audience and not the general needs of an FAQ audience.

Find the Story

Finding the story is generally the most challenging (and overlooked) aspect of pitching. When you’re buried in the day-to-day, nuts-and-bolts of your idea, company, or product, you believe you know your story well.

But your story looks very different to those who live outside of it.

Believing in your idea, company, or product is often referred to as “drinking your own Kool-Aid”. The pitch story lives in the space between the audience you’re pitching to and your pitcher of Kool-Aid.

In just a couple of hours, an initial pitch-coaching session can find that story and begin to close the gap between your idea and the audience.

For support in refining your pitch into a powerful conversation-starter, contact me about Pitch Coaching services.

Photo credit: 101911371 © Sergii Moskaliuk |