Startups made easy. Sorted.

Hero Storytelling Startups
Startup Guides 9 min read
Expert reviewed

The Art of the Pitch: How to use storytelling to create the perfect pitch deck

Published:  Aug 11, 2023
Kaylin S.
Kaylin Sullivan


Claire Macmillan
Expert Contributor
Claire Macmillan

Pitch Coach

Anthony Rose
Expert Contributor
Anthony Rose

Co-Founder and CEO

We’ve all seen it: You meet a founder, they tell you passionately about a problem that got them motivated to start their business and their mission to solve it. Sounds amazing.

Then you see their pitch deck… and it completely fails to excite. No story, no passion. After going through the pitch deck, you’re wondering exactly that the company does or the problem they’re solving.

The problem is that most pitch decks describe what the company does instead of what problem they solve.

We did a webinar with Claire Macmillan, ex. criminal barrister, now pitch deck coach, on the art of storytelling. Claire uses her years of barrister storytelling experience to show you how to transform a dull set of slides into an exciting and engaging story to entice and win over investors.

In this article:

What storytelling means for your pitch

Storytelling is an important tool for communication. It doesn’t just appear in the obvious places like literature, film, tv series and theatre. As well as being present in all the media we consume daily, storytelling is a powerful tool in business too.

When it comes to your pitch, storytelling techniques allow you to communicate your idea in an exciting, memorable and easy-to-understand way. They help you to:

  • capture and hold the attention of investors
  • clearly define the problem your startup solves
  • compile important information about your startup in a concise and interesting way
  • present information in a logical sequence
  • form an emotional connection with the audience, which sparks interest, forms loyalty and sells
  • adapt how you communicate to suit different audiences
  • communicate your vision to others so that they see it in the same way you do. That’s the secret sauce for pitching. If you can get investors as excited about your startup as you are – you’re golden.


Claire Macmillan

The purpose of the story is to make investors see the opportunity in the same way you do. It instils in them the confidence and conviction that you have about your venture. It helps you to portray your startup in a way that shows it in the best light.

Claire Macmillan

Pitch Coach,

Claire Macmillan

Below, we cover how to apply different storytelling techniques to your pitch deck, pitch delivery and founder story. Keep in mind that you should also apply these techniques to the way you communicate with potential customers so you can excite them, connect with them and successfully communicate the problem you solve for them. You can read more about how to create a compelling brand narrative in our article How to hire on a startup budget.

How to use storytelling as a startup founder

As a founder, you need to know how to sell yourself. Your idea, your technology, the quality of your product or service and your achievements are all important to investors and customers, but it’s the way you tell the story about those things that really sells. It’s the message that matters and will be remembered.

We see a lot of founders get fixated on endless details about numbers and complicated technology when they should be more focused on evoking curiosity, engaging audiences and cultivating conversations around themself and their business to raise investment, attract customers and build a network.

How to use storytelling in your pitch deck

Claire Macmillan

A winning pitch deck is a combination of good storytelling and content visualisation. The story is particularly important at the early stages, when you don’t necessarily have the metrics or traction to sell your company to investors. At this stage you need to sell your vision, your potential and your team.

Claire Macmillan

Pitch Coach,

Claire Macmillan

Anthony Rose

My take is that a great pitch tells a story like a Hollywood drama: It needs to establish the proposition and create desire, excitement and tension. And then it needs to end with investors wanting to come back for the sequel.

Anthony Rose

CEO & co-founder,


Plot is the story itself: the beginning, middle and ending unfolding over a sequence of scenes. The plot moves in a logical sequence while building curiosity and tension.

When it comes to your pitch deck, you have to start strong – with a hook, so investors connect with your story as quickly as possible. In many cases, this will be the problem Suck them into your world and have them relate and empathise. Then, each slide in your pitch deck should be one ‘scene’ in the overarching narrative.

Claire Macmillan

Your pitch deck needs to unfold like a story from beginning to end, so that you strike curiosity and keep the investor engaged throughout. Your job is to carry them effortlessly through the story. You need to spoonfeed the investor a slice of the story one slide at a time.

Claire Macmillan

Pitch Coach,

Claire Macmillan

Try and use the curiosity tactic to reel investors in. In his book The Science of Storytelling, author Will Storr writes about a study on curiosity. “Brains, concluded researchers, seem to become spontaneously curious when presented with an information set they realise is incomplete. There is a natural inclination to resolve information gaps, even for questions of no importance.”

Pose a question or an incomplete set of information that will make people want to click through to the next slide to get the full picture.

Create an investment-winning pitch deck

Build your pitch deck in minutes and share it with investors in one click.

Tell me how
Pitch Page Hero

Make the problem and solution the core


Claire Macmillan

Getting the problem slide right is the most important part of your pitch deck. This is how you hook the investor. If you lose them at the problem stage, you’ve had it.

After you articulate the problem, the solution needs to dovetail perfectly. It needs to be a set of counterpoints to the problem you’ve just set out.

Claire Macmillan

Pitch Coach,

Claire Macmillan

Conflict is the core of a story. The problem and solution slides create the conflict in your narrative. In every story, there’s a challenge that’s overcome. Take this opportunity to paint your startup as the hero that solves the challenge your potential customer is facing.

To make your problem slides more compelling you can:

✍️Describe the problem in detail from the customer’s point of view – use emotion and experience to make it relatable
🖼️Paint a clear picture of the problem so the investor can place themself in it
🧔Create a customer persona to help investors empathise with the problem (more on that below)

Your solution is the wow moment. It’s the battle being won, the treasure being found. After you’ve painted a clear picture of the problem, your solution slide should communicate exactly how you solve that problem.

To make your solution slides more compelling, you can:

✅Articulate how your company solves each of the customer’s pain points
🗣️Explain why your solution is unique and the best out there
📄Make it as brief and clear as possible

Make it relatable with compelling characters

There are two ways you can include characters in your pitch: your team and your customers.

You can create a customer persona and scenario to help tell the story of the problem you’re solving.

A customer persona is a fictional character that you create to represent the type of customer you’d attract to your business.

Create a story about the problem your potential customer is facing and how your solution helps them. If you have actual customer testimonials, make sure to include them in your pitch deck too. Their feedback supports the story you’re weaving.

Can you present your team as the heroes in the story of your startup? The team slide is one of the most important in your pitch deck, so don’t forget to talk up your team and explain why they have the perfect skills and experience to successfully execute your solution.

Use style to make it enjoyable and digestible

Your pitch deck should be slick, simple and easy to digest. One of the worst things you can do is clutter it with details and complicated visuals.

Claire Macmillan

Use visual elements to support the story you’re telling and make information easier and more enjoyable to digest. You need to be creative and find interesting ways to give the content clarity and bring it to life. Use boxes, icons, timelines, funnels and screenshots of your product (or mock-ups if your product isn’t yet developed). Keep it simple, though. Don’t let beautiful design get in the way of good messaging. The purpose of the visual elements is to support the message, not distract from it

Claire Macmillan

Pitch Coach,

Claire Macmillan

The style of the pitch deck should align with the branding of your company and should tell its own visual story about who you are. Keep it simple, though.

Make your cover email interesting too

When you email your pitch deck to potential investors, bear in mind that the cover email and the subject line are important too. While you should keep these simple, give some thought to how you can apply elements of narrative to them to spark interest. Don’t forget to make them as personalised as possible. You can personalise the email by mentioning that you’ve researched what they invest in and you believe you and your startup are a good match for them. Read more about this in our article Top 10 questions to ask potential investors.

How to use storytelling in your pitch delivery

When you present your pitch in person, you have the opportunity to really bring the story to life. Use your pitch deck as a guide and focus on presenting the story through conversation, emotion and body language.

When you present your pitch in person, you have the opportunity to really bring the story to life. Use your pitch deck as a guide and focus on presenting the story through conversation, emotion and body language.

Give context

Start your pitch delivery by giving some context. Show how you’re breaking the mould:

💡Describe what the status quo is, and then explain how it needs to change and how you’re changing it
📖Draw your audience in by describing a scenario or telling some backstory about how your startup came to be in the first place

Giving context evokes curiosity and helps the audience build a connection with you.

Use pace, tone and body language

When you pitch in person you have a unique opportunity to use emotion, tone, pace and body language to deliver a poignant and memorable presentation.

It’s worth researching and getting a bit of coaching on how to use your voice and body language to capture an audience and deliver a pitch confidently. Here are a few tips to get started:

🏃‍♀️Vary the pace of the presentation: bring the energy up in some parts and down in others
🗣️Speak clearly and vary your tone of voice
💁‍♀️Use gestures to emphasise key points

Make it conversational

Make it engaging by being conversational and present with your audience. Don’t just say the words and flick through your slides – acknowledge your audience and don’t be afraid to engage with them during the pitch. If you’re relaxed and conversational, your pitch will be much more enjoyable and easier for your audience to follow.

Claire Macmillan

Your pitch delivery is a conversation, not a presentation. You’re having a dialogue rather than presenting at them. You need to practise, practise, practise so that when you are there, you can appear to glide through the whole thing effortlessly. Interact, have an exchange and respond to questions to keep the presentation engaging

Claire Macmillan

Pitch Coach,

Claire Macmillan

Find your unique style

Don’t shy away from sharing your personality and passion when you deliver your pitch. Investors want to know who you are as a person as much as they want to understand your idea.

Discover and practise how to share your personality when you present. The key is to be natural and find the balance between personal and professional. Articulate your idea professionally while letting who you are shine through.
Get clear on your message

Why do you want to create this business? Why do you believe in it? Most founders are driven by something they’re passionate about, whether that’s helping people save time and money or making positive social and environmental changes. Get clear on your message about why you do what you do so that investors, customers and your community can share in your passion.

Your founder story

As a founder, you need to sell yourself as much as your company. Investors don’t just invest in good ideas; they also invest in people they believe can achieve great things. Crafting your founder story will help you share your message and form emotional connections with potential investors and the rest of your network.

You can include some of your founder story in your pitch delivery, and use it in any speaking or networking opportunities where you’ll connect with your community and potential investors.

In your founder story, you can include:

  • Your background – what led you to where you are
  • Your personal message – the problem you aim to solve through your business and why you started your company
  • Background on your founding team – how you met and why you teamed up
  • Your personality – when you tell your story, focus on being authentic and expressing your personality. Investors pick up when you’re trying to portray yourself as someone you’re not so just be yourself.
  • Your achievements – share what you’ve accomplished so far that makes you the right person to execute your idea successfully
  • Your flaws – Own your weaknesses. Maybe yours is something simple like being impatient; maybe it’s a serious challenge you’ve faced in your life that led you to where you are now. Whatever it is, sharing your weakness alongside your strengths will make you more relatable and your story more compelling
  • Your vision – let investors and your community know where you intend to go with your company and your career as a founder. Explain your ambitions for the company

Want to learn more about what investors want?

Watch the webinar below, where our CEO Anthony Rose talks to angel investor Phil McSweeney about how to appeal to the human side of angel investors.

Create the perfect pitch deck: resources to help

To get your pitch right, you’ve got to strike the perfect balance between communicating the facts clearly and simply and bringing it to life with narrative. Now that you know how to use storytelling techniques to make your pitch engaging, browse our resources below to learn what else you need to know to perfect your pitch.

Talk to an expert

Raising startup funding? We can help you save time and money. Book a call with one of our experts below and we’ll talk you through how we can help you do a funding round, raise before a round, and close complex deals efficiently.

Start your journey with us

  • Beulah
  • Brolly
  • Oddbox Transparent
  • Index Ventures
  • Seedcamp
  • Qured