Creating presentations like a pro

­Harper and Declan had under 20 minutes to pitch their new ideas to the CEO, who had said “I need not say what will happen if the client is disappointed,” which was a not so subtle way of saying they’d be out of a job if the pitch went badly.

Thanks to Harper and her ideation techniques, they had not only identified a cracking insight about their client, but they had followed that up with some brilliant ideas. Now, they had to pitch it in a way that would be memorable, meaningful and relevant. At least, these were the words in front of Declan’s mind as he grabbed a new sheet of flip chart paper and wrote them on the top of the sheet.

“What makes a great message is that it needs to be memorable, meaningful and relevant. Which means we need to make sure that we have some memorable headlines or phrases that stick in people’s minds, some simple analogies and explanations so that they understand it. Finally, we need to identify some pain points and some pleasure points so that it hits home that this pitch is all about them” started Declan.

“But what about the insight and ideas, surely we need to…”

“Hold your horses, Harps, we’ll get to them in a moment,” interjected Declan.

Harps! Only Harper’s close friends called her that. Could Declan actually like her? Focus, Harper, focus.

“Oh, sorry,” she replied meekly.

Declan started writing out some numbers while speaking. “While we need to keep those three things front of mind, we also need to address some other issues. Such as number one, what’s the promise? Two, how do we know their world? Three, what’s the big idea? Four, what are the benefits? And five, what are the consequences if they don’t use our big idea?” 

“That seems pretty straight forward and simple, but will it work?”

“Ninety percent of the time, yes, yet if we add just a couple of other techniques it lands every time.”

“Alright, let’s get stuck into it, O’Hennessey.”

“Not so fast. There are a couple more things we need to be mindful of before we start,” Declan said authoritatively.

“We also need to have some emotion, which we can bring in with a sense of transformation or a journey if you prefer, and we also need to have some logic. Remember, we’re talking to some algorithmic coding geniuses.” Declan finished his words and wrote out the words “model” and “metaphor”.

“Now we can begin,” said Declan as he brought his right fist into his left palm in a tradition martial art greeting, only to have to duck as Harper’s pen hurtled at his head.

“Let’s cut the sensei crap, and sell this sucker!” quipped Harper.

The insights and ideas that Harper and Declan had previously created were in response to a brief from a small start-up that were developing an app that uses AI to predict what you are most likely to write next. The start-up had gotten their idea from the Gmail predictor that suggests the next one to two words you are likely to use as you write an email. Their app would be able to predict the next four to five words you will use to 90% accuracy. Harper & Declan’s project was to create ideas to secure funding in order to turn the start-up’s idea into a reality. 

Declan pulled out the sheet with the insight that Harper had written down earlier and started to stick it up on the wall. It read, “Insight - ‘The need to fund start-up’s idea without losing all their future earnings to VC’s and the need to access specific skill sets beyond the team’s skills to have tasks completed without having to pay upfront, yet with a fair compensation for services provided. All whilst creating a group of beta testers and a community of users and influencers’”.

At the same time, Harper pulled out the sheet which detailed their core idea and the numerous supporting ideas and stuck it up next to the insight. It read, “ Core idea - to create a combined ‘crowd funding’ campaign with a ‘work-barter’ campaign that encourages and recognises contributor’s efforts. This is further supported by all our viable ideas on how to get people to commit energy and work to the project.”

“The tricky thing we have here is that we potentially have two messages or pitches to make. One is to pitch to the start-up’s and two, to then create the pitch to the start-up’s customers. We don’t have time to do both so let’s focus on the start-up, but remember to mention that we need to create a pitch for the customers in the next engagement.” Declan looked to Harper for confirmation, but Harper was looking at her watch.

“Focus Harps, we’ve got this, trust me. I’ve created pitches in less time. Grab a piece of that flip chart paper and list as many pain points that you can think that our start-up would be going through. Think about what’s keeping them up at night. Go, go, go!” commanded Declan.

As Harper dutifully started on the sheet of pain points, Declan revealed what he was up to. “While you work on the pain points, I’ll do the model to activate the logical left hemisphere of our audience’s brain”.

venn diagram pitching example

Declan’s mind whirled as he remembered the words of a mentor from long ago, Matt Church, who always said that nearly every model on the planet was made up of essentially one of three different shapes - a circular, rectangular, or triangular shape. They could be combined or used separately.

“Think Declan, think”. The first thing we need to show them is ‘why’ they need more than funding to solve their woes and then we need to show them why they need a different type of funding than the venture capital sharks. Declan drew a circle on the paper and wrote the word ‘funding’ in the centre, he then then drew two more intersecting circles creating a Venn diagram. Next came the word ‘freedom’ for the second circle and for the final circle he wrote in ‘support’.

quadrant model for pitching

Declan felt pretty good about this, but he knew he needed another model to really hit home the funding issue. This time, he drew a quadrant and labelled the two axes. At the top of the ‘Y’ axis he wrote ‘+ve’ funding terms, and on the bottom ‘-ve’ funding terms. For the ‘X’ axis on the left, he wrote ‘low freedom’, and on the right, he wrote ‘high freedom’. Now was the time for the fund sources. he drew a circle just to the left of the ‘X’ axis but beneath the ‘Y’ axis line and initialised it V.C for venture capital funds, then he drew a circle lower down on the ‘Y’  but on the positive side of the ‘X’ ’freedom’ axis. In this circle he wrote bank. His final circle was in the top right quadrant, far to the right and high on the ‘Y’ axis, in this circle he wrote ‘crowd f’  for crowd funding. Time to check in with Harper.

Harper had listed 12 pains for the start-up on her sheet.

1. Lack of income to enable continued development

2. Having to work part-time to fund project

3. Fear that someone else will complete a competing app before they do

4. Wondering if anyone would buy the app

5. Having to mortgage their homes for more money

6. Not having any money going to their retirement fund

7. The ridiculous hours they are working and lack of sleep

8. Lack of support both now and for some of the future tasks required

9. Not knowing how they will be able to get a tribe of influencers to help

10. Having to give up a ridiculous amount of their earnings to a V.C.

11. Having a pitch that will get them funding

12. Worrying about the meddling that the V.C. will have and the lack of autonomy

“This looks awesome, Harper. This will help big time. We won’t have time to unpack each one, so which do you think are the three biggest pains?” enquired Declan.

“Hmm, I think we need four. There’s the fear that someone else will beat them to the finish line. There’s the worry if anyone will buy it, the big one of giving up a lion’s share of their potential earnings to a V.C. firm and there’s the lack of support”.

“I think you’re right, now let me show you our models. We’ll lead with the Venn diagram. There are three needs or desires that the start-up is looking for: 1. funding, 2. support and 3. Freedom.” 

“Scratch that last one out, and change it to autonomy so it matches the pain point. Freedom is too vague” interrupted Harper.

“Yes, that makes it much stronger. After we lead with the Venn diagram, we’ll use the quadrant and talk about funding.  Something like ‘the challenge you have with chasing V.C. funding is that whilst you’ll get money, you’ll lose your autonomy and you’ll have some pretty dire funding terms. The banks, whilst giving you lots of autonomy, will want you to secure the loans via a mortgage and therefore these are even worse funding terms than the V.C’s. Yet, if we can utilise crowd funding, not only can we get money at great terms i.e. we get pre-sales, we also have total autonomy. What’s even more exciting however is that if we can look at ways to get support without having to pay upfront, then the centre of the three circles is where we’ll find start-up success.’”

“Bravo. What’s next, Declan? Do we follow up with the big idea?”

“Did I just call him by his first name again?” thought Harper.

Declan was already walking to big idea sheet. “Yep, but we need to create an analogy or metaphor to simplify it in an instant. The best way we can do that is to finish the sentence ‘It’s kind of like, dot dot dot”

“It’s kind of like, ‘Kick-starter’ meets ‘Upwork’” suggested Harper.

“Exactly, but we need to make sure that we spell that out in case they’re not aware of those sites, so let’s lead with ‘It’s kind of like a crowd funding site meets a bartering site, say ‘ meets ’’, but hang on, Upwork is a freelancing site for money, can you google for the name of a work-bartering site?”

“Got one -,” said Harper after a quick search on her phone.

“Rockstar, Harps. Okay now for the promise. Years ago from a mentor, Amy Porterfield, I came across the idea of sharing a journey as part of the promise. It goes something like ‘You’ll go from point A (that’s the existing place they are in) and from feeling (that’s when we insert the pain points) to point B (that’s the end result or destination they want to get to)” in a certain period of time and then feeling (insert their new feelings of success, elation etc)” explained Declan.

“I’ve got this one, Declan. You’ll go from a state of freaking out if someone will create your app before you, worrying about a V.C ripping you off, fretting to find the right people to help you execute whilst wondering deep down inside if people are actually going to buy the app to feeling like a Silicon Valley genius, with a truck load of money to finish the job, with the right people willing to help out and a tribe of raving fans who already your first paid customers, all without having made some V.C. ‘fat cat’ even richer.”

“Nice, Harps, but you’re forgetting one thing, time frame. Promises work best when there’s a time frame. So how about we say a four-week time frame, would that be enough time?”

“It would be too tight. I think we have to be honest about getting that message out there, so I’d say seven weeks to be sure. Remember that they will be getting sales, so that’s a pretty awesome time frame.” said Harper.

“Alright we’ve got two more things we could expand on which are the ‘consequences’ and the ‘benefits'. Since you’re on the pain points, you list a few of the consequences if they don’t go with our idea and I’ll jot down a few benefits and we’ll be ready to rock” instructed Declan.

Harper listed her “consequences” as:

1. fail to launch a brilliant world changing idea

2. making someone else richer than you

3. seeing someone else realise your idea before you do

Declan’s ‘benefits' included:

1. rapid funding with minimal implications

2. pre-sales, motivated customer and a validated market for the idea

3. motivated technical support at minimal cost

As Declan and Harper compared their lists, Indira the firm’s latest intern entered the idea room. “Your client is here and they’re waiting in the boardroom with the CEO. Do you need a hand?” she asked.

“I think we’ve got this sorted,” replied Harper with a smile. “Shall we do this Declan?”

“Show time!” replied Declan.


If you liked the pitch creation methods used by our gang of innovators, be sure to download your FREE copy of our ‘pitching’ process tools Ebook, which takes you through some of the techniques we shared step-by-step. Alternatively, subscribe and listen to our podcast on how to go from pitiful pitches to pitch-worthy. You can also watch the video on the same topic.

PS: We had so many people say that they loved the story concept, That I wanted to check if you’d like to have more tips and tricks in this kind of ‘how to’ fiction format. Feel free to comment below, or on our FB site @reinventinginnovation or shoot us an email at 

PS: Make sure you check out our podcast too.



Nils Vesk 

Innovation Keynote Speaker | Innovation Consultant |  Author

Ideas with Legs











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