5 Storytelling Tips

By Ain CFE Staff

“Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, but about the stories you tell,” writes Seth Godin. A fantastic idea can’t sell itself – it needs a powerful narrative to grow and take on a life of its own. Whether trying to attain funding or recruit new team members, a well-structured story can make all the difference.

On March 25, Kathryn Cartini (Partner, Chloe Capital; COO, Upstate Venture Connect; Founder, Peacock Media) spoke to students about building relationship capital and how that factors into storytelling. This was the third and final session in the 2019 Mark Ain Business Model Workshops. Held to help prepare students for our upcoming business plan competitions, the Mark Ain Workshops build on the more soft-skill-focused Foundry Forums held during the fall semester. Below are 5 key points drawn from the event.

Show Up

Make an effort to meet as many people as you can. Attend events and get out in the community - quantity is important, especially before you narrow your focus. As you talk to more people, you can get a sense of what individuals are looking for and how they think. This will help form a foundation for your story.

Identify Your Audience

Who are you talking to? What do they care about? Do extensive research, as this will help tailor the content and tone used in your pitch. Kate also encourages entrepreneurs to keep everything organized via a CRM (or even on Google Sheets!). Imagining a specific person may also help when designing your presentation, so be sure to keep detailed notes of your interactions.

Be Respectful

Relationships are built on a foundation of trust and respect. While you want to get your point across and make the most of each conversation, be passionate but not pushy. Pay attention to how much of people's time you are taking up and recognize that not every interaction will be immediately beneficial. According to Kate, "relationships will build your business" - don't mar the bonds you create by bulldozing over the people you want to work with.

Get Creative and Give First

Before talking with someone, consider what you bring to the table. Do you have any skills that they could benefit from? Kate urges entrepreneurs to "give first," a tactic that goes against the traditional ask. By sharing something of yourself, you open the relationship on a positive note and ingratiate yourself to people who may be key contacts in the future.

Find the Common Thread

Once you have started to grow these relationships, you have to assemble all of your pieces. Think about how your individual background melds with your venture - everything should fit together. Why are you the one that has to make this a reality? If things are a bit hazy, try to create a visual map or timeline to help form a narrative. In any case, consult with advisors and peers who may see links that you have missed. Share from a place of experience, speak with confidence, and be humble - listen to your audience and continually adjust your story to reflect your growth.

If you have any questions about pitching or learning more about any of the topics discussed during the workshop, please contact the Ain Center at AinCFE@rochester.edu or meet with one of our Experts-in-Residence.