Want a Better Pitch? Watch This.

15 Apr 2023

Three weeks ago, the CMO of a San Francisco startup backed by A-list investors emailed me about her new sales deck.

"It lacks oomph," she said. "The information is there. The slides look great. But we're not telling a compelling story. Can you help?"

One of my favorite things is helping
leadership teams craft a better stra- tegic story-for fundraising, sales, recruiting, whatever. I was busy with other projects and couldn't start immediately, so I sent a link to the man on the CMO's team who built the deck - a guy named Zack.

Five days later, the CMO texted me:

"Andy, what did you send Zack? Be- cause his deck got a lot better. Kind of like night and day."

What I Sent Zack

What I sent Zack was a link to Elon

Musk's presentation for the Tesla Powerwall (the full video is at the bottom of this post). I also included a version of the points I'll share below.

Musk's delivery isn't stellar. He's self-conscious and fidgety. But at the end, his audience cheers. For a battery,
That's because Musk does five things right that you should emulate in every pitch you ever make to anybody. And you should do them in this order:

#1: Name the enemy
Never start a pitch by talking about yourself, your team, your product, or your total addressable market. Instead, start by naming the thing that's getting in the way of your customer's happiness. Do that by painting an emotionally resonant picture of how your customer is struggling, who/what is to blame, and why. When Musk shows this image of burning fossil fuels, you can practically hear Darth Vader's
W2 Answer "Why now?"
Audiences-particularly investors are skeptical. They're thinking, "People have lived this way for a long time - are they really going to change now?" Musk handles this objection by showing that we're at a critical point in the growth of at- mospheric carbon dioxide concen- tration: If we don't act now, things quickly get much, much worse. When Musk says, "We should col- lectively do something about this," his audience howls in support.

#3: Show the promised land
before explaining how you'll get there
Before saying anything about batteries, Musk describes his version of happily-ever-after: a civilization powered by "this handy fusion reactor in the sky, called the Sun." Showing the enemy's defeat before explaining how you'll make it happen can feel wrong for novice presenters - like blurting out the punchline before you've told a joke. But when an audience knows where you're headed, they're much more likely to buckle in for the ride.

#4: Identify obstacles-then explain how you'll overcome them Now that you've shared your vision of the future, (a) lay out the
obstacles to achieving it and (b) show how your company/product/ service will overcome each one. (There had better be some big, nasty obstacles - otherwise who needs what you're selling?)

Musk addresses three obstacles to a solar-powered world:

(i) The amount of energy produced by solar panels varies throughout the day and night (thus the need for batteries):
(ii) Most people think the land area required for batteries to store enough energy to rid U.S. of fossil fuels would be really huge (but according to Musk, it's that tiny red dot in Texas):
(iii) Musk says that currently available batteries "suck" in seven specific ways:
By this point, Musk's audience is practically salivating for the Powerwall product video, which will explain how Powerwall does not suck in each of those seven ways. But make no mistake: the fancy graphics and dramatic music only work because Musk has set up the Powerwall not as a battery, but as the salvation of mankind.

#5: Present evidence that you're not just blowing hot air
Again: audiences are skeptical. So you must give them evidence that the future you've laid out is, indeed, attainable. Musk does that by letting his audience in on a secret: Power- wall batteries have been supplying the energy for the auditorium in which he's speaking. As proof, he zooms in on the meter above, which registers zero power from the grid.

For early-stage companies and products, demos like this can serve as evidence, though results from early (or beta) customers are more compelling. Least persuasive-but better than nothing - are testi- monials from potential customers explaining why they would buy.

The pitch
Here's the full video of Musk's launch announcement of the Tesla Powerwall. A few weeks after send- ing this to Zack, I worked with him and the CMO to make their pitch really hum, which was easier once we were on the same page about the elements of a compelling story. Now I'm thinking about asking all of my clients to watch this - before I engage - as a way to quickly communicate my happily-ever-after vision for them.


About Andy Raskin:

I help CEOs and leadership teams align around a strategic story - to power sales, marketing, fundraising, product, and recruiting. My clients include teams backed by Andreessen Horowitz, First Round, GV (Google Ventures), and other top venture firms. I've also led strategic narrative training at

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The approach is sound yet I'm wondering how much of the audience's response was due to who was delivering? I'm not sure they're cheering a battery as much as the celebrity.
Nice observations about the structure of the message that Elon brings to people. I can't help but think, being a longtime observer of Steve Jobs and the Apple world, that Elon pales in comparison to Job in terms of polish, flow, making a connection with people and rallying everyone.
Solid advice here. Is it a bit remiss in not mentioning the $250K (or more) that had to have been spent at the Powerwall pres, on the video, images, music, sound mix, lighting, booze? Nothing like good production values and some popcorn to goose your pitch to a captive audience,
I could relate with point number 4. the concept of a pre-mortem came to mind which is simply asiding questions as to what could go wrong and providing fixes, that you can build into your solution
Thank you for the share... I found the framework brilliant -with us recently launching our new software platform, I have been searching for way to improve our pitch. This flooded me with new idea's built around this and I am certain it will aid in gaining a better response.
The approach is sound yet I'm wondering how much of the audience's response was due to who was delivering? I'm not sure they're cheering a battery as much as the celebrity.
Good read
Wow. I have to say, the outline by Andy is much more compelling then listening to Elon. Love the outline though-extremely insightful.