Founder cheat sheet: 15 tips for nailing that pitch

PR, marketing, sales, design, and investing experts share their insights on how to make your pitch truly effective through great storytelling.

Last week, for our The Art of the Effective Pitch and Launch panel, we at Wunderdogs brought together an incredibly diverse panel of speakers. Each one of them had very distinctive expertise in creating pitches that win the room:

Jessica Schaefer: PR expert, founder and CEO of Bevel PR, a NYC-based financial public relations company. Previously, Jessica served as VP of Corporate Communications at Point 72 Ventures.

Chris Laughlin: Pitch design lead @ First Round Capital, Chris supports startups’ fundraising activities with best-in-class pitch decks. Chris also is a co-founder of a pitch agency 4th&King.

Joe Vasquez: Venture investor and startup advisor also serving as a venture partner for Revel Partners. Joe is a co-director of Runway accelerator (acquired) and early co-founder of StartX, Stanford University accelerator.

Christian Averill: Marketing expert, part of the team that revamped the story of BitTorrent, currently leading a boutique creative unit Quality Produce, advising to companies like Mozilla & Kraken as well as supporting cannabis industry.

Alli McKee: CEO and founder of Stick — a software platform for idea visualization, as well as social influencer in sales and marketing field. Alli is 2x founder, business designer and Stanford MBA alumni.

Moderated by Daria Gonzalez: Founder & CEO of Wunderdogs, an agency on a mission to transform amazing underdogs into big dogs. Daria is a former early stage investor @ GVA.Capital and Stanford MBA’16.

Based on their insights we’ve compiled a list of 15 tips for anyone who has a pitch coming up:

Drafting your story:

1. Build your story around four essential parts of an effective pitch: change, pain, gain and proof

Change: What has changed in the world? Why does this have to happen now?

Pain & Gain: What is the pain that you’re alleviating? Not the “you’ll move faster, you’ll sell more” — show how painful today actually is, because a lot of people accept that as the status quo. Next, map those pain points to your gain points and show your fit.

Proof: Whether that’s traction or customers, or your team’s experience — it is important to show proof in the most authentic and compelling way for your business.

2. Make sure your narrative is clear

One of the most popular types of feedback from VC’s is “I don’t even know what you do and I’m 10 slides in”.

3. Don’t forget big-picture thinking

Your vision and mission have to be inspiring and motivating. Something that will grow 5x, 10x, 30x + returns to a VC — investors are looking for a billion dollar asset, not a lifestyle business. It’s incredible how many founders forget about this. Investors are here to view you as teammates, to become part of your company, so sell them on your big vision.

Designing your deck:

4. Don’t underestimate the value of visual appeal

Chet Holmes, the author of “The ultimate sales machine”, a classic sales book, said “If you ignore the power of incorporating a visual component into your sales and marketing process, you may as well deliver it in a closet.” If you can translate your idea into a simple, clear visual, this really can make your idea implant in people’s brains.

5 …But keep in mind that content is king

It’s relatively easy to have something that looks amazing — make sure that the design serves your purpose. If you can’t work out a good design for your pitch, then you’re better off just having a conversation. And sometimes that’s the design. The beauty of a really good design is that it’s not getting in the way.

6. Find your balance

Spending $50K on branding and pitch deck design for your pre-seed round reflects poorly on your financial judgment — and investors will notice it. However, everything depends on the use case. For example, if you’re going direct-to-consumer, brand matters a lot — if you’re a series A and beyond, you should be investing in your brand heavily — we’ve seen the success of so many design-driven brands lately.

Before the Pitch:

7. Rehearse

Rehearsal is vitally important when it comes to speaking with conviction. ou have to paint a clear picture for the person you are talking to in so that the dominoes in her head fall the way you see them falling. You are building a dance and you are not going to do that by reading of the slide deck.

8. Research

Do your homework on the person you are pitching to. Some of these things might seem obvious, but it’s often left behind because you’re so busy and freaking out about all the other aspects of the pitch. You might learn something about the person you’re in the room with that’s going to change your whole approach.

9. Have your elevator pitch ready

The key thing to do when in the room is to understand that you’re judged within about 15 seconds — whether that’s a VC or even a job interview, or a new business pitch. You’ve got about that much amount of time to convince this person that you belong in that room and chances are they’re gonna judge you on your creativity. Is this someone who’s going to bring a good idea to me and can I imagine myself working with them? You’ve gotta have your elevator pitch down. You’ll have to leave the slides behind for a minute when you first step into the room. At first, you need to make things obvious: here’s why I’m here, here’s why it’s going to be good to work together, here’s the problem I’m going to fix.

During the Pitch

10. Practice small talk

Creating a relationship while you are setting up your presentation is really powerful and often undervalued.

11. Listen

In the Sales world, there is an idea of a discovery call, which is your intro call with a client. The more your prospect speaks, the more likely statistically you are to close that deal. This is not about “me pitching my solution” — it’s the more information you can get out of them to make it their pitch, the more you’re co-creating and collaborating with them rather than dumping something on their desk.

12. Read the room

Be aware of the person you are talking to: of their feelings, emotions, body language. Have a conversation with them as opposed to being directive and top down. Being ready to pivot at any point in time is important — you will see lots of body language if they’re not interested, so move the fuck on, change the topic — and always be prepared to do so.

13. Be honest

If you do not have an immediate answer, tell me about it. Otherwise, they will notice you are making shit up, rest assured they’ve seen it all before. Honesty builds great bridges.

14. Let them co-create

Leave some ideas a little bit open-ended on purpose: investors have to be interested in what you’re talking about. And if you can make them part of your brainstorm, if they start co-creating with you, there’s a good chance that 1) they’re going to remember you, 2) they will see you as someone they could work with.

After the Pitch

15. Follow up wisely

Winning the post-pitch goes back to your pre-pitch exercises: what story are you trying to tell? What did you read in the room that would be interesting to bring back to that person as a follow up asset? Sometimes it is sending them something that shows, “hey, I was paying attention, I know who you are”. In other cases, it’s picking up on things that they thought you were deficient in and making sure your cancel that question mark out and say, no, we are very efficient in that.

P.S.: Agency vs DIY:

Being able to pitch effectively is one of the prerequisites for being a good CEO. On the other hand, there’s absolutely no expectation that a Founder is also an exceptional designer or a competent marketer.hen the time is right, you can get a lot of leverage from working with an agency — here’s when:

  • When getting the customer’s perspective on your product is of value and getting to see your brand from the market’s perspective rather than your own is crucial for success.
  • If you come from deep tech background and did not have much schooling on how to pitch effectively — certain founders can get a lot of benefit from working with an agency as it relates to coaching as well.
  • When you’re a Founder who can’t design a simple PowerPoint, be aware that badly designed slides reflect poorly on you, for the most part. You’re better off having nothing and just saying, “Hey, I’m going to talk, I’m going to tell you what’s happening” than showing terrible slides to people who don’t even know you. Bring in someone who can help.
  • If you do not have 50–60 hours of your time to put into drafting your pitch.


How do vision and mission statements impact a company's long-term direction?

Effective vision and mission statements should ideally constitute important tools in formulating a company’s strategy. They should largely remain unchanged through the years, though a significant pivot may bring about new vision and mission statements. Together, they work to define the focus of the business and how it impacts the world. 

The vision statement is a representation of your company’s view of a better world. The mission statement reflects how it sets about to achieve this vision. They work together to create internal alignment and help with strategic decision making. When planning for the future, developing new products, or experimenting with new strategies, teams can perform a quick check against the vision and mission statements to ensure that these initiatives are aligned with the essence of the brand. 

In short, the vision and mission statements are powerful tools which can and should impact decisions across the organizations, making them important factors in a company’s long-term direction.

How does brand strategy influence the overall success of a business?

Your brand strategy reflects how your brand sees the world and its role within it. It is the framework that, ideally, should guide all your communications (both external and internal) and audience touchpoints, i.e. each interaction an audience member has with your business. 

Having standardized communication across all channels and touchpoints makes business processes smoother and positively influences your client relationships, ensuring you develop strong, long-term connections with your customers. It also simplifies strategic decision-making and aligns your team. All these factors are vital to the success of a business.

How do messaging frameworks help communicate your brand message effectively?

Messaging frameworks are structured guides that outline the core messages, value propositions, and differentiators of a brand. They ensure consistency across all communications, from marketing materials and social media posts to customer service interactions. By defining key messages that resonate with the brand's target audiences, messaging frameworks help ensure that a brand’s communications are clear and memorable. 

They also help organizations stay aligned internally and ensure that each member, regardless of their role, understands what the brand’s key message is and how to communicate it effectively. This internal alignment is crucial for presenting a unified brand image to the outside world.

What specific elements contribute to a brand's verbal identity?

A brand’s verbal identity should align your team on how your brand communicates and how this communication changes depending on the situation. It defines a specific and recognizable language through which your brand can deliver its message to your audience or audiences.

Typically, a verbal identity includes some, or all, of the following elements:

Brand personality: This captures the human traits or characteristics that your brand embodies, such as being adventurous, sophisticated, or reliable, which help shape how your brand is perceived.

Brand voice: The brand voice reflects how your brand reflects its personality across all communication channels.

Brand tone: While the brand voice remains consistent, the brand tone can change depending on the context of the message and the audience being addressed, ranging from formal and professional to informal and friendly.

Messaging frameworks: These are strategic tools that outline the key messages your brand intends to communicate to its different target audiences, ensuring that all messaging is aligned with your brand's mission, vision, and value propositions.

Messaging examples: These provide specific examples of how your brand's messaging might be applied in various scenarios.

Style and grammar guidelines: These outline your preferred spelling, grammar, and style, ensuring that your communication is consistent across the board. 

What are some key considerations when developing a tone of voice for a brand?

The first and most important consideration is the brand’s personality. While businesses are functional, they still communicate with people – and people primarily connect with stories and personas. Your brand’s personality will define a set of human characteristics which reflect how it sees itself in the world. By giving your brand these human attributes, you are making it both distinctive and easier to identify with. The tone of voice should reflect your brand’s personality.

It’s also important to consider your target market and your audience’s expectations. While having a distinctive tone of voice is important for memorability, there is such a thing as being too different. If all brands in your segment adopt a serious, professional tone, and you would like to be fun and playful, there is certainly space for that, but consider very carefully why you are doing it.


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How do brand guidelines ensure consistency in visual identity across different platforms?

Brand guidelines are a key tool for maintaining a consistent visual presentation across various platforms. These guidelines typically outline the main use cases where the brand's visual identity will appear and provide comprehensive rules and standards.

The guidelines include detailed instructions on how to use the brand’s assets, such as logos, color palettes, typography, and imagery. This ensures that anyone using these assets, whether they're designers, marketers, or external partners, can apply them correctly and consistently. 

It’s crucial that the entire team is familiar with these guidelines. It’s important to get team buy-in on the visual identity and ensure that the guidelines are easily accessible. When the whole team understands and follows the guidelines, the brand's visual identity remains unified across all touchpoints, enhancing brand recognition and trust.

How does visual identity differ across industries, and how can a brand ensure it stands out while remaining authentic?

Visual identity varies significantly across industries, shaped by both the industry norms and the unique aspects of each brand. Understanding where your brand stands in the competitive market is essential when crafting a visual identity that both stands out and remains authentic.

Industries have distinct visual trends that are often expected by consumers. For instance, financial services brands typically adopt a reserved, traditional look with a color palette dominated by blues and greys. In contrast, skincare brands often go for a lighter, more colorful approach with pastels. Being aware of these industry-specific trends is important because it helps to decide how much your brand should differentiate itself from these norms. This differentiation should be based on your audience's expectations and your brand's unique value propositions.

For example, a financial services brand that emphasizes its use of innovative technologies might choose a more digital-oriented visual language. Similarly, a skincare brand that focuses on scientific innovation might benefit from a more science-based visual language.

How does competitive benchmarking influence the development of a visual identity?

Competitive benchmarking is important in developing a brand's visual identity as it provides insights into the market environment. By examining the competition, a brand can better understand its unique value proposition and strengths. This understanding is crucial in identifying what sets the brand apart from others.

With this knowledge, a brand can lean into its unique strengths when crafting its visual language. This approach ensures that the visual identity not only looks appealing but also reinforces the brand’s distinct point of view and competitive edge.

What are the key considerations when creating visual concepts for a brand?

The visual identity of a brand should quickly and clearly reflect its strategic positioning. Designers begin the process of creating visual concepts by immersing themselves in the brand’s strategy to extract key narrative themes. These themes are then translated into a visual language that employs both emotional and aesthetic elements to communicate the brand's messages. This translation is crucial as it shapes how the audience perceives and interacts with the brand.

When developing visual concepts, it's important to make sure they align with the brand's strategy and fit well within the competitive landscape: demonstrating key differentiators, but still fitting into the industry at large. The visuals should also be suitable for the mediums they will be used in. Whether for digital, print, or physical applications, the choice of medium can greatly influence how the visual concepts are designed.

How does visual identity contribute to brand recognition and trustworthiness?

Visual identity is key to boosting brand recognition and trustworthiness, especially in busy markets. When a company maintains a consistent visual brand across different platforms, it becomes easier for customers to recognize and remember it. This consistency is crucial for standing out among competitors.

Having a consistent visual identity also shows professionalism and attention to detail. These qualities make customers more likely to trust a brand. When a brand looks the same across all touchpoints, from websites to products and ads, it tells customers the brand is reliable and serious. This builds trust and makes customers more likely to pick this brand over others that may not look as professional or consistent.


What are the advantages of having a well-designed and user-friendly website for a business?

The business landscape has changed dramatically since the pandemic. Now, your digital footprint is definitely at the center of most business growth strategies. A well-designed website allows companies to connect with users in an effective manner, ensure customer loyalty, and expand business - among other benefits.

Website design is the key ingredient to digital success, alongside well-functioning SEO tools, connected backend, and user-friendly strategy. A user-friendly website for your business will:

  • Increase user engagement and conversion rates
  • Improve SEO and searchability of your business
  • Improve retention rates
  • Make your business more credible while making your brand more memorable
How does the design of a website impact its accessibility to users, including those with disabilities?

In website design, "accessibility" refers to whether a site is designed in a way that is inclusive and usable by everyone, regardless of their physical or cognitive abilities. 

This may include important site characteristics such as text-to-speech functionality, video captions, alternative text tags for images, enhanced with good design practices of intuitive navigation, straightforward copy. and others. Accessibility is integral to website performance and user experience.

How can businesses ensure consistency and credibility across their website, brand, and marketing materials?

To achieve consistency and credibility across all your collateral, you need to ensure that the brand message - both verbal and visual - is compliant with your brand guidelines. This can include:

  • Using the correct tone of voice principles across all communication channels to differentiate your brand personality

  • Communicating consistent messaging and key differentiators on all platforms

  • Ensuring that key visual elements (logo, color palette, typography, imagery) on your website, marketing, and sales materials are aligned with each other

What are some common pitfalls to avoid when designing and developing a business website?

According to a 2024 web statistics report, a staggering 75% of business credibility is attributed to various web design decisions. In order to improve your website’s trustworthiness, avoid the following common design mistakes:

  • Not prioritizing accessibility: One of the biggest design mistakes out there is overlooking web accessibility principles on your website.

  • Not investing in responsive design and customization: With the majority of global traffic coming from mobile and tablet devices, lack of responsive design and customization can break a business.
  • Prioritizing aesthetics over function: Compromising user experience in favor of flashy aesthetics will dilute your brand message and user journey to the required call to action.

  • Lacking clarity in messaging and navigation: Clear navigation and messaging will reduce the friction users may experience when landing on your site as they are trying to get a clear picture of what your business is.
How does website copywriting contribute to user engagement and conversion, and what role does SEO play in this?

The goal of web copywriting is to guide your users through their web journey while providing information, engaging with and converting them into buyers. Each section of your site shapes the visitor perception about your brand and affects their buying decisions. 

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a practice of creating engaging and persuasive content that not only appeals to your users, but also incorporates relevant keywords and techniques to attract organic traffic to your site.

To start writing SEO-friendly copy for your site, you can:

  • Manually conduct keyword research by checking what competitors are ranking for
  • Use SEO software like SEMRush to investigate new keyword opportunities
  • Make sure to review keywords frequently as their popularity changes often and you want to keep ranking for competitive terms.

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