Secrets of a Successful Pitch – JD Schramm

by Wendy Soon on March 9, 2015

JDSchramm_bannerGrowing up in Kansas City, JD Schramm started his first business at 8, and had his first business card at 13. Since then, he’s honed his communication skills through entrepreneurship, and taught this to entrepreneurs at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Here are some tips he shared with the Igniters at a recent meetup regarding making a successful pitch.


Story telling


  • Why do we love stories? It gives you imagery. When someone tells you a story, you see things and feel emotional connections. It’s like going on an adventure together. We are wired to love to hear and share stories.
  • What’s the basic flow of a story? Setting, protagonist, challenge / conflict, resolution. Hitting the sense of conflict is what really draws someone into a story. Make sure you include that into every story you tell, and close it well with a resolution.


3 Key Elements of Communication Strategy (A-I-M)


  • Audience. What do I know about my audience? What can I research on my audience before I meet them? Who are they and what culture do they come from?
  • Intent. What is my intent? As a result of this conversation, I want the audience to think, do, and say what? For example, as an entrepreneur, I want the audience to invest. Or I want them to have interest, to hand me a business card and to invite me for a second meeting. I want them to refer me, to send contacts to me, or to make the direct introduction with their contacts. To get feedback.
  • Message. Decide the channel that I will use (email, phone call, video conference, in person meeting, formal at an office, informal at Starbucks…)


4 Part Formula to Effective Pitching (Adopted from “The startup Pitch” by Chris Lipp)


  • Problem. Clearly articulate the problem within the first few minutes of the conversation. Make sure they get the problem, and feel the emotional pain that comes with it.
  • Solution. It must be directly tied to the problem that I just laid out. The problem-solution relationship is key.
  • Market. Who will use your solution
  • Business Model. Make sure you have the right team with the right set of skills that can solve that problem and capture that market.


What makes a great story?


  • Parachute in, don’t preamble. Be conscious of where you want to start your story. E.g. start right in the middle of the story to capture attention, instead of starting with the boring “Hi, my name is XXXX”.
  • Choose your first words and final words very carefully. Try to tie your conclusion to where you begin – gives a great sense of cohesion.
  • Be like Goldilocks, be just right. Not too hard, not too soft. Just right. Don’t give too much details to bore the investors, but don’t give too little technical specs to make the technical people feel uneasy.
  • Practice One Person / One Thought. Share 4-7 seconds per connection. Find different people to share a thought with each time. By the time you finish, you should have connected with almost everyone, if not everyone in that room. Maintain eye contact as you share the story to maintain the connectedness.
  • Be poetic. In the story about your innovation, if you can find a short phrase, or an analogy, that is poetic, you will be very memorable with that connection.
  • Use silence. In story telling, well placed silence draws us in even more. It can cause a feeling of suspense, or generate a sense of wonder. The lack of noise attracts even more attention. Whisper.
  • Know your audience, know your intent, know your message. Different messages work with different audiences. Learn by trial and error.



Talk by JD Schramm

Example by Mark Bezos




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