Podcast link. Transcript link. Transcript organized by @sajithpai

Ravishankar Iyer runs StoryRules (he helps companies tell better stories / narratives) and Mohit Bansal founded DeckRooster (they help startups craft better pitches). Good combo and they do a deep dive into how Mohit / DeckRooster work with startups to help them tell better stories. All text below as spoken by Mohit, unless specified otherwse.

Those who go through this will find eerie similarities between the principles of good deckmaking as stated here, and the principles of good writing. The more you try to explain your business from the customer's perspective, and the more you simplify it, the better is your deck, it seems:)

The importance of titles

Mohit: …many of the decks that we come across, have very standard problems… For example**,** titles are mostly wrong, right. People don't get the right titles.  Start with the title, put the titles, let the story flow from the titles and then see what data has to go in the slide.

…standard things like, cut down a lot of text, make it more visual.

We tell them not to follow templates. Many people are so confused about how to make a deck, they go out on the web, look for a template, replicate their deck into a template, and try to put out the story there, but never comes out. And hence, when you tell them that, forget about the template, don't start from the template, here is how you have to think about the story that you want to tell, the questions that your audience has. And then think of the answers. So we don't have the answers for them. But we can make them think, we can give them a framework to think. It's largely helping them tell that, hey, you know.

And many times people are confused between whether they're pitching to a customer or to an investor because while they think of making a deck for one specific use case, they end up you know, the language that they use in the deck sometimes confuses whom they're talking to.

Right from the cover slide, somebody might say something, or tagline on the cover slide, if you read, if you just think about the tagline for a second, you will realize that while the deck is for an investor, the tagline is for the customer.

It is not always easy to understand what the company does from the deck!

Mohit: So once this data gathering is done, then we spend a lot of time to put our head around this. That's where we start sort of creating a mental model of the business where we are trying to see what are the various pieces of this engine the business is and how does it work with each other? Who are the various stakeholders? And how do they engage with each other? Who sends what to whom, where's the value-added? How does the money come back? You know, and how are the various product lines sort of fit in, all that. Basically, we realize that once we are clear about this information, it becomes like a mental model, which we can explain to someone and someone can get what you're doing.

Many a time, many people feel that they go through an entire deck or entire pitch, but they can't figure out what the company does. It's like, you know, karte kya ho bhai? ****So I think we spend a lot of time trying to figure out that exactly, very, very clearly, what are you doing… Visual Thinking is also one of the tools we end up using, which is basically simply sketching out things when you're thinking about, you know, how does the money flow from the customer to the company, and if there are multiple stakeholders. That's the second part.

On breaking a story into layers; and importantly, explaining it from the customer lens

Mohit: So I feel that most concepts actually, at a very fundamental level, they're fairly simple to understand. If you can break down a concept into a few pieces, I think most people can make sense of it. That's what we have come to realize, I think what makes something look complex is typically because you know, somebody is trying to say too many things.

And, you know, if you build out a complex system in a way as layers, let's say, where you explain the most fundamental layer to understand, and, you know, so to give example, let's say, if I have to talk about Swiggy, as a company, it's easy for someone to understand Swiggy as a food delivery company.

But if you start looking more closely, you know, because now we know the narrative, we can think of the simple one, but let's say if you have to understand Swiggy, we'll start seeing them as more of a transportation company, right. They do a lot of other stuff. So they become like a transportation layer. But if you have to now explain that transportation layer to someone, it becomes very hard.

But what we are seeing while we are able to understand Swiggy is because we understand the first basic layer. So we understand Swiggy as someone who will pick up an order. Once the order comes to, so we can go to an app, as a consumer, you can go to an app, post an order from a restaurant, they will send that order to some other guy who's a delivery boy, he'll go pick up the order from that place and send it to us. It's a food delivery app. And then on top of that, you can say, hey, by the way, now we have all these people roaming around in a city, they can also help you pick up stuff from one person and drop it at another person. And that's how, if you understand this in layers, you will start understanding what Swiggy really is, or any other business for that matter, right. I think in most cases if you can break down into layers, anything, I think it becomes really simple to explain to anyone.