Don’t be this guy.

Pitching is storytelling, and your bullet points are boring.

Work on your narrative before you work on your slides.

Bret Waters
2 min readMay 17, 2024


In startup land, everyone has a pitch deck. Every wannabe startup founder thinks that if they can create an awesome pitch deck, venture capitalists will throw money at them and life will be good.

The reality, of course, is that pitching is all about storytelling. Humans are hard-wired to be captivated and enthralled with great stories — we’ve been doing it around campfires for several millennia. Great entrepreneurs — from Steve Jobs to Katrina Lake — have always been great storytellers.

That’s why if I’m preparing a pitch deck I always sit down and write out the narrative first. Once I am happy with the narrative (the story), then I build some slides to reinforce the story. Many people build some slides and then try to figure out what the story is. That’s backward, and will usually result in a crappy presentation.

Way back in 2004, Jeff Bezos famously banned PowerPoint from executive meetings at Amazon. In his email to the executive team he said:

Well structured, narrative text is what we’re after…the reason writing a 4 page memo is harder than “writing” a 20 page powerpoint is because the narrative structure of a good memo forces better thought and better understanding of what’s more important than what, and how things are related.

Powerpoint-style presentations somehow give permission to gloss over ideas, flatten out any sense of relative importance, and ignore the innerconnectedness of ideas.

Twenty years later, this remains one hundred percent true. He’s now a billionaire, and yet wannabe startup founders are still out there, building crappy slide decks.

When I teach entrepreneurship at Stanford, we conclude the course with a “Pitch Contest”. Each student prepares a 3-minute pitch, delivers it to the class, and I have some VC friends come in to be guest judges. And every single time, the winners at the end of the evening are the best storytellers, not the best slide-builders.

So whether you’re preparing a pitch deck for your startup or a presentation at a conference, start by writing out the narrative. Tell a crisp, clear, and compelling story. That’s way more important than the slides.

Here’s a closing story for you: A few years ago a friend of mine was dating a guy who before each date would send her some bullet points on suggested topics they could discuss at dinner. She dumped that guy.



Bret Waters

Silicon Valley guy. Teaches at Stanford. Eats fish tacos.