Students in the Startup Middle School program can tell you what traction & validation means and identify what sets their business concepts apart from their industry competitors – and now, the biggest challenge they face, is telling a good story.
The Startup Middle School program’s curriculum includes developing a pitch deck to present their business ideas at an end of the year ceremony in June. There are eight student-business groups among the 7th and 8th grade classes.
These students are using a high-level outline to curate the content in their pitch decks:
The Big Idea, The Problem, The Solution, Why Us?, Traction & Validation, The Future and The Ask.
As they’ve started practicing their presentations in front of the class, I’ve found myself encouraging some of the standard tips:
1. Face the audience, do not read the slides (!)
2. Make eye contact with people in the room
3. Project your voice and speak confidently
4. Do not include paragraphs in your slides (something they already know) and boil it down to a few bullet points (something they are grappling with)
I’ve also encouraged telling a story to their audience – tell the story of how their idea came into existence. Personally I believe that conveying information with a storytelling framework makes your narrative digestible and relatable to people. The storytelling concept appears to be in close reach for some of the students, and from others I receive sideways glances.
On a recent pop quiz they were asked:
Out of these three, what is the most important thing when presenting your pitch?
A. Telling a compelling story/experience
B. Presenting all the technical data
C. Making sure the slides are colorful and eye-catching
The results? The majority of students answered B.
Four out of the 18 students answered A. and one answered C. Their answers made me re-evaluate the way I provided initial feedback to their presentations, and in our next class I plan to ask them to tell me the exact moment or series of events that led to the birth of their business ideas.
In their pitch decks, they successfully defined the items from the high-level outline which has translated into them drilling through all the slides like they are reading a research paper. Now, I want them to take a step back and create a story-based narrative that can hold all of their data and make it easy for individuals to understand right away.
Some may argue the pop quiz question is subjective. My main reason for asking it was to discover what the students consider of value. I want to encourage them to think about how they are delivering their message to the world. Is it more important to teach the students to tell a good story or to deliver the data?