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Rhetoric and the Art of Investment Pitching [Entrepreneurship
Posted on February 14, 2014 @ 12:53:00 PM by Paul Meagher

If you google the topic of "investment pitching" you can find lots of articles and resources dedicated to providing advice on the best way to pitch your idea to investors. It occurred to me, however, that we may be reinventing the wheel as there is plenty of literature and discussion already on the topic of Rhetoric which, to me, encompasses "investment pitching" as one specific area of practice - albeit with some unique audience features that deserve specific attention.

Wikipedia defines Rhetoric as follows:

Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the capability of writers or speakers that attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. As a subject of formal study and a productive civic practice, rhetoric has played a central role in the Western tradition. Its best known definition comes from Aristotle, who considers it a counterpart of both logic and politics, and calls it "the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion." Rhetorics typically provide heuristics for understanding, discovering, and developing arguments for particular situations, such as Aristotle's three persuasive audience appeals, logos, pathos, and ethos. The five canons of rhetoric, which trace the traditional tasks in designing a persuasive speech, were first codified in classical Rome: invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery. Along with grammar and logic, rhetoric is one of the three ancient arts of discourse.

So, are those who are skilled in the art of investment pitching skilled in the arts of rhetoric? Is the study of rhetoric that you might encounter in english composition and philosophy classes potentially useful when it comes to effectively pitching an idea to investors? I would argue that, yes, the liberal arts study of rhetoric is potentially very practical and useful in this regard. There is still some negative sentiment directed at the study of rhetoric that originated in the days of Plato and his criticism of the Sophists - that they were not seeking truth, just to persuade people to their often fallacious viewpoints through clever rhetorical devices. I think we should get over Plato's criticism and recognize rhetoric as one of those skills that seems to be in higher demand these days, especially in the world of entrepreneurship and private investing.

So how can we hone our rhetorical skills to improve our investment pitching success? One modern-day Sophist who appears to have a literary appreciation of the art of pitching is Oren Klaff. He has begun offering a set of internet YouTube videos on the topic of investment pitching that I intend to watch this weekend. So far, I've watched his first two videos and came away with a few useful ideas about constructing effective investment pitches. The idea that pitches should have the property of "narrative transport" is one such useful idea which suggests that Oren has a literary sensibility that informs his capitalist persona. The Triggerman Videos are largely unedited, low budget, and off-the-cuff set of videos on investment pitching which so far have contained a few rhetorical nuggets that make them worth watching. Here are the first two videos from Episode 1 in the Triggerman series so you can judge for yourself:



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