The Persuasive Storyteller

Frameworks For An Effective Hook

This is an excerpt of an interactive workshop we've run for dozens of accelerators, fellowships, and VCs. While it's aimed at early-stage founders just developing their pitch story, it's useful across stages. If you're interested in learning more or conducting a workshop for your community, contact us at
Have you ever read a news headline about a topic you never thought would interest you, but felt compelled to click anyway?
You've been hooked! Of course, now the rest of the story has to deliver on the promise of that headline, but that's another story. The point is, that an effective hook sets the stage for a highly persuasive story.

So what's a hook?

A hook is a piece of information that someone wouldn't know, that they would want to know or should know, that that would surprise them and make them curious to learn more. Sometimes it comes in the form of a question, creating an opportunity for immediate engagement, and other times, it is a way to introduce investors, employees, customers into an unmissable opportunity.

Working backwards from strengths to hooks

The following is a quick activity to help you identify an effective hook for your company. Once you've tried it out, it's important to test, refine, and revise.

Step 1: Understand the basic building blocks of your pitch
In the context of fundraising pitches, hooks lead into the strongest part of your pitch, so we often work backwards to identify the most compelling part of a company's metrics and story first.

While these questions don't represent every portion of your pitch, they are the most common starting points for an effective fundraising story.

Step 2: Identify which building block is most compelling for your company
What about your company is impressive relative to its vertical, the industry as a whole, or what you've achieved?
Select one of the building blocks above to work backwards from.

***Keep in mind, strengths are relative. Both the stage of your company and its vertical impact the expectations an investor will have.
Step 3: Work backwards to find an effective hook leading into this strength
Here's a quick glance at how this works:
And here are a few examples:

Adjusting for context

Your hook will vary in different contexts, just as your pitch itself will vary. When we work on a story, the audience and context matters. Int the following touch points, for example, your pitch is going to vary:

  • Informal Networking Event Pitch
  • Teaser Deck Send Around
  • In-Person Pitch Presentation
  • Follow Up Correspondence

In fact, when we work with founders, we work on how to create a sense of progressive disclosure across the lifecycle of a relationship and touch points such as these. Intimate settings will often lead to more personal stories whereas stand alone materials will most likely lead with company strengths or opportunity.

Bringing it full circle

We do this activity in a workshop setting because, as with anything in startups, this process is iterative and takes testing. Trying out hooks in different contexts to see if they land in is a crucial part of creating a compelling pitch.

If you're interested in learning more about how we shape one-liners, hooks, and fundraising pitch stories more broadly feel free to contact us. Or subscribe to learn more tools and tactics for effective and persuasive pitching.