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Design Thinking to communicate better: how to use 10 slides to pitch a great story

Storytelling meets Design Thinking: how to use 10 slides to pitch successfully

How a small business from remote north east Italy had great success pitching a case study to an US enterprise’s audience using a simple storytelling framework with just 10 slides

Storytelling using 80/20 rule

Everything in mankind started with a story. You can’t reach any success if your communication is poor. Your business idea, your speech at best friend’s wedding, your willingness to organize a group travel to Japan next year have something in common: a storyline.

If you are a CEO looking to speak out loud the vision and the mission of your company, a CMO in need to boost your branding strategy, a CFO willing to polish your startup’s investors pitch to fundraise more money or a Head of department that wants to convince the board of directors to support a brand new project, I suggest you to keep reading this post. 

Here we’ll talk about storytelling, specifically how to create a communication backbone helpful to build an effective speech, explaining how design thinking can help in simplifying with structure and order this journey. 

You’ll see a success case driven by an approach focused on the right priorities in the project, with 80/20 rule in mind. 

Pitch slide

Business context and target audience

MOLO17 is a software house for the development of cutting-edge solutions, based in Pordenone, in the north east of Italy. With 8 years of experience, 30 employees and notable customers like Intesa Sanpaolo bank, is a great example of an innovative small business able to face and win hard challenges. 

MOLO17 have a partnership with Couchbase, USbased enterprise leader in NoSQL databases, global player enabling its Fortune 500 customers to empower IT infrastructures with big data evolution strategies. 

Couchbase, whom raised $100M+ in May 2020 to scale globally its 500 employees organization boosting a mobile first NoSQL Database-as-a-Service in cloud, has a yearly global event named Couchbase Connecta developer conference where thousands of Couchbase users worldwide meet to discover latest news on the company. 

MOLO17 had a speech reserved for October 2020 event to tell this audience how they used Couchbase with Zulu Medical, their healthcare customer. 

(Below, photo of a medical practitioner in an ambulance using Zulu .E to monitor health status of a fake patient onboard)

Short story of the case study

Zulu Medical is a startup company based in Treviso, northern Italy. Its vision is to improve on field communications for emergency health services to save more lifes. Their mission is about building end-to-end digital solutions to innovate ambulance capabilities.  

MOLO17 was asked to help them building the software and the user experience of Zulu .E, the solution to get rid of miscommunication and paperwork in EMS. Zulu .E is a rugged tablet to collect real-time information on the ambulance for current patient and send them immediately to the final hospital. 

MOLO17 decided to use Couchbase solution to provide Zulu Medical with a reliable database designed for mobile first applications and capable to perform very well also in uncomfortable conditions, like places with low or no data connection available. 

This case study was considered intriguing by Couchbase, so they have decided to invite MOLO17 to pitch at their Connect developers convention.

(Below, photo of a medical practitioner in an ambulance using Zulu .E to monitor health status of a fake patient onboard) 

Photo of a medical practitioner in an ambulance using Zulu .E to monitor health status of a (fake) patient onboard

How to design a communication backbone

Daniele Angeli, CEO of MOLO17, was in charge for the case study pitch. He asked me to support his presentation providing a good framework structure to start with. 

After having good understanding of context, project and target audience, I told him that we should have used the 10/20/30 rule evangelized by Guy Kawasaki. Let’s cite his Wikipedia page to introduce this storytelling master: “Guy Kawasaki (born August 30, 1954) is an American marketing specialist, author, and Silicon Valley venture capitalist. He was one of the Apple employees originally responsible for marketing their Macintosh computer line in 1984. He popularized the word evangelist in marketing the Macintosh as an “Apple evangelist” and the concepts of evangelism marketing and technology evangelism in general”. 

If you never saw the blueprint of 10/20/30 rule, I suggest to start from there. 


  • Ten slides. Ten is the optimal number of slides in a PowerPoint presentation because a normal human being cannot comprehend more than ten concepts in a meetingIf you must use more than ten slides to explain your business project, you probably have a focus problem
  • Twenty minutes. You should give your ten slides in twenty minutes. Sure, you have an hour time slot, but you’re using a Windows laptop, so it will take forty minutes to make it work with the projector. Even if setup goes perfectly, people will arrive late and have to leave early. In a perfect world, you give your pitch in twenty minutes, and you have forty minutes left for discussion
  • Thirty-point font. The majority of the presentations that I see have text in a ten point font. As much text as possible is jammed into the slide, and then the presenter reads it. However, as soon as the audience figures out that you’re reading the text, it reads ahead of you because it can read faster than you can speak. The result is that you and the audience are out of sync


To me, this rule is great because “forces” you to focus on simplicity: with ten concepts and few words, clarity will come automatically. 

10 concepts to build your storytelling flow

Selecting titles for the concepts may vary depending on context, project and audience, but generally speaking we can find a one-fits-all template. This comes from the main purpose of the 10/20/30 rule, which is helping startup founders to pitch in front of investors. These kind of relations are very interesting because when an investor need to decide where to put money, there is no space for grey areas. The highest ambition in those kind of pitch decks is to tell a 360 degrees compelling story that leaves the audience with almost any doubt after a few minutes monologue. 

This approach helps a lot to have a high level overview while focusing on most important priorities with 80/20 principle, so having in mind the following 10 titles as a driving model is a great starting point. 


  1. Problem


  2. Your solution


  3. Business model 


  4. Underlying magic/technology 


  5. Marketing and sales 


  6. Competition 


  7. Team 


  8. Projections and milestones 


  9. Status and timeline 


  10. Summary and call to action 

Deep dive: topic points of pitch slides

In the Google Slides document embedded above you can see the final pitch deck with all the 11 slides (yes, there’s always room for a bit of creativity and tolerance to shape tailored rules =). 

We’ve structured the backbone in a 4 hours workshop with the CEO Daniele following this flow: 


  1. Presentation: Mobile emergency 
    1. Subtitle: Ambulances <> Hospitals communication 
  2. Problem: Less data = more deaths 
    1. Priority: Poor on-field information 
    2. Goal: Increase patient’s knowledge 
  3. Value proposition: 3 priorities 
    1. Take life-saving decisions 
    2. Enrich first-aid reception 
    3. Enable medical IoT coordination 
  4. Magic: 3 priorities 
    1. Vital signs streaming 
    2. Real-time context sharing 
    3. Rugged mission critical UX 
  5. Architecture: Mobile edge gateway 
    1. Unified access point 
    2. Offline identity support 
  6. Architecture deep dive 
    1. Logical schema design 
  7. Integrations: 3 priorities 
    1. Schiller’s Android SDK 
    2. NFC bracelet login 
    3. Multi-tenant phygital emergency 
  8. Roadmap: more hardware integration 
    1. Couchbase P2P support in 2021 
    2. Vision: AI predictions in 2022 
  9. KPIs: 5 ambulances served in October 2020 
    1. +100 in pipeline 
    2. 1200 man days in 5 months 
  10. Team: Couchbase partner since 2015 
    1. 7 projects based on Couchbase 
    2. 3 startups created that uses Couchbase 
  11. Contacts & closing 


These points are a result of a creative brainstorming where the CEO Daniele put on the table his vision on the project while I helped him facilitating the process of structuring right information into the 10 slides framework. 

Fun fact: design thinking mindset and methodology helped a lot the execution of this workshop. We used colored markers to draw in Daniele’s office glass walls 10 boxes, prioritizing with color code the core information listed before. Visualizing the sketch while discussing how to design the story was crucial to unlock our best ideas. 

Result: an international storytelling success reshared by Couchbase CEO

In the video above, you can enjoy the full video pitch from MOLO17 CEO Daniele Angeli at Couchbase Connect event – link to official enterprise page is available here. 


The storyline was a great success for three reasons: 


  1. Couchbase published a Medium post with this storytelling 


  2. Couchbase CEO Matt Cain decided to reshare the story in his LinkedIn profile 


  3. After the event, MOLO17 connector was officially listed in Couchbase website 


Summarizing a conclusion for this journey, we can synthesize three macro priorities: 


  1. Focus and clarity in communication are essential 


  2. Storytelling is an amazing marketing tool to spread successful communication 


  3. Design thinking gives super powers to shape the backbone structure of any story brand was born with the willingness to unlock growth potential for decision makers like the CEO of MOLO17 Daniele Angeli. If you want to know morecheck your fit with vision or download whitepaper. 

Riccardo Mazzolo

Innovation advisor exploring design, storytelling & creativity for growth. Always happy to facilitate people building new solutions to simplify life.