MetaBUILD Mentorship Series, Episode 2: Storytelling in Web3

Maria Yarotska
Hackathon Coordinator, NEAR.

October 7, 2022

The MetaBUILD hackathon is at almost 1000 participants now! With 8 weeks of building, a whole constellation of seasoned mentors, a wide range of self-paced education opportunities, and weekly live discussions, it is shaping to be one of the biggest blockchain hackathons of the season.

This week, we invited our IRL Hackathon winners along with the NEAR Foundation content lead DJ Pangburn, and the editor-in-chief of the WOW Summit Victoria to discuss one of the most non-developer questions in the builder community: how to tell the world about your idea. Listen to them on Twitter Space or read this quick recap to find out!


Is Storytelling Any Different from Marketing?

  • Storytelling is a part of the marketing strategy,– says Victoria. Her advice is to view storytelling as a packaging for your product which is really important when you’re trying to sell something. In her opinion, good content makers can form a really successful narrative for whatever you are building.
  • DJ Pangburn also considers storytelling a part of marketing. When you're telling a story, whether it's a piece of fiction or it's part of a marketing strategy, you need to make it resonate with your audience.

Why is Picking Your Audience Important?

  • Victoria thinks that it is important to narrow down your audience because it is hard to build your strategy unless you know who you are building it for. Actually it should be a part of the strategy – to understand who your audience is, and who you are talking to. Sometimes it can be several audiences within a single strategy, but as a founder it is important to know and understand a certain persona you’re addressing your messages to.
  • Derrek from the OnlyFunds team explains that this particular name for the project would’ve worked only with a certain audience, and their name choice was a bit risky in terms of impressing the people who are not into OnlyFans. In crypto space, name puns are really popular, but usually it is something related to dogs and forks, not adult humor. 
  • Constance from the SEED team is also running a community in Singapore and Malaysia. She is familiar with the mindset of people who are coming from Web2 into Web3, she knows exactly what kind of roadblocks that they are facing. In her pitch, she wanted the storytelling to be relatable and easy to understand. Her team was using recognizable film clips for her pitch to make the idea understandable for that particular audience.
  • For the pitching competition winner Sam (team Pomegrant) it is important to make sure that the idea behind the project is understandable for the broader audience. For Sam, one of the rules he always sticks to is simplicity. He also considers humor one of the best icebreakers in communication with an unfamiliar audience.

How to Draw Attention With Your Pitch

  • Derrek’s advice would work better for working with a live audience because it is engagement. In his opinion, we could all learn from asking people questions and asking them to raise their hands at the start of a presentation. Trying to get people’s attention as one of many projects is an uphill battle, and the best way of doing so would be to engage the audience.
  • If you can give an audience, whether it's judges or people at a hackathon or online, some idea about where you're coming from, it makes you more relatable,– says DJ Pangburn. Try to add a personal touch instead of being an anonymous developer or entrepreneur – for some people it might be an obstacle. It's also about your enthusiasm for what you're doing: it'll get people to buy in on your project whether they're investors or users, but it will also sustain you in moments where you're feeling a little down about what you're creating and you need a lift.
  • In Victoria’s opinion, the most important thing is to have a goal in storytelling. It might help to build your story up and understand what exactly you need to say. The pitch might start with a personal touch – an example, a story of how your journey starter, or a classic “once upon a time”. There is always an aha! moment in every project’s story, so why not tell about it?
  • For Sam, being passionate about the idea is important not just for when you're presenting. It also keeps you motivated through the event because you're more personally invested in solving that problem. Hopefully it comes through and amplifies your presentation as well.

How to Create a Winning Pitch

  • In Derrek’s opinion, if you can approach explaining what you're working on with energy and with the ability to empathize with the person you're speaking to, you are already going to have a leg up above a bunch of people, however technically impressive their projects are.  Having a certain amount of emotional intelligence or social skills, being able to shape it in relation to who you're speaking to cannot be underrated.
  • For Sam, a winning pitch always starts with planning and timing. Most hackers forget that they have to present until the last minute, and Sam is changing this pattern by dedicating up to 30% to preparing the presentation. He’s advising against the text heavy slides and background music, too, because it distracts the audience. Sam is also using the judging criteria of the hackathon to shape up the structure of his story of the project.

TL;DR: Tell Stories With Purpose!

The guests agreed that presenting confidently, passionately, and being in touch with the audience does the trick 100% of the time, whether it is an IRL hackathon or a Devpost page for the MetaBUILD submission.

Thank you for joining us on Twitter Space or reading this recap. Next week we’ll meet to talk about the grants and funding at NEAR ecosystem and discuss how to keep your project going after the hackathon is over. Keep building!

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