How Startups Can Create a Kick-Ass Pitch Deck

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So you have a one of a kind product idea or business plan or method for how you can make the world a better place through your strategy. What can you expect? You will need to prepare a pitch deck to present to your potential investors so you can share your brilliant plan. A pitch deck is a short presentation that allows you to tell your clients or investors, or any external source of funding, all the pertinent details about you as an investment in a quick capture.

As exciting as it is to have the chance to meet with potential sources of funding, be clear on the fact that the pitch deck is only the first step to get your audience to want to meet with you again. Funding won’t come instantaneously; you will have to work for it, so be prepared to make a great first impression, pique the interest of your investors, arrange for a second meeting, and grow in speaking confidence throughout the process. If you leave your pitch deck meeting with plans to meet again, you have succeeded. If not, it’s time to tweak your presentation and approach, and then try again with another set of funders. Your audience on the other hand should leave your presentation knowing about your mission and goals, your product, your numbers and projections, and why exactly they should engage in business with you.

Those are some lofty objectives to reach for such a brief presentation, but your pitch deck is a truly important step in launching your startup. As such, you want to make sure you impress your audience and do not leave out any necessary information, nor do you bore them with the wrong details. Have no fear about preparing your winning pitch deck because we spoke with successful business founders and CEOs who went through the same intimidating process and came out the other side with thriving companies. Here is the accumulation of their best tips and tricks for how you can create a kick-ass pitch deck that will launch your startup into its days of prosperity!

Make a Great First Impression

“Each pitch deck presentation is extremely important for achieving your business goals, so even though you should never settle for failure, it is much more ideal for you if you can nail your pitch deck out of the park the first time around. After all, a meeting with potential investors is not a great time to see if you still have that public speaking fear you never overcame in middle school. Instead, be prepared and practice as much as you can beforehand so you make a great first impression. If you’ve made it to the pitch deck phase, chances are that you’ve needed to make a few other great speeches along the way, but take the time beforehand to brush up on your speaking skills to make sure you exude confidence, personality, professionalism, and knowledgeability. Research shows you are limited to the first 27 seconds of meeting someone to nail your first impression–and that your time begins before you even introduce yourself. So make sure all aspects of your appearance and speech come across as professional. But don’t feel too intimidated by these facts, because they show that holding yourself with confidence is enough to set you on a great start,” says Jack Gindi, CEO of Pori Jewelry.

Tell a Story

“You can think of your pitch deck as the story of your business. Without going into too much detail, you have the chance to first outline who you are and what your mission is with your business proposal. Your narrative of where you started, where you’ve come, and where you need to go should come through, although not explicitly stated outright. These details allow you to show the heart running through your idea. They should be condensed together and briefly touched on though, as you’ll want to spend the most time focusing on concrete specifics about your product and what it will do. Show that you understand the market and how your product will fit in or revolutionize the space; highlight the product you’ve created; detail that you understand the next steps you need to take and how you already have a plan for how you’ll overcome the challenges your product will encounter; spend time digging into the numbers and statistics. But throughout the entire presentation, be a storyteller and engage your audience in your story,” says Reece Kresser, Co-Founder of Zizi.

Present Your Service or Product Succinctly

“One step you need to nail in order to have a great pitch deck is outlining your business proposition in a succinct statement that gets to the heart of what you are offering. Having your investors know exactly what they would be investing in is absolutely crucial. Nobody wants to spend money on something they don’t believe in, because how can they if they don’t understand what it is? A clear and compact phrase could sound like “We are the future of cannabis delivery” which is what Emjay is and was pitched as. Make your idea sound simple and easily pinpointed in your business proposition. When you highlight your product or idea again later on your investors will be able to understand more of the in-depth offerings. But for now, at this first meeting, their knowledge of the product can be concise,” says Chris Vaughn, CEO of Emjay.

Be Engaging

“Your pitch deck is your chance to shine, so bring your presentation alive through your engaging slides and speaking ability. This is your opportunity to represent to potential investors how passionate you are about the product or service you’ve created. Your audience will want to know that you truly believe in your creation because this shows that you’re committed to working hard for results. Throughout your pitch deck, try to operate the meeting in a way that creates engagement and human connections between you and your viewers. One way to do this is through extending your narrative voice throughout the entire presentation, not just when introducing yourself,” says Zach Goldstein, CEO of Public Rec.

Make Your Presentation Short and Sweet

“I am evangelizing the 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint. It’s quite simple: a pitch should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points. Ten is the optimal number of slides in a PowerPoint presentation because a normal human being cannot comprehend more than ten concepts in a meeting—and venture capitalists are very normal. If you must use more than ten slides to explain your business, you probably don’t have a business. You should give your ten slides in twenty minutes. Even if the 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.

“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,” says Guy Kawasaki, Chief Evangelist of Canva.

Address Your Place in the Market

“One slide in your pitch deck should outline the gap in the market and how your business will fill it. Perhaps you have an idea that already has many competitors offering something similar. In this case, find the angle to show your investors how your idea differs and aims to offer something new and necessary. You should mention your competitors in your presentation to show you recognize what they’re providing but here is where your product or service fits into the market in a way that is other than all the rest. Yes, it’s ok to mention your competitors! You should not pretend they don’t exist because your investors will see right through this strategy. Instead, a successful pitch deck addresses all the realities in order to expose how you will address them. Outline how you’ll carve your place into the market beside the competitors,” says Nick King, CEO of Vint.

Use Visuals and a Quality Design

“Just as with anything you want to appeal to humans (we are very visual, aesthetic creatures), design matters. You should not design a website that is boring to look at, or a product that doesn’t catch your eye, nor should you design a bland pitch deck. Yes, your speaking voice matters plenty when conducting your presentation, but your audience needs somewhere to look, so they’ll be staring at your slides most of the time. Pitch decks usually use a visual presentation tool such as Prezi or PowerPoint. Make sure your screen is engaging at all times. Color works well at drawing the eye, and text can represent a level of professionalism and tone. Most importantly, include visuals! Incorporate pictures of your product even if this is screenshots if your service is a mobile app. Videos are also good at engaging an audience. Another way to give a visual presentation is by bringing in one of your products and giving a demonstration. Just don’t let your pitch deck be boring! You only have a few minutes to wow your potential investors and make them captivated,” says Phillip Montalvo, Director of Marketing of Azuna.

Don’t Pretend You Don’t Have Competition

“One aspect of creating a pitch deck that I have often seen startups highlight is how unique their product or service is in relation to everyone else out there. This is actually not a great method for approaching your pitch deck because let’s face it–how unique is your idea truly in relation to the entire history of businesses that have existed in the past and do currently? The truth is that every business has competition; no one is doing something entirely in their own realm. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with showing the unique traits your business offers–in fact, it’s a great addition to mention. However, you don’t have to pretend your product or service is entirely unique, because there’s a good chance the potential investors listening to your pitch are aware of other similar products or brands. The reason why pretending your offering is totally unique is a bad idea is that you don’t want to come off as arrogant or uneducated about the reality that you do in fact have competition. Instead, a better approach is to present solid research you’ve done about your competition in order to show that you’re well aware of the market,” says Omid Semino, CEO and Founder of Diamond Mansion.

Focus on the Financials

“There are two main factors in acing the pitch deck challenge and crafting a document worthy of attention and substantial investment. The first is design. That is nailing the right number of slides and style. The second and most confusing and important, is what to include in your deck. Every single pitch deck should incorporate the size of the market and potential size of the opportunity. Think in billions and always add credible sources. This slide is really important as it will determine the potential outcome to investors that express interest. You don’t have to be profitable or even have many paying customers to raise capital. Yet, the one thing every potential investor is going to want to know is what traction you have so far. What testing have you done? What is the feedback from user engagement? What is the trajectory of your growth? The financials slide is one that investors will spend the most time on. Key points include your burn rate, break even point and how many users you need to make a profit.

“Who are your other current and previous investors? In early stage funding rounds investors are very encouraged by success in raising money from angel investors and even friends and family. It shows someone else believes in you and has put their money on the line. It serves as social proof. In later rounds, having some well known VCs on your deck can fast track funding and help in negotiating better terms. Remember that investors are really investing in you, not the business or idea. Or they would just buy you out on the spot or recreate it for themselves. What makes you the entrepreneur or founding team to bet on driving a home run with this valuable solution? What is your industry and business experience? If you are weak in this area, include one or two key staff members who really round out and strengthen the team. Assemble a strong and well respected board of advisors who are sure to make this a success.

“Design definitely matters. Yet, design only opens the door long enough to deliver the real meat and show the value,” says Alejandro Cremades, Co-Founder of Panthera Advisors.

Demonstrate Your Financial Knowledge

“During your pitch deck you should demonstrate that you are financially knowledgeable. Show your research and findings on the market, as well as the forecast for what you aim to accomplish. Let your prospective investors see that you, the person behind your idea, are not a risk in the way an unprepared or inexperienced individual is in the business world. If there’s anyone else in your team who has background and credibility in this area, really highlight them here as well. Don’t be afraid to get into the facts and numbers, like including your own projections and the steps you’ve taken so far to grow your business as much as you have,” says Chris Gadek, Head of Growth at AdQuick.

Let Your Investors Know What You Need From Them

“Before you end your pitch deck meeting, and even before you open the conversation up to discussion, be clear about what you need from your investors. They should have no doubts about what their role and provision would be in the arrangement you’re outlining. Be clear about your request and then allow for conversation to work through the details,” says Michael Hennessy, Founder and CEO of Diathrive.

Present Your Plan for Your Investor’s Funding

“Let your investors know exactly how you plan to use their money to accelerate your business. Give an accurate number and account for where their backing will go. Of course, make sure that your numbers are airtight, and address any projections that rely on factors that may change along the way. Then you can move the meeting into an open conversation to discuss your request and anything your investors need clarification on,” says Eric Elggren, Co-Founder of Andar.

You should have no fear about what to include in your pitch deck after reading through the suggestions of business owners and founders who’ve mastered their way through the pitch deck process. Remember to engage your audience throughout the whole meeting regarding who you are and what your product offers, and don’t be afraid to get into the nitty gritty to address the important info such as the financials and the competitive market. We know you will take this information and apply it to your presentation to produce a kick-ass pitch deck!