The one element I see new startups struggle with the most is also the most essential; the almighty PITCH DECK. Creating your pitch deck should be given the same priority as developing your startup, from the way you present it, to the vision you have, to the passion you project. You have very few slides to convince people to love your vision. Every single detail is crucial, and updating your presentation based on feedback is vital. Be prepared, because by the time you’re ready to pitch, there won’t be 5 rejected versions of your deck, there will be dozens(hundreds)!
Following these tips will help you get started with a strong foundation and quickly gain credibility in front of potential investors.
1) 15 to 20 slides
3 minutes and 30 seconds; that’s the average time VCs will spend looking at your pitch deck. So if your deck has 20 slides, that’s about 10 seconds per slide. More slides means less time spent on each page, and therefore less information being communicated. Keep each slide concise, clear and short, and NEVER exceed 20. If you absolutely need to add visuals or additional information, create an annexe people can access if they want to delve deeper.
2) One slide, one message
As we said above, the information on each slide has to be comprehended in about 10 seconds. Don’t try to communicate more than one message at a time. One headline, a subtitle, and the main element: a table, a graph or data.Too often, we’re tempted to add more information thinking it will be more complete or convincing when in reality, you’re just losing your audience.
3) An intro, an outro
This part sounds pretty basic, but these are the two things I see missing most often! Your first slide should say who you are (logo/name), the purpose of the deck (advice, funding, report) and the date. Without these elements your deck is just not relevant! The last slide is also vital; it’s your conclusion, so don’t blow it at this point. A clear Call To Action (CTA) must be present, e.g. contact me at email@example.com, and make it a clickable link. Make things easy for the people with the money!
4) A strong structure
There is a lot of room for creativity in a pitch deck, but let’s be clear; the structure is non-negotiable. At the end of this article, you can find links to tons of articles outlining the best structure for your deck; use them! VCs are expecting this structure, so use it to develop a story and engage them in your project, one slide at a time.
5) Less is more
If you only remember only piece of advice from me it’s this: LESS IS MORE. Say it loud, LESS. IS. MORE! It’s definitely the hardest rule to adhere to (even for designers), but definitely the most effective. Less colors: 2 max. Less fonts: 2 max. Less weight: You only have 3”30s, so when you waste time downloading the deck, as well as creating an air of frustration in the room…
Well, it’s the worst possible way to introduce your project. Put your deck online and share the URL and password. It will be super easy to share, convenient to visualize (slideshare is very responsive), and you can track data from it (number of views, longest viewed slide, most common exit point, etc) to improve your next deck.
6) Don’t DIY; Hire a professional
Try to imagine a conductor of an orchestra jumping from the violin to the saxophone and then onto the double bass. Not only would it look and sound insane, the conductor would be M.I.A. Your startup is an orchestra, and you’re the conductor. Working with professionals is an investment, so build the best team possible. If you believe in your project and aim to seriously develop it; invest in a pro to help you recoup that asset a hundred times over.
Last year, I created several decks for around $20k (total). Now, that may sound like an expensive designer, but if you consider that the clients went on to make over $20M (i.e. 1000% ROI)… Well, it’s probably the smartest investment they ever made.
7) Visuals, visuals, visuals
In case you’d forgotten… 10 seconds per slide! How many words do you need to explain your competitor’s analysis? 200? 100? That’s 30 seconds… Time to interpret an image: 0.013 seconds. When it comes data evolution, use good looking graphs and bad-ass infographics. You’ll avoid having a boring deck and more importantly you will clearly demonstrate what an awesome opportunity it is to work with you. Don’t use complex data tables! More visuals means a faster and more effective communication of data to the viewer. In other words you will be able to give them more reasons to give you money, in less time. More visuals = More money!
8) Pitch to your kid or your grandparents!
OK, so I may be exaggerating a little here, but you get the concept. An impossible-to-impress teenager should be able to go through your deck and understand what’s going on. When you pitch to them, they should have no trouble comprehending the main purpose of the startup and the opportunity you’re presenting. And if you’re really good, the end of your presentation will be punctuated with “Coooooooool!”.
If your deck is appealing and clear to someone outside the industry, it will be for any VC.
9) Say what you mean. No fluff. No jargon,
Don’t forget your new mantra:10 seconds per slide. There’s zero time for fluff or jargon. Using long sentences and boring, technical words doesn’t make you sound smarter. Most of us read an average of 250 words per minute, that’s 40 words every 10 seconds. You don’t have time for the VC to reread a complicated slide or get stuck on unknown words. Be clear, concise and straight to the point, just like the business image you want to project.
10) People’s stories
Would you give (a lot of) money to someone you barely know, even if they had the best ideas in the world ? I doubt it. Investors need to get to know you, so explain who you are and why you’re the best person to conduct this project to a successful end. Too frequently, I see a “team page” showcasing a school name or the previous company of the founders, this is not enough. Tell them about you, your story, your successes, your failures, and your passions. Invest some time in creating an inspiring yet short bio that will make the investors want you on their team.
10+1) That little something special
If you apply all of these words of wisdom correctly, then about 85% of the hard work involved in creating the pitch deck is behind you… not bad. But you want the best, right? The ultimate golden pitch deck, right? Well, you need that “little something special”; Get creative! No one else can find it but you. How are you gonna send the deck? What additional element will make a difference? What makes the VC you are pitching to unique? How can you inspire him or her, specifically? Find a way to make your project resonate with the human in front of you, and your perfectly simple/simply perfect pitch deck will seal the deal.