The pitch deck is a staple of modern entrepreneurship – folded into the startup’s survival process. As a growing business, your belief and fascination with your business can mean the difference between getting the capital you need to get started and burying it before you have a chance to make something of your business.
An exceptional pitch desk is a solid addition to any company looking to secure funding and take the next step. But a mediocre one is easy to ignore and can undermine how innovative or viable your business actually is.
Every business owner needs to have a solid understanding of the concept. Here we get a more detailed picture of what a pitch deck is. Review some of the information you need to include in your deck and go through some programs you can use to make one of your own, see some examples to use as reference points, and set how to make your example as engaging as possible.
What is a pitch deck?
A pitch deck is a marketing presentation format that is usually used by startups and offers potential investors, partners or customers insights into a company. It often includes information about the company’s business plan, the nature of its product or service, its competition, and its people.
Pitch decks are not keynote presentations. You’re not trying to kill people with deep dives and fancy language. The best are concise, uncomplicated and easy to digest. Yours needs to be lean – drawn up with your most impressive, relevant information, and organized with some degree of flow and cohesion.
There are certain boxes that you need to tick – information that you need to convey in a precise and appealing manner. And you need to get these points across without puffing up the presentation with too much fluff.
Here are the bases your pitch deck should cover.
What should a pitch deck contain?
- Basic company information
- The problem
- The solution
- Your business model
- Information on the competitive landscape
- Product or service specifications and benefits
- A financial forecast
- Information about the team
- Information on other stakeholders
1. Basic company information
Start with the basics. It might go without saying, but you need to let your audience know exactly who you are. Include your logo, company name and contact information, especially your phone number and email address.
You need to make yourself easily accessible to investors. This is difficult to do unless you provide the basic details necessary for them to identify and reach you.
2. The problem
Why does your company exist? What are you trying to fix? Who does it concern? And why is that important? You need to communicate some level of urgency with your pitch deck.
Be able to present an urgent, relevant problem that is going through a significant base of prospects. If you can’t prove you’re solving a real, meaningful problem, your potential investors are likely to shut down or drop your deck at this point.
3. The solution
Okay, you’ve realized that there is a real problem affecting a lucrative niche. Now you need to show how your product or service can be specifically used to solve it.
Provide a basic picture of your value proposition here. What is your solution doing? Don’t get too involved in the description of specifications and features – you should provide a high-level overview in this section.
4. Your business model
Investors need to understand how they’re going to attract customers and make money – that’s the whole point of investing in a startup. That said, the nature of this section is pretty fluid. As you scale and new challenges arise, your business model is likely to change.
The key here is presenting a compelling roadmap that demonstrates your critical thinking and strategic planning skills. Show your investors that you are thoughtful and enterprising – the model itself is likely not set in stone.
5. Information on the competitive landscape
Who are your competitors? How do you stack up against them? How do you serve your target audience? How big is your market in general? Give your potential investors a picture of what to expect.
Then explain your competitive advantages. Show them what you have that the other side doesn’t. Investors want to know that you can stand out from the crowd. So prove that you won’t be just another face in the crowd.
6. Product or service specifications and benefits
Learn about their functions here. See if you can show what your product or service looks like in practical use. Images are a great way to support this. Use media like screenshots, charts, blueprints, or even real images – depending on the nature of your product or service.
7. A financial forecast
This is one of the most important components of an effective pitch deck. Investors invest because they want to make money – that is the literal purpose of investing. You have to show them that your business is financially viable.
Add relevant metrics that show what you need to break even and ultimately make a profit. Ultimately, investors look to your pitch deck for a reason, to measure the potential return that you can offer. Here you give them a clear picture of what that could be.
8. Information about the team
Investors not only invest in your product or service, they also invest in you. You have to show that you are trustworthy and competent. Include some information about you, your employees, your and their experiences, and any relevant awards your team members may have received.
Reassure investors by showing that their investments will end up in competent and sensible hands.
9. Information on other stakeholders
One of the better ways to instill investor confidence is to let them know that they are in good company when they invest. Being able to promote significant reviews from other investors can reduce risk perception among the VCs looking at your deck.
By referring to success in previous rounds of funding or showing that reputable sources have confidence in your company, you can reassure investors and get them to at least hear you out.
The above points need to be addressed, but they won’t do too much for you if not conveyed with style, cohesion, and grace. Let’s look at a few ways to make yours as engaging and thoughtful as possible.
How to design a pitch deck that won’t suck
1. Make your text easy to read.
The guy who forgot to wear his contacts today and somehow ended up in the back row of the conference room? Yes, he needs to be able to see your slides as well as everyone else.
The importance of creating extremely readable, easy-to-read slides shouldn’t be underestimated. It’s more than a question of aesthetics: if your slides are difficult to read at all, even people with eyesight 20/20 quickly lose interest and lose the zone.
They didn’t come here to exert themselves – they came here to be spoon-fed. And it is your job to make your information as digestible as possible. To keep the focus on your content, stick to large, bold fonts on high-contrast backgrounds.
Do not do that:
This font color does not contrast enough with the background, and the text size is not large or clear enough to be comfortably read from a distance. Don’t let your poor audience stare at it for too long.
This font is big and bold enough to be seen from the back of the room, and it contrasts well with the background. When all else fails, a bold sans serif font is the way to go.
2. Tell a story.
When we process information in list format, the basic language processing areas of our brain are activated. Scientists call these sectionsBroca’s area and Wernicke’s area, and they are responsible for translating words we see or hear into coherent meanings – but they don’t help us stay interested or retain information.
In other words, bullet points don’t usually trigger a very exciting response in our brain and make the rest of our minds wander.
When our brains get a story instead of a list, things change – big time. Stories occupy more parts of our brain, including our sensory cortex, which is responsible for processing visual, auditory, and tactile stimuli. If you want to keep people busy during a presentation, tell them a story.
Focusing your presentation on a story rather than a list of facts or figures is important in keeping people interested and making a lasting impression.
Do not do that:
This information may be impressive, but it likely won’t stick with your audience when presented in list form.
Weaving your impressive case study into a story is far more likely to affect the audience.
3. Break everything down into extremely simple parts.
When it comes to pitch decks, it’s time to wean yourself off the bullet points. While they’re still better than slapping a dense section of text on a slide and labeling it a tag, they can be overwhelming and prevent your audience from really taking in your main points.
You might think you are already simplifying your content, but you take it a step further. Each slide should convey a single, simple idea – no multiple ideas, no multifaceted idea, and no idea that requires a certain level of rhetoric to meticulously decode.
If it looks like you’re making things way too easy, then you are on the right track. Remember – not all of your topics of conversation need to occupy real estate on your slide deck. Save the slide space for the big ideas and talk your way through the rest.
Do not do that:
These points may seem simple, but they could be broken down further and split across different slides.
This simple, straightforward slide is not difficult to understand.
4. Make the points clear.
The point of each slide should be obvious. Your audience shouldn’t have to work to understand what’s going on, especially if it’s graphs or charts.
Any information you put on a slide should be translated for the audience immediately, even if you think it speaks for itself. Ask yourself:
- What point do you want to reach with this information?
- How does that fact or figure reconnect with your main premise?
- What should the audience get out of this slide?
Do not do that:
While this graph clearly shows the growth, the point is obviously not related to your premise.
The title on this slide tells the audience exactly what to remove from the graphic and immediately leads them to the conclusion that it is good for your cause.
5. Focus on the prospect’s challenges, not yourself.
It can be assumed that your prospect has spent some time researching your agency. So you don’t have to waste valuable presentation time talking about your achievements or awards.
Not only do you convince the audience that you are great at your job – you convince them that you understand them and that you are the best person to help them meet their unique challenges.
Blue Lobster’s business pitch consultants recommend asking yourself a few questions to keep your presentation focused on your audience:
- “Who is the audience?”
- “What is your problem?”
- “How can you help?”
Do not do that:
While this is all very impressive, it does not provide an understanding of your customers’ problems or how you can help them. Plus, your prospect has likely already found this information from a quick scan of your agency’s website.
This slide shows that you’ve done your research and gives the prospect a clear value proposition.
6. Complement your deck with additional materials.
Even if it makes sense to use a pitch deck, you don’t have to spend the entire presentation speaking in front of your audience. Instead, consider adding additional materials, such as “handouts, prototypes, or posters, to classic pitch decks to stimulate discussion so that the presentation and presentation deck are not seen as one and the same.”
Now that you have a picture of what your pitch deck needs to contain and how it can best be conveyed, let’s take a look at some of the pitch deck building resources that are available to you.
Pitch deck templates
- Google Slides
Canva is an attractive option for any startup that wants to easily create visually pleasing pitch deck slides without design experience or a sizeable budget. It’s a simple, straightforward program that has a variety of pitch deck slide templates available.
Image source: Canva
HaikuDeck is another no-hassle design software that balances accessibility with powerful features. It has a simple user interface and offers a wide range of different presentation templates – including those for compelling pitch decks.
Image source: HaikuDeck
Slidebean differs from similar programs in its available library of pitch deck templates. It offers presentation formats taken straight from the successful startup pitches of various companies and offers a range of unique, proven effective opportunities for emerging businesses.
Image source: Slidebean
4th Google Slides
Google Slides is a GSuite staple – and for good reason. It’s an accessible, no-nonsense, and free solution that virtually any startup can figure out. With hundreds of pitch deck template integrations available online, Google Slides is one of the better options companies have when creating their pitch decks.
Image source: PoweredTemplate
Let’s see what these concepts, structures and points look like in practice.
Pitch deck examples
Here’s a look at some pitch decks that produced results.
Pitch decks won’t go away anytime soon – no matter how many pitches begin in the form of crazy stunts. Sometimes a pitch just requires a simple, no-frills presentation. In these cases, you need to bite the ball, swallow your creative pride, and open up the presentation software of your choice.
Given that it’s fundamentally anchored in startup culture, it is in your best interest to understand the nature of pitch decks and get an idea of how to get them right.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published February 16, 2017 and has been updated for the sake of completeness.