How to create an effective pitch deck

How to create an effective pitch deck

in Dec 07, 2019

A pitch deck is one of the most basic presentation tools you’ll use, when speaking to investors. A common problem with pitch decks is that specialised professionals – such as engineers or lawyers – tend to craft pitch decks that are purely technical (this is, after all, the kind of presentation they use at work).

However, a pitch deck aimed at investors needs to be different. Beyond basic information, it must convey the following:

  1. The “flavour” of your company,
  2. The core team’s experiences and achievements, not their qualities
  3. The problem that your product or service is solving
  4. Your solution, and how it differentiates from other available solutions
  5. Traction and major milestones
  6. Marketing strategy
  7. Financial projections
  8. Clear Call to Action (CTA)

The “flavour” of your company

This is not one specific slide; rather, it refers to your choice of font and images, as well as the way you choose to express ideas.

For example, if you are catering to mainly corporate customers, let that be your company’s “flavour” – use professional photographs instead of cartoons or line-art images, and avoid abbreviations or slang.

Try to maintain consistency throughout your pitch deck. Avoid using descriptive terms that differ from your other material (e.g. if your marketing material emphasises “efficient engine-cleaning technology”, then your pitch deck should include this same line in the initial product description).

The core team’s experiences and achievements, not their qualities

A good example of how to do this is in the pitch deck for Square, a payment site that raised millions in funding.

Note how the management team’s experience is highlighted, instead of qualities (the deck shows the team members have been with major giants Twitter, Google, PayPal, etc.)

Qualities are traits such as being passionate, hard-working, warm, and so forth. While these are all great, you only have the investors’ attention for a limited time. As such, it’s more convincing to use that time to list the team’s achievements and experience.

The problem that your product or service is solving, and the scope of that problem

The pitch deck for Airbnb (a start-up unicorn that’s now valued at around US$30 billion) begins with an immediate presentation of the problem:

Prices of hotels, the disconnection between hotel living and the local culture, and the difficulty in finding a local host. Airbnb, quite clearly, knew that the entire weight of its argument hung on the significant issue it was solving.

This direct approach can also work for you: put the problem upfront, before talking about your team, your numbers, etc.

Your solution, and how it’s differentiated from other available solutions

After presenting your solution, don’t forget to differentiate it from what else is on the market. Check out LinkedIn’s pitch deck for Series B funding:

Rather than just explain they were a network for professionals, LinkedIn also explained its position relative to other social networks. It then proceeded to show how it differs from companies like Google or Alta Vista.

A good way to do this is to include a “Wow” statement. This is a declaration of your company’s position that is:

  • Clear – Have a value proposition that is direct, such as “our device reduces power consumption by up to 50 per cent”. Avoid cluttering your value proposition with too much technical jargon (remember your investors may not have an engineering background, even if they’ve been in a related industry for a few years).
  • Credible – Avoid exaggerated and unquantifiable statements, such as “this will be an industry game changer”. Stick to your growth figures and revenue projections, if you want to prove your point.
  • Compelling – Don’t “dull” your product or service by associating it too closely with existing ones. Saying your service is “kind of like fibre optics” will make it dull; saying you can “increase data transmission by 20 per cent at zero incremental cost” will make your audience sit up.This is a great way to show investors that you know your competition, and have a strategy to get ahead of them

Traction and major milestones

Do take a slide to show how much things have progressed, since the company got started. This isn’t just about revenue – it’s also about how many more users you have, or even where your product or service has been featured.

Check out, for example, Adpushup’s pitch deck from 2014: they were quick to show investors how they’d grown from 500,000 impressions in March 2014, to 32 million impressions in June 2014.

Be strategic in what kind of growth you choose to showcase. If the number of users is more impressive than revenue (as may be the case for many new start-ups), then perhaps that’s where you should draw the investors’ attention. Show the best parts of your progress, outside of dollars.

Marketing strategy

This is commonly left out of pitch decks, and that’s a mistake. Investors need to have an idea of your marketing strategy, as that affects the level of spending to come (e.g. digital marketing is a lot cheaper than cold-calling or flying in VCs to pitch to them).

While you don’t have to give the cost of your advertising, sponsorships, etc., it helps to explain how you’re keeping costs lean. For example, you may want to explain that you’re teaming up with another company to create content, so as to lower your own digital marketing costs (e.g. a company teaming up with a car sales website to put out content about a new fuel injector component).

You may want to leave this slide in the hands of your CMO to explain, if you have one.

Financial projections

Your financial projections shouldn’t stop at just how much the company paid. Take a hint from personal finance app Mint:

Note that in Mint’s pitch deck, it’s financials are eventually followed up by a series of projections (slide 15), and an exit projection (slide 16). While your investors are certainly able to come up with their own numbers, don’t let them do the work!

You want them to pay attention to your numbers; their personal projections may end up being a lot less optimistic than yours.

Clear Call to Action (CTA)

Don’t just leave the investors to wander off at the end of your presentation! Have a clear CTA, on what you want them to do next. This can be as simple as saying “we’d like you consider an investment of $X, which could result in…etc.”

This is, in essence, the “closing” portion of the sale.

Throughout the process, keep it short and simple

Try to avoid presentations that last more than 25 minutes. In addition, ensure that you avoid heavy use of jargon, and overly-long explanations.

To practice, try pitching the idea to a friend who has no idea about your product or service. If they can’t understand it, there’s a good chance the investors won’t either.

You can also check out IES-INCA’s resources and mentorship programmes, where we can connect you with someone in a position to help.