How to Tune Your Pitch Deck to Impress Investors
Advice for Creating a Pitch Deck That Will Stand Out from the Competition
What is the actual definition of a pitch? It’s mostly about addressing an opportunity. Typically, a pitch is a one-time chance to position your business, product, or service and the value you are offering. It’s often your only shot at winning over an audience. On a good day, it can give you a significant head start against potential competitors, whether you’re aware of them or not.
It’s Not About You
While it may feel empowering or emboldening to be at the center of attention, your presentation must focus on the audience first. Humans are wired to remember stories and metaphors. It’s the best way to engage people. We’re not talking about The Odyssey here, but your argument should be a journey, one where your audience sees a part of the world differently after you’ve wrapped up your pitch.
Frame Your Pitch As A Story
Every great journey has a beginning, and it’s your job to find the right place to start. Consider how much your audience may or may not know about the topic.
Many pitch decks try to cover too much ground in one fell swoop. You can’t summarize all the ins and outs of a product solution in a single talk. If you try, you won’t have time to include key details, and your pitch will disappear into abstract language. You need specific examples to flesh out your ideas. Think of these as clues for your audience.
Speaking of clues, many of the best talks have a narrative structure that loosely follows a detective story. The speaker starts out by presenting a problem, then describes the search for a solution. At some point, you unveil an “aha” moment, and the audience’s perspective shifts in a meaningful way.
Explain The "why", But Don't Neglect The "what"
Beginning with the “why” so your audience will care about your pitch is a popular tactic, but don’t lose sight of the fact that the meat of your pitch is in the “what.” Countless pitches have been delivered that leave the audience thinking, “That all sounded great, but what is it you are actually selling?”
The most engaging speakers do a superb job of very quickly introducing the topic before explaining why they care so deeply about it and convincing the audience members that they should, too. The trick here is in the introduction of the topic. Framing your pitch as a metaphorical story or journey arc is great, but unless you make it crystal clear just what it is you’re pitching, your presentation will fall flat.
Much has been written on what to include in your pitch deck. One authority on this subject is Guy Kawasaki. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because he’s a successful venture capitalist who has written many popular business and marketing books. Before Guy was an author or an investor, he was an Apple employee, back in the days when meeting with the boss meant a walk and talk with Steve Jobs. Kawasaki was the original Apple evangelist responsible for introducing the Macintosh computer to the world. Let’s just say he’s made more than a few presentations over his career, and been on the receiving end of countless more. Guy published his now-famous pitch deck guidance in an article titled, “The Only 10 Slides You Need in Your Pitch”. In this piece, Guy introduces his 10/20/30 Rule: “a pitch should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points.” Guy goes on to outline the specific content of the ten slides. It’s a good read.
Like all rules of thumb, Kawasaki’s guidance should be taken with a grain of salt. Rules like these are meant to infuse a little structure and discipline into your pitch, not to dictate your every step. Remember the words of Salvador Dali: “First learn the rules, then break them!”.1
Connect The Dots
Keep in mind, your audience is seeing your presentation for the first time – so, connect the dots!
- Avoid unnecessary acronyms or abstract insider language.
- Keep your slides uncluttered. Leave something for the verbal overlay.
- Populate your slides with thought-anchoring visuals and information.
- Include your name & company on every slide.
Don’t Forget To Include Your Ask!
You’d be surprised how many pitch decks never articulate a specific ask. If you’ve ever watched Shark Tank, how does every pitch begin? “I’m here seeking X amount of dollars for N percent of my company.” No misunderstanding that. But an ask may not always be about money. Maybe you’re trying to establish an advisory board, or you’re seeking a strategic partner. Perhaps it's a key resource or an introduction. Whatever it is you’re after, make sure you state it clearly. Doing this upfront accomplishes a couple of things: It makes sure you don’t run out of time and/or forget, and it provides context for the entire presentation, becoming part of the story we discussed above.
Utilize Creative Professionals
In this age of constant marketing bombardment and instant gratification, our attention spans continue to grow shorter and shorter. Our minds have learned to filter out most anything that appears amateurish or unclear. We all recognize professional marketing when we see it. So unless you’re a talented graphic designer in your own right, you would do well to hire a professional. And even if you are a designer, you may be pleasantly surprised at how refreshing it is to have someone else’s professional sensibilities contributing to your success.
And That’s A Wrap
While tending to these details of your presentation may seem tedious, the truth is that many of the people you hope to impress will be looking for mechanical shortcomings as a quick way to weed you out from the competition. Even if that’s not the case, getting all these elements aligned will help your message to shine through loud and clear. In the race to get your business across the finish line, eliminating any potential hurdles for your investors to jump over can only be a good thing.
1 Some prefer to credit Picasso with this thought, but in fact, he said, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” Mojo founder, Steve Lomas, agrees with those who believe Picasso was paraphrasing Dali.