Congrats on your brilliant business idea. You’ve started a great company and you’re enjoying some fame. Good for you! To feel complete, all you need now is some cash to transform a vision into a full-blown business. Crafting a killer pitch deck and preparing the most engaging presentation is the best bet you can make to secure finance and skyrocket your startup.
Your pitch deck is the most memorable PowerPoint presentation you’ll ever make. Those 10-15 slides packed with substantial information are all you need to convince your listeners to embrace your idea and help you act on it, transforming it into a profitable business. For your pitch deck to have substance, it needs to mold to your personality. To attain that supreme goal and make yourself impossible to forget, check out these 6 and ½ tips for preparing a killer pitch deck.
1. Your pitch deck is NOT your script
Reading off your slides is one of the deadliest sins of pitch decking to investors. You don’t want to show them how good of a news broadcaster you are! You pitch deck is meant meant to support you, help you back up essentials, and amplify your voice. Each and every one of your 10-15 slides should convey an idea, support a claim, or show some facts. Investors will have a quick look at it to grasp the main point, but their eyes will be on you. Rock the slides, don’t let the slides rock you.
Stay focused on design that emphasizes important facts and numbers, and spice it up with your personality, voice tone, and outstanding public speaking skills. Tell them a quick story that can be summed up in that simple sentence presented on your slides. Convey one idea at the time and keep things concise and clear: problem - solution - business model - competition - market analysis - MVP.
2. Know your players
Pitching 20 times a month can be challenging. To make things easier for you, it pays to know who you’re dealing with. Before the presentation, get to know your investors by doing a little research. Who are they? How often do they write fat checks? Do they have a preferred niche? Investors are humans, too. They have goals, fears, and expectations.
For example, investor X has invested in a startup just like yours, but failed. Investor Z cuts people off 5 minutes into their pitch decks, and investor Y tells you he’s in a hurry, and that you only have 10 minutes to make your pitch. How do you react? Such circumstances will inevitably impact your voice tone, flow, and overall mood. The magic formula: learn to adapt. No matter what you do, failure will happen and you have to be ok with that. It pays to know the players to have a shot at winning the game.
3. A rock solid “foundation” helps you build the “sturdiest building”
Let’s do a quick exercise: you have 2 sentences and 10 words each to convey and sell your idea. How would you emphasize your startup’s main goals and core strategy without exceeding the word limit? Before opening your PowerPoint presentation, you are advised to hone that brilliant idea. Aim the presentation at your central concept, steering clear of fluffy stories and exaggerated hand gestures that could distract investors from what you’re saying.
It’s tempting to fall into the storytelling trap. Sure, your idea is great and the problem you’re trying to solve is huge. But you’re not a storyteller. Your focus should be on emphasizing the biggest pain point your startup is based upon. A rock solid “foundation” is everything you need to help investors understand you’re gonna build the sturdiest “building”.
Just like all buildings are built from similar elements - foundation, walls, windows, frame, etc. - they all have unique features. Without a proper structure your building will most likely collapse; just like a pitch without the right elements.
4. A pitch deck, not a commercial
Spending time on branding and designing the best pitch deck using the best fonts and colors is not enough to convince an investor to write you a fat check. It’s great that you care about visuals, but your pitch deck is not a commercial. You’ll be presenting your business model in front of business-focused people and investors who couldn’t care less about pretty shades. What matters is the information featured on your slides; those 10 to 15 facts that sum up everything you do.
Kudos on that innovative idea of developing the most comfortable baby swaddle. But do you actually think investors will get all sentimental if you place beautifully wrapped babies on your pitch deck slides? Not really. They’ll want to know: “What’s in it for me if I invest in your baby swaddle startup?” Sure, design matters and it should convey your business identity. But there’s no reason to get all soft and gentle.
Pitching to investors is a high-stakes negotiation that you can only win if you leverage the right tools. An argumentative, well-designed presentation that emphasizes a problem and provides a solution is essential to getting 50% of an investor’s attention. The remaining 50% lies in your capacity to wow them with your personality. Focus on selling convincing data to change perceptions and deliver intriguing stories that can alter people’s minds.
5. Give your audience numbers they can remember
What investors want from you and your startup differs from what your customers, friends and family want. If the numbers you provide are not wrapped up nicely in an easy-to-understand slide, your pitch won’t end on a happy note. Before deciding to take that leap of faith, investors will want you to convey the following:
- Market opportunity
- Business model
- MVP or proprietary tech
- Competitive landscape
- Competitive advantage
- Go-to-market strategy
You probably have numbers and statistics mentioned on nearly every single slide of your pitch deck. If you want an investor’s attention, your job is to stick to those that are easy to remember. Eli Epstein from CoFoundersLab highlights that:
“Investors reviewing pitch decks spend 23 percent of their time on the financial slides, so it can be tempting to fill them with every figure and projection imaginable. Steer clear of this bait. They aren’t interested in a barrage of numbers that are really just broad estimates. Instead, they seek honest projections and a thoughtful analysis of how you calculated them and how you plan to achieve them.”
6. Close the pitch with a bang
When pitching to investors, a killer introduction is just as important as a killer conclusion. Capturing attention needs to be done from start to end in order to secure a place on the mind of your audience after you’ve exited the room. Take some time to brainstorm an end worthy of an investor’s attention. Get a little creative with the formula call-to-action + fearless sign-off.
Use the call-to-action to guide investors towards the outcome you’d like to have; it can either be a second meeting or a fat check to finance your idea. A fearless sign-off is the surprise element that makes an investor remember you in the long run. It can be catchy phrase, a quote, a statement, or even a question. Regardless, plan an exciting ending to set yourself apart.
6 & ½ . Keep things simple, short & straightforward
CEO and co-founder of About.me, Tony Conrad, emphasizes that:
“Investors have a notoriously short attention span. The longer your presentation, the higher the chance your audience’s eyes are going to glaze over and their minds are going to wander straight to last night’s episode of “The Walking Dead.”
When pitching to investors, it pays to keep things short just to let them know you’re not there to waste their time. State up-front that your pitch has 10 slides, and that you only need 20 minutes of their time to make your point. Last but not least, remember to be straightforward. Practice full transparency and avoid the temptation of hiding stuff. Remember, karma’s real Bit*ch!
You and your pitch deck go together like yin and yang. Those 10-ish slides you’ve prepared won’t finance your business; you will. On the one hand, great design tells a story from a visual perspective. On the other, numbers and statistics highlight pain points and provide solutions. But at the end of the day, it’s all about the person rocking the slides; the startup founder that can convey a message leveraging personality, character, and everything in between. Investors don’t invest in ideas. They invest in the people behind the idea. Your pitch deck is meant to support, reinforce and illustrate key elements of your business, not take your place.
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