The prospect of meeting an investor makes the startup founder nervous a lot. It’s not a surprise. Since after a short conversation, you can provide your project with future or lose prospects. It all depends on the ability to present your idea effectively to investors.
If you’re raising money for your business, having an impressive pitch deck is a key component in your fundraising toolkit. A great pitch deck gets potential investors excited about your idea and engages them in a conversation about your business, hopefully leading to an investment.
In this article, we’re going to give you the recipe for what you should include in your own pitch deck. We’ve seen all different kinds of pitch decks and presentation styles and found that there’s a simple formula that just works.
What is a Pitch Deck?
A pitch deck, also known as a slide deck or start-up deck, is a presentation that provides a brief but informative overview of your business. It should cover the key points of your business plan, the products and services you provide, high-level financial projections, and funding needs. Your pitch deck should work well on its own as a visual document, but it will primarily be used as a tool to tell the story of your business.
There are several forms of pitch decks, like:
Elevator pitch conventionally lasts one minute, in practice even less: up to 30 seconds. This is a short presentation that could be given during an elevator ride.
Idea pitch is a different format, used in contests and events. This is a three-minute story in which you introduce yourself, talk about problems and their solutions, business model, market size.
Funding pitch lasts up to 10 minutes, in which you can supplement the presentation with a strategy, details of the current situation, plans and the amount of required investments.
What is the Purpose of a Pitch Deck?
The goal of your pitch deck is not to raise money. What? I know that doesn’t sound right, but the real goal of your pitch deck is to get to the next meeting.
Remember, your pitch deck and pitch presentation are probably some of the first things that an investor will see to learn more about your company. And because investments rarely are made after just one meeting, your goal is to spark interest in your company. You want investors to ask for more after they hear your pitch and not just show you to the door.
So, while a solid pitch deck is critical to raising money, the key goal of the deck is to get to the next step—another meeting and a request for more information.
Ingredient # 1: Pitch Structure
This is the most crucial ingredient of the pitch. Why? Let's put it bluntly: you are the thousandth person investors will listen to. They do not have time and energy to listen to a hour long story about your business. The best thing to do is stick to the precise structure.
While every business is different, we’ve found that the following format works for most businesses and is most likely to generate interest from potential investors. Take a look at the major 11 slides you need to include in the structure of your own deck:
1. Vision and Value Proposition
This is a quick one-sentence overview of your business and the value that you provide to your customers. Keep it short and simple. A great way to think about this slide is to imagine it as a short tweet—describe your business in 140 characters or less in a way your parents would understand.
2. The Problem
If you aren’t solving some problem in the world, you are going to have a long uphill climb with your business. Use this slide to talk about the problem you are solving and who has the problem. You can talk about the current solutions in the market, but don’t spend too much time on the competitive landscape on this slide—you’ll have a chance to do that later on.
Ideally, try and tell a relatable story when you are defining the problem. The more you can make the problem as real as possible, the more your investors will understand your business and your goals.
3. Target Market and Opportunity
Use this slide to expand on who your ideal customer is and how many of them there are. What is the total market size and how do you position your company in the market? If you can find the data, investors will want to know how much people or businesses currently spend in the market to get a sense of the total market size. This is where you tell the story about the scope and scale of the problem you are solving.
4. The Solution
Finally, you get to dive into describing your product or service. Describe how customers use your product and how it addresses the problems that you outlined on slide two.
Most entrepreneurs are very focused on their product when instead they need to be focused on their customers and the problems those customers face. Try and keep your pitch deck focused with this format and you’ll tell a better story. If possible, use pictures and stories when you describe your solution. Showing is nearly always better than telling.
5. Revenue Model or Business Model
Now that you’ve described your product or service, you need to talk about how it makes money. What do you charge and who pays the bills? You can also reference the competitive landscape here and discuss how your pricing fits into the larger market. Are you a premium, high-price offering, or a budget offering that undercuts existing solutions on the market?
6. Traction and Validation
If you already have sales or early adopters using your product, talk about that here. Investors want to see that you have proven some aspect of your business model as that reduces risk, so any proof you have that validates that your solution works to solve the problem you have identified is extremely powerful.
7. Marketing and Sales Strategy
How are you planning on getting customers’ attention and what will your sales process look like? Use this slide to outline your marketing and sales plan. You’ll want to detail the key tactics that you intend to use to get your product in front of prospective customers. If your marketing and sales process is different than your competitors, it’s important to highlight that here.
Why are you and your team the right people to build and grow this company? What experience do you have that others don’t? Highlight the key team members, their successes at other companies, and the key expertise that they bring to the table.
Even if you don’t have a complete team yet, identify the key positions that you still need to fill and why those positions are critical to company growth.
Investors will expect to see your financials: sales forecast, income statement (also called profit and loss statement), and cash flow forecast for at least three years. But, for your pitch deck, you shouldn’t have in-depth spreadsheets that will be difficult to read and consume in a presentation format. Limit yourself to charts that show sales, total customers, total expenses, and profits.
Remember to try and be realistic. Investors see “hockey stick” projections all the time and will mentally be cutting your projections in half. If you can explain your growth based on traction you already have or compared to a similar company in a related industry, that is extremely useful.
Even if you are opening up an entirely new market, your potential customers are using alternative solutions to solve their problems today. Describe how you fit into the competitive landscape and how you’re different than the competitors and alternatives that are on the market today.
11. Investment and Use of Funds
Finally, it’s time to actually ask for the money. That’s why you’re doing this pitch deck, right? I know—I said that this pitch deck isn’t about actually getting funded. That’s still true, but your potential investors do need to know how much money you are looking for.
More importantly, you need to be able to explain why you need the amount of money you are asking for and how you plan on using the money. Investors will want to know how their money is being used and how it is going to help you achieve the goals you are setting out for your business. If you already have some investors on board, now is when you should be talking about those other investors and why they chose to invest.
Ingredient # 2: Hooks
Just like we can count on the first few seconds of a first impression to be golden and unalterable, audiences are typically lost after about 5 minutes of a startup’s presentation. The audience’s attention curve is known to go up and down intermittently after the opening until a wrap-up’s final peak. Take this into account to keep investors motivated and interested.
The speaker should grab the audience's attention within the first minutes. In other cases, investors will be bored and won’t be able to focus on the idea of your pitch. For that, having an excellent hook as an attention-getter is the most effective business presentation opener.
There are no follow-through recipes to produce a great attention-getter. You need to find what will be natural for your business, whether it will be storytelling or putting yourself in the audience’s shoes. The better you can tailor your hooks to your specific business, the more powerfully your business presentation start will serve the purpose of captivating your audience.
Ingredient # 3: Design
If you're not a designer, it can be tough to design a compelling and beautiful presentation. Create a concise narrative that tells your business story and is backed by well-crafted slides.
1. Never Underestimate the Power of Strong Photography
Consider your slides as supporting material while you're presenting. You want the crowd to pay attention to you and your narrative and secondarily your presentation slides. Not the other way around.
Aim to keep to a single photo for each point you make. It's often enough supporting material for you to tell your story and get your message across. It's wise to keep text to the very minimum in your presentation. This ensures people are paying attention to you instead of getting distracted because you've overdone it with your slide designs.
2. Use the Right Colors, Contrast, and White Space
Color. Because design comes down to effective communication, you can understand the importance of colors and white space in your presentation deck design. This is why it's important to find color schemes that do the work for you. If your company has a style guide, use that as a foundation to pick the right colors. If not, you can use a website such as Adobe's Color, which has a nice selection of ready-made color themes.
Contrast. Contrast is something to keep in mind as well when designing the best pitch presentations. Make sure that your text is legible. You can assure this by having enough contrast between your slide background color (typically white or light-grey) and having an opposite text color (such as black for example).
White Space. Finally, you've got white space. The easiest way to deal with white space effectively is to give your slides enough breathing room. Simply put, don't put too many elements on a single slide. Give every element on a slide enough space. This makes your slide easier to digest. Otherwise, your slides will come across as unprofessional and disorganized. You'll just end up confusing your audience.
3. Say No to Animations
One of the trickier aspects of a slide design pitch deck to master is the use of animations. In general, the use of animations isn't recommended because:
They tend to slow your presentation, especially if you're adding a transition animation between each slide.
They tend to distract the audience while you're constructing an argument or story.
Finally, they might feel cheesy while you're pitching in a professional context (such as when asking for funding from potential investors).
4. Apply the Rule of Three
Another psychological trick is that people tend to remember everything better in pairs of three. This can be helpful while designing slides. If you're adding keywords or benefits or any other type of list on a slide, it works much better to summarize them in three elements (or add an extra one if you only have two). An example of applying the rule of three can be describing product benefits: a product that's beautiful, sustainable, and high-quality.
5. Convey a Single Message
When you're designing a pitch deck presentation, it's best to stick to a single message. Forcing yourself to focus on one message helps you to put all your energy into getting your point across clearly. Practically, this translates into the following:
What's the single message of my presentation as a whole?
What's the single message of my next slide?
Especially the last question—the message of your slide—helps you identify what the best possible design for your slide would be. The ideal slide design might be a few words, a strong photo, or perhaps even a single number. The easiest advice to apply is to simply use as little text as possible.
Ingredient # 4: Intelligible and expressive speech
If you are often asked to repeat the sentence or if you are asked to speak more slowly, then these are signals that your speech is not expressive enough. You can try the following tips:
Rehearse. There’s no easy way to go around this; you either rehearsed it, or you didn’t. And the major consideration there is, results truly show.
Keep eye contact. Most presenters have a hard time with eye contact. And mastering a presentation has a lot to do with eye contact, actually. It defines how you come across to your audience, keeping the public engaged and, ultimately, losing fear as you feel a grasp over the room in front of you.
Use your voice and speak up. Now, giving a presentation or speaking in front of an audience is all about being able to see and hear whoever is on stage. Make sure people can actually see and hear you. Tied a bit to confidence and your experience with being on stage as a whole, the volume with which one speaks is often the first thing over which we lose control as we attempt to speak in front of an audience.
Keep It Short & Simple. Keeping your presentations short and simple is one of the eldest pieces of advice. Though we need to go through a set amount of slides that make sense in the overall scope of what we’re doing, make sure to focus on the main message and the purpose why you are presenting; narrow down what your core message is, and let the rest speak on its own, if you can.
It's never to late to improve your public speaking skills:
Ingredient # 5: Explaining
This is perhaps one of the most difficult skills. Presenting your business idea you should be clear and concise while be able to explain the significance of it. This skill comes with training.
For example, you can train your pitches on the subway, right in the train car. During the trip, you should pretend to speak on the phone with the interlocutor, but your gaze will be directed at the passengers standing next to you or sitting opposite. Such a hack helps to develop not even one trick, but several. What it gives: the ability to talk about your project and make it clear, polish phrases and successful remarks, memorize the text, the skill to "look" at people.
Of course, for the purity of the experiment, we also recommend that you conduct rehearsals in front of real people or specialized consultants who, unlike passengers in the metro, are ready to listen to you. They will provide feedback on both content and behavior.
Top Examples of the Perfect Pitch Decks
Airbnb is a platform that allows people to list, find, and rent lodging. This company is one of the greatest startup success stories of our time. Airbnb’s pitch deck has become a most used reference for entrepreneurs around the world.
Favorite takeaway: The intro. It’s all about hooking your audience. You need to describe your business using as few words as possible. Imagine telling a 5-year-old what your business is about. If you can’t do that, it’s time to put some time into nailing it down.
Buffer is a social media scheduling platform that helps you schedule content to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. The almighty startup pitch deck that helped Buffer to raise half a million dollars gained popularity by becoming one of the first pitch decks openly shared online. The founder decided to put it up to help other startups to raise funds.
Favorite takeaway: Similar to Facebook, the deck was based on solid numbers from Buffer’s users (e.g., 800 users, $150,000 annual revenue run rate, etc.)
Mixpanel is an advanced analytics platform for mobile and the web. They not only measure page views but also analyze the actions people take. This is the series-B deck for Mixpanel that helped them raise over $65 million.
Favorite takeaway: The deck started off with a problem: people guessing their analytics. It followed up by providing their solution to that problem and, ultimately, their competitive advantage.
Start Developing Your Pitch Deck
We hope that the article was useful to you. You can also find plenty of additional advice visiting Slidebean. You’ll learn how to deliver an impactful elevator speech and find all the resources you need to perfect your pitch.
If you still have some questions or you are looking for a reliable tech partner to implement your idea into a robust software, drop us a line in a contact form and we will help you!