Your pitch deck is the crown jewel of your fundraising efforts. As a startup founder, it can be difficult to distill your entire journey, along with your hopes for the future, into a single conversation. However, telling a compelling story is essential to ensure potential investors want to know more. A pitch deck that is concise, well-planned, and thoughtfully designed can elevate your story and help make a more engaging case for your product or service. We have pulled together some pitch deck best practices to ensure your presentation is investor-ready.
Storytelling is king. If you can string who, why, what, and how into a seamless and compelling story with a sprinkle of hard data and clear vision, you are well on your way to productive conversations! Your intention for the pitch meeting is to pull your investor in, catch their eye with the visuals and inspire them to believe in your business. It should not be an intricate presentation of your strategic plan or a detailed exploration of your market research and customer data.
In order to spark interest and move on to the next step, present your company’s value by telling stories about how your customers use your product, how they currently experience problems that need to be solved, and how your company will make the lives of your customers better.
Although only 58% of successful pitch decks include financials, investors typically spend the most time on these slides. Not all decks contain financials, mainly because seed stage startups typically don’t have financial results or a foundation for projections. As you make your decision on whether or not to include this information, here are some pitch deck best practices to consider:
What to include
If you are planning to include financials, our CEO recommends separating the financials into current status and future state (with funding) on 1-2 slides, depending on space limitations. It is good to be able to present a basic financial forecast, with a burn rate and breakpoint. You can support your financial discussion with charts that show sales, total customers, total expenses, and profits. The investor will want to know what you expect to accomplish with the funds, not just how you will use the money.
Traction can enhance your story when financials don’t
Traction can be a very good conversation to have in lieu of hard numbers. What success have you seen thus far? What are your early adopters saying about you? How does your current success combine with your market size/opportunity and go-to-market strategy to help you hit your key metrics over the next 6–18 months, as well as your 3 year revenue projections.
Traction and positive financial success are optimal
If you can present your growth based on traction you already have or compared to a similar company in a related industry, you are positioning yourself to make a very effective case for investment.
According to a 2016 study on Venture Capitalists’ deal decisions, 64% of early stage investors and 42% of late stage investors said that the team has the most impact on the success of an investment, whereas the product/technology has less importance during the investment decision process. Yes, your product or service and its ability to disrupt is a major factor, but your team is a close second. Investors want to know who’s involved and if they have the experience and passion to make your startup successful through all the challenges of running a business.
According to DocSend’s study on pitch decks that were sent to investors, most successful pitch decks were viewed for an average of 3 minutes and 44 seconds with 22.8 seconds typically spent on the team slide. This amount of time is second only to the financials. Here are a few pitch deck best practices to make the value of your team a quick read:
Make your images look as uniform as possible. Team photos should be cropped so that everyone’s head is roughly the same size. Avoid using selfies.
Use bullets and only include the most relevant achievements/qualifications that make them vital to your team. 12 bullets per person is not where you want investors to spend their time.
Make sure everyone’s information is edited to use consistent language. If one person is using full sentences, ampersands, contractions, etc. make sure those are used consistently across each description.
Lastly, Pitch Deck design is more than the visual appeal of your fonts and colors. It’s about building brand equity from the very start. A well designed deck can go a long way to increasing your credibility and perceived value. If it looks thrown together and unrefined, it is easy to assume that it matches your approach to business. That is not to say you need extravagant design, but being mindful of these things can make your deck look refined without a lot of effort:
Consistent font usage is essential to maintaining your brand’s visual identity. Make sure your brand fonts are installed on the computer that you plan to present from. If you are sending a copy of your pitch deck or you are presenting from a device that you are unfamiliar with, using a PDF will make sure that all visual elements appear as expected. This option prevents the use of transitions, animations, and interactive/media elements, but it will ensure that anyone who looks at the deck will see it as you intended – with your chosen formatting.
Photos, Charts, and Icons
Pitch decks are all about quick and efficient communication. Look at your content or presentation. How much of the conversation can you make visual? Can you cut out some of the words with a graphic? Photographs can help emphasize emotional points.
Infographics, pictographs, and charts are very useful for comparing, contrasting, or showing relationships in data. Take every opportunity possible to make your pitch deck a quick read. After you have core content developed, working with a designer can relieve some of the pressure that creating and using the visual aspects of a brand may cause.
12% of the decks that were sent, in the DocSend study, were reviewed from a mobile device. It may not be a primary consideration, but your deck should be minimally mobile-friendly. An abundance of small text is not the best idea. Keeping font sizes above 14pt and limiting the number of words on each slide to an approximately 25 second read time will help you stay on target.
Implementing Pitch Deck Best Practices
Distilling your grand brainchild and bright future into a few slides is not an easy task. To help you implement these pitch deck best practices, we created an easy checklist for you to use while building your pitch. Download it for free here.
Remember that your goal is to make investors want to know more, not to tell them every detail about your business. Tell a compelling story and make your pitch deck the clean-cut wingman that chimes in to back you at the right time, every time.