Crafting a successful pitch deck is no easy task for any startup. The first hurdle is usually a matter of resources — a good deck won’t come together in one afternoon, and a great deck will need thoughtful creative direction to be engaging and on-brand. It’s also really, really hard to talk about your company in a way that anyone will understand, after being wrapped up in building the business from the ground up. While every company is different, the path to a winning deck can be fairly straightforward if you stick to five principles that we have relied on over the years with dozens of startups.
Many decks start out with market analysis right off the bat, throwing dramatic stats left and right, betting that the big numbers will get the investors’ attention. This will only leave them guessing what it is that you bring to the table until you finally, around slide 10, decide to explain what it is that your startup does. A better approach is to make a clear and compelling introduction right away, giving a condensed summary of what you do, how you’re different, and what value you bring to people’s lives. This will help get the investor on your team as you walk them more confidently through the industry landscape.
Follow a narrative
The best decks tell a great story that potential investors will understand, get excited about, and want to be a part of. It’s impossible to accomplish this by just stringing data sets along with projections and some benefits sprinkled around for good measure. Think about the structure of your deck as having a starting point, a problem, and a hopeful future lead by a hero (your startup) who knows what they’re doing. Keeping with your brand voice, use clear section headlines to guide people through a natural content flow.
Use graphics thoughtfully
Decks can pack a hefty amount of information, and while investors are primed for that, they see a ton of decks. The more digestible you can make the content, the better. Graphics are a fantastic tool for illustrating information visually and can help bring life to the dreariest of pitch decks. That said, don’t just throw graphics around like emojis in your DMs. A visual representation of a data point or a product benefit can be very useful, but random graphics that aren’t needed to understand the content only create clutter. Be sure to have outlined an illustration style for your graphics before you start, to make sure everything feels cohesive and on-brand.
Involve your design team
Whether that means your graphic design intern, in-house designer or your branding agency, it’s important to bring in design resources not just to ‘make it pretty’, but to help take all of the above points to the next level. A good designer will help present the information in a way that is effective, engaging, and easy-to-read. A well-designed deck will leave a memorable impression on an investor. Your deck is likely not the only one they’ll see this week or even today, so making sure your presentation is polished, on-brand and professional is not vanity — it’s what smart startups do.
Print it out
You won’t always be able to give your pitch and present your deck in person. Decks are often reviewed remotely or passed around among colleagues. When printed, the deck should be able to stand on its own. If you typically elaborate on certain points or leave important parts to be explained in-person, make sure at least the key elements are there. The deck by itself should paint a complete picture, be easy to understand, and need no further explanation to make your case. Also, it literally should be printable, so don’t go designing widescreen decks that will get cut off on everyone’s printer.
My final two cents? Please ditch Powerpoint. Everyone will thank you. I wholeheartedly recommend Figma.