Content is King
Have you ever sat through a pitch deck or presentation that was just one massive wall of text?
You know the ones I mean, the wordy slides that the presenter just reads off of. No bullet points, no images… just lines and lines of droning text that mean absolutely nothing.
I've sat through many investment pitches like that in my time, and you know what? The harder a pitch is to read, the less likely it is to get funding.
So how do you say no to 'death by PowerPoint' with awesome pitch deck visuals and content that punches hard?
When you're pitching, the key is to make your slides as insightful and interesting as possible. You want your audience to stand to attention, punch the air and go, 'yes – this is a business idea I can get behind!'
The best way to do this? Bringing in some brilliant content and visuals.
In a previous playbooks, we looked at the best slides to have in your pitch deck. Now, we're going to see what to include.
This is a long article as we'll review each slide individually, so get the snacks in.
Trust me though; you're not going to want to miss out.
Quick note: You don't have to include all the slides below in your pitch deck. Only include the slides that you know will add value to your presentation. I don't want your prospective investor complaining to me that they had to sit through a 10-hour slide show.
Starting off with the basics: Cover slide
99% of all pitch decks include a cover slide. The other 1%... eh, I don't want to talk about them.
A cover slide sets the scene for your entire pitch. It introduces the audience to your business, tells them about your vision and lets them know what they can look forward to.
Your cover slide should show what you do at a glance. You want your investor to look at it and say: 'Oh cool, this is an eCommerce app' or 'awesome – I always wanted to get into healthcare technology'.
Your tagline, logo, even your colour scheme, should work together to get your audience excited about who you are.
What do you need to include on your cover slide? There are a couple of options:
Just your logo
The most straightforward cover is a good logo and a branded background. Not got either of these? Get a graphic designer to create them for you – trust me, it's worth it.
I'm not a fan of just having a logo on a cover slide as it's wasted real estate. With this in mind…
A logo and tagline
A tagline tells your audience a little more about your scaleup. It needs to be catchy, easy to read and insightful.
Your tagline should be your vision, a product marketing line or your scaleup's big hairy audacious goal (BHAG).
If you want to know more about creating a tagline that works well, check out this article about drafting the perfect soundbite.
A logo, tagline and product image/people
Want to add extra interest to your cover slide? Include a photo or image of your product so your audience can see it in action.
Personally, I'm not keen on laptop and app screenshots here as they can look bland but play around and see how you can get your product image to really pop.
Adding a photo of people interacting with your product can work well here. If you go down the stock image route, make sure not to pick something too cheesy. Ideally, you want no more than two people and for them to be looking towards your logo and tagline.
A logo, tagline and photo
If your pitch is for a service or a product that you can't get a good photo of, a simple picture can tell your audience a lot about your business.
For example, do you sell pet insurance or a pet tracking app? A cute photo of a puppy or kitten will be sure to catch the attention of your prospective investor. In the industry of selling experiences? Some inspirational images will get your audience's pulse rate racing.
Still stuck on what to include on your cover slide? Find another pitch cover you like and adapt it to your needs. Everything's a remix in the world of business.
Say hello to your business: Introduction/summary slide
I can never make my mind up about this slide. It can work well in some presentations, but in others, it just bombs.
An introduction can work well for B and C funding and add extra context, but for anything else, I'd stick with a high-quality cover slide.
It may feel counter-intuitive, but if you're sticking with an introduction slide, I'd include it at the end of your pitch. That way, you can use it to recap the rest of your deck.
You need to keep your intro slide short – many of the slides I've seen break the '60 words or less' rule and come across as cluttered. Use graphs, images and stats to keep things as interesting as possible but remember – everything you add needs to have value.
A perfect timeline: Company history slide
You don't always need a timeline in your pitch deck. Only include it if there is something unique about your business or an important message you need to convey.
Otherwise, you can just talk about it in the presentation, add it to your appendix or even better, just leave it out.
If you do include one, make it visual, make it exciting and make it relevant.
Identifying those pain points: Problem and user challenge slide
This slide is a critical one. If you can't convince an investor that there is something that is deeply broken, they won't be interested in how your product or service can solve the issue.
I've seen many good businesses make a complete hash of this slide. Their fatal mistake? Being too complicated.
The best slides are the simplest. Break the problem down and explain it in straightforward terms. Quantifiable data and social proof work well here.
Got a lot of information you need to convey? Split this slide into two or three. That way, you can get your point across without stuffing your sides full of content.
Eureka! I've got it: Solution slide
Like tacos and beer, the problem and solution slide are a match made in heaven! It's essential to make sure that whatever your problem slide says, your solution slide directly addresses how to resolve it.
Similar to the problem slide, you need to keep it simple and keep it brief. It can be easy to get sucked into the minutiae. Don't start going into detail about your product; you can do this later.
One thing to remember here: sometimes you can assume things as you're too close to the solution. While your solution may seem compelling to you, your potential investor might not understand it. It's always good to get an outside opinion on this one.
Why are we doing this now? Market timing slide
Again, not all pitches need this slide. As this slide can only typically be explained with walls of text, it's hard to make this slide seem interesting.
If it's essential to explain the state of the market in one dedicated slide, go for it. Otherwise, incorporate it into another slide (e.g. market overview or company history) or explain it in your voiceover.
How does it work? Product summary slide
If there's a time for some nifty visuals – this is it! This is where you need to show what your product or service is and how it works.
Don't have a product yet? No problem? Pictures, mock-ups and examples of prototypes/minimum viable products will do the job. Sell the vision instead.
I'm often asked if it's okay to do a live demo in place of a product summary. My response? Two letters, starts with N, ends with O. Screenshots or even a short video are sufficient.
With a live demo, two things will inevitably happen. One, you'll bore your audience. Two, the technology gods will not be on your side, and everything that can go wrong will go wrong.
Don't be afraid to split this section into two or three slides if you need to. This means you can get your crucial product points across without cramming everything into one slide.
The price is right: Business model slide
The critical thing with this slide? Answer the question. All investors will want to know how you make money so they know you can make an investment worth their while.
Keep things simple here, as it can be easy to go off-piste. If you have several revenue streams, focus on the main one - you can always include more information about the others in your appendix.
VCs love nothing more than active revenue streams. They'll be interested in how you plan to keep existing customers around for the long haul.
How's the market looking? Market size, shape and growth slide
Cold hard data is essential here. You need to prove you can capture a profitable market, or your investor will be putting their wallet away.
Most scaleups approach this slide with nested circles showing the:
Total available market (TAM)
Serviceable available market (SAM)
Serviceable obtainable market (SOM)
This way, you can demonstrate your current (and potential) market share.
Play this slide to your advantage. It's important to be realistic and back up your numbers, but it's just as important to sell how well-positioned you are.
Differentiate or die: Competitor slide
If anyone has told you this slide is entirely optional… feel free to laugh in their faces.
This slide is critical for not only detailing who your competitors are, but how you're better than them. If you don't include at least one competitor, you will come across as arrogant at best, and disorganised at worst.
Pick your competitors carefully. You don't want to go up against Apple, Meta or Airbnb. Define your niche and choose some solid competition in that space.
How can you compare and contrast against your rivals? A table shows who you're up against at a glance. Alternatively, a matrix can be insightful if it's done well. I repeat: if it's done well.
If you're going to do a 2 x 2 matrix, do it honestly – this means not automatically putting your company top-right!
My top tip? Show the competitor landscape now as well as how it will look in the future. Investors love this type of discussion and insight.
Your commentary can make or break this slide. Keep the visuals simple and use your voiceover to inform your investors about the market you're operating in.
Your defining USP: Competitive advantage slide
What makes you special compared to the rest of your competition? It's better to have one killer USP than several bland and boring ones.
Trust me, saying you're 12 months ahead of the competition is not an advantage. If anything, it's a disadvantage as they can avoid the mistakes you made first.
The best competitive advantages focus on:
The data you have available
The superior tech you use
It's important to be credible and unique here. Any proof or statistics you have will play well
We have the technology: Technology capabilities slide
This isn't a classic slide to include and can often fall flat as so much information needs to be conveyed.
If you want to show off your tech stack, do it in as visual and simplified a way as possible.
Think about your audience. Feel free to go all in if you're pitching to an investor who lives, sleeps, and breathes technology. If your prospective investor panics when Cortana talks to them, you may need to bring it down a notch.
To market, to market: Go-to-market slide
As it's likely that most of the funding you're asking for will go towards marketing your scaleup, it's essential to get this slide right. Data is definitely king here.
You can't go wrong focusing on your customer acquisition cost (CAC) as well as your customer retention rates. Who are your top customers, what are the best channels for acquiring customers, and how long does it take for customers to become profitable?
Multiple slides work well here. Use the first slide to describe your target customer, the second to how you'll market to them and the third to talk about your existing vs new markets.
Show me the money: Traction slide
Ah, the traction slide. Get this section of your pitch deck right, and your investor will be banging your door down to give you money.
A good traction slide shows that you've considered all the risks and know how your scaleup will grow and mature. Bring out your metrics, keep it simple and most of all… be honest. It's better to explain plateaus and dips than it is to try and sugar coat them.
Here's what you need to include for a traction slide that will bring results:
Usage growth. You need to show how your product or service has grown over time and how it will grow in the future. Simply showing how many active users you have is a good start. Be prepared to explain how many users there are at each price point
Product metrics. You can use a wide range of metrics here like NPS score, app store rankings, and sales conversions. Pick the one that works best and shows month-on-month improvement
Customer feedback. Customer reviews are your friend. Show what people think of your product or service, as well as your retention rates
Customer list. Pick your most relevant users and show them off – I recommend between 12 and 24 for the best impact. Make sure they're contactable in case your investor wants to do any due diligence
So… what do you do if you don't have any classic traction? You can get away with skipping this slide if you're new to the funding game.
However, if you've been around for a few years or have raised previous funding, investors will raise eyebrows if you leave it out.
As an alternative, talk about your pre-orders, partnerships, social proof and media coverage. Be careful with media coverage, as this can be bought rather than earned. Your audience will not be bothered that you paid Buzzfeed $500 for a shoutout.
Quick aside for you. You shouldn't be including anything in your traction slide, or in your whole pitch deck for that matter, which requires an NDA. Not at this stage of discussions anyway.
If you have real proprietary secrets, say so and leave it at that. A good investor will understand.
Trends are your friend: Finance and projections slide
There are very few problems that can't be solved by throwing money at them, so this slide is golden!
As with the traction slide, growth is vital, so you need to show that finances are on the up. Don't be afraid to explain any dips; investors are a curious bunch, and it's only inevitable that they want to know more.
This slide is a balancing act between being honest and being selective – you don't need to include everything, but don't lie or be too obscure.
Yes, getting funding is hard!
Should you include forecasts here? If you're at an early stage, I wouldn't bother unless you really want to show off. If you're a later stage scaleup, I'd definitely recommend including one. If you choose to add a forecast, focus more on the trajectory and the potential than the specific figures.
Don't forget that the appendix is a must if you have a lot of financial information to include. Stick to the basics in your pitch deck and include all the other documentation at the end. That way, it's there if the investor wants to go through it.
On the way to success: Future plan and roadmap slide
Where do you see yourself in the future? This is the slide to explain your milestones and future goals.
Choosing the right milestones is essential here. You don't need to go into considerable detail, but you need to show what you plan to do with the funding you achieve. How will you use your money to build and refine your product, market it and run the business?
Most scaleups use a timeline to show their milestones but play around and see what works best for you. If you're a later stage business, an Ansoff Matrix can be an excellent way to show your plans for world domination.
Even if you choose not to have a roadmap in your pitch deck, it can be handy to have it ready in case your audience asks questions about it.
Time for the biggie: Ask and use of fund slide
Consider this your call to action. What do you want from your investor, and what will you do with the money?
You don't have to provide a precise breakdown here – your prospective investor is more interested in how the funding aligns with your current and future strategy.
Remember, it's not just about the cold hard cash – investors have a lot of expertise and contacts to capitalise on. What are you looking for help with?
Meet the people you'll be working with: Team slide
The purpose of the team slide is simple – to show who is running the business and their experience. This slide is generally the easiest to complete and is a good one to do if you're having an existential crisis about building your pitch deck.
The big question… who to include and how much detail to go into?
If you're early stage, four is ideal. If you're going for A/B funding, seven to nine people works well. Quality is always better than quantity.
Many pitch decks close with a group company photo which can be an excellent way to show the whole team as well as the vibe your scaleup has going on. Two golden rules – make sure the photo:
isn't too weird
doesn't take up valuable pitch deck real estate
Here are some of my top tips for creating a fantastic team slide:
Round picture cut-outs work better than squares. Trust me on this one
Keep titles and explanations short – this is especially important when there are more people. My top tip? Include a link to their LinkedIn profile instead
Make sure the pictures are in the same style – get the team in and have an impromptu photo session if you have to
Don't be afraid to explain any gaps – no investor will expect your team to be the complete package
You don't need to show your board or advisors - put them in the appendix; they won't mind
Our purpose is to…: Missions, values and purpose slide
I'm just going to come out and say it – investors have never funded a business because of an incredible mission statement or nice company values.
If you've done your cover slide right, your logo, branding and tagline should have already done all the heavy lifting here.
If you do want to include this in your deck or slot it into your appendix, make sure it adds value to your positioning.
End at the start: Vision recap slide
You may think we're repeating ourselves here but reaffirming your vision at the end of your deck is a good way to bring your audience back to the big picture.
Try and close the circle – look at your cover and make sure this slide completes the story.
One thing to bear in mind is that this is likely to be the slide which will be on screen when you're answering your audience's questions. Make every word and image count!
Goodbye for now: Close slide
We're nearly at the end. How was it for you?
This slide is the final one and an excellent opportunity to leave your investor with one last impression of your business. Rather than just saying 'thanks for listening', take the opportunity to include something more impactful and end the presentation on a high.
Here are some ideas:
Your contact details and a call to action
Your product or brand
In summary: Keep it simple and insightful
Phew! We made it! I appreciate there's a lot to take in, but it's vital to get the content of your pitch deck right. It can make the difference between getting that all-important funding and your investor blocking your phone number.
In conclusion: keep things simple, make sure all content adds value and don't use your slides to state the obvious – this is a waste of your investor's time and yours.
What's next? Charts... because data is awesome
In the next PlayBook, I'll look at what you need to consider when creating charts for your deck. What exactly have I got against pie charts? You'll find out soon enough!
And of course, if you'd like to look at my detailed analysis of over 650 pitch decks, you should check them out. All on the PlayBook page (in pink).