And on the first day God created a pitch deck
When you’re a startup looking to scale to the next level, investment is critical. If you know you need to grow your business but aren’t sure where to start, I’ve put together some PlayBooks to help.
First things first: pitch decks. How do you create them, deliver them and most importantly… what are they?! Let’s find out.
When you get to a certain point in your startup life cycle – you need funding.
There are a lot of heart-warming tales out there about businesses that bootstrapped their way to success. However, the reality is you need the support of an investor if you want to scale.
The best way to get this funding? Through a well-thought-out pitch deck.
A quality pitch deck takes time to create and prepare but trust me, it’s well worth the effort once you get it right.
I’ve put together this article to talk about the basics of writing a deck. Think of this as your pitch deck 101.
How do you get started, what do you include, and how do you show you’re worth the money?
Before we do that though – let’s go back to basics.
What is a pitch deck?
A pitch deck is a series of slides that tells investors:
What your vision is
What your future plans are
What your investors will receive if they fund you
No ‘death by PowerPoint’ in pitch decks please – they are designed to be simple, punchy and encourage investors to want to know more.
Imagine you’re an investor looking to fund the next big thing. Would you rather read through a 10-slide presentation or a 100-page business plan?
I’ll bet the pitch deck looks like a good option right now.
Do I *really* need a pitch deck?
Some of the startups I’ve worked with have asked this question. They’ve complained that they don’t have the time to work on a pitch deck or said they prefer to speak off the cuff rather than shuffle through a presentation.
Sure, some startups have raised their capital without a pitch deck – but these businesses are few and far between. Typically, they have a founder who is famous enough to ask for funding straight up.
But let’s be honest, that doesn’t apply to most of us.
My response? Embrace the power of the pitch deck – it will open so many doors for you.
The ‘why’ of your pitch deck
The ‘why’ of your pitch deck sounds simple at first – why are you reaching out to a prospective investor in the first place.
When I’ve worked with startups, sometimes figuring this out is easy.
Other times, it’s taken many late nights and a lot of coffee!
However, once you discover the ‘why’ – the rest of your pitch deck will fall into place.
Let’s break the ‘why’ down into three smaller ‘why’s’.
The immediate why – to provoke action
The first priority of your pitch deck is to persuade your investor to give you another meeting. With the average pitch presentation ringing in at 40 minutes, this gives you precisely 2,400 seconds to give your prospective investor FOMO – fear of missing out.
Shows like Shark Tank and Dragon’s Den have convinced many of us that all it takes is one short pitch, and your prospective investors will be throwing money at you. Unfortunately, unless you’re in the very, very, very early seed stage, this doesn’t happen.
With the immediate why, you need to shift your investor’s mindset. This mindset will change throughout the presentation, sometimes from slide to slide.
Here’s an example of how your investor’s mindset might change throughout your pitch deck.
Uninformed optimism. When you go through your intro, they’re interested and feel your startup is an idea worth looking at
Informed pessimism. As you talk about your target audience’s problems, they start to feel down. The issue is bigger than they thought, or they’re convinced it’s something that can’t be fixed. Or is it?
Hopeful realism. You introduce your product and service, and suddenly, the investor is intrigued. You’re showing them a new and innovative way to solve the problem at hand, and they’re itching to know more
Informed optimism. Ever so slowly, you’re reeling them in. As you talk through your plan of action and expected results, the investor is starting to come on board and imagining everything you can achieve together
When you’ve reached that stage of informed optimism – it’s time to move in for the kill. You say what the next steps need to be and that the investor needs to move fast to take advantage.
Second meeting booked in – mission accomplished!
Find out more about perfecting your pitch deck narrative here
The main why – to inform
The second priority of your deck? To get funded.
You need to tell your investors:
What you’re already achieving
Why you need funding
What you’re going to do with that funding
What they will get for funding you
When I’ve spoken to VCs, they tell me they get hundreds of pitch invitations in their inbox a day. They come in during the evenings, during weekends and holidays… even at Christmas!
This means if you’re planning a pitch deck, you need to stand out. You don’t want the investor to flick through your deck and send it to the recycle bin. You want them to pore over every page and go, ‘Yes! This is an idea I can get behind!’
Your pitch deck is often the first time an investor has heard of you. By making an excellent first impression and getting them to understand your business space, you’re off to a good start.
Find out more about defining your fundraising campaign here.
The real why – to persuade
Venture capitalists invest in people, not just business ideas.
Your pitch deck needs to convey your personal vision and what you want to achieve.
Have you ever heard of Ikigai? It’s a Japanese concept that shows your reason to live and what drives you to success.
When you do something that you’re passionate about, that you’re skilled at, what is needed and what others can pay you for – that’s Ikigai.
Many investors fund other businesses because they have a passion for helping others and making the world a better place. If this shows in your pitch deck, you’re one step closer to getting the investment you need.
The ‘what’ of your pitch deck
The ‘what’ of your deck is all about what you’re seeking to communicate through your pitch.
I’ll be honest – you don’t need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to a pitch deck. The best pitch decks I’ve seen are usually the simplest ones.
A typical pitch deck has three parts.
This is the empirical data that makes up your pitch deck. Think financials, units sold and the market share of your competitors
This is the narrative that takes your investor on a journey and ultimately convinces them to take action.
This is the way you present the content. While the pitch deck itself is essential, you need to be able to explain it in a confident, assertive way and answer any questions the investor has.
Your pitch deck needs to be logical and credible, but emotive too. Don’t worry; you don’t have to fall on your knees begging your prospective investor for money. Give them a little passion and energy so they can see your heart is in your startup.
It can be a bit of a balancing act to get all these elements lined up. Good pitch decks take time, but they’re worth getting right.
The ‘how’ of your pitch deck
The ‘how’ is how we prepare, create and refine the pitch.
At this point, you’re probably ready to jump on Google Slides and get started on your pitch deck.
Step away from the laptop. It’s not time yet.
Preparation is essential when putting together your slides. Before you even contemplate opening PowerPoint, you need to have six things drafted.
I call them the six S’s
1. Your strategy
You need to determine the following things before you start:
When is the planned date of your first pitch?
What is the target date of getting a good term sheet?
What is your ultimate goal for getting definitives closed and cash in the bank?
What is your target fundraising size, and how many months of funding will that provide?
What will you use the funds for?
What is your target revenue, team size and monthly burn rates post-raise?
You don’t have to be 100% accurate as goals change over time. It’s better to have a ballpark figure than nothing at all.
It’s essential to get your board in agreement. That way, you can manage expectations and avoid eye rolls when you haven’t got a billion pounds in funding the following week.
Find out more about top-down investment
2. Your sound bites
These are the short and snappy pieces of content that define your business and will help you build your pitch deck. Your mission, values and elevator pitch all count here.
Find out more about pitch positioning here.
3. Your substance
By substance, I mean your existing strategies, plans, and other documents. While you may not use them verbatim in your pitch deck, they will contain useful information you can build on.
Find out more about due diligence and FAQs here.
4. Your storyboard
This is the plan for your pitch deck. Typically pitch decks contain anything between 10 to 20 slides. In my experience, some have more, some have less, although it’s always better to err on the side of brevity.
As mentioned before, it’s important to take your investor on a journey.
Start with your intro and vision, move on to how your product or service is faring in the marketplace and finally, talk about your future goals.
Dim the lights, get the coffee brewing and dig out the post-it notes for this one!
Find out more about perfecting your pitch deck narrative here.
5. Your sketches
Next, the fun part! Once you have a storyboard in place, you can start drafting your slides and what they will look like.
In my experience, it’s better to hand-sketch them as it’s quicker, and you can be more creative, especially if PowerPoint isn’t in your wheelhouse.
Focus more on the slide elements and what you will discuss rather than artistic excellence. I’ve got a few additional resources here if you get stuck.
Find out more about the elements of a pitch deck here
Find out more about the design of your pitch deck here
Find out more about the content you should include in your pitch deck here
Find out more about including charts in your pitch deck here
6. Your style guide
Ever wondered how large businesses stay so consistent when it comes to their marketing? It’s because they have a style guide in place.
A style guide is a document that contains all the branding a business uses and ensures that all departments are on the same page when it comes to content.
A style guide will include:
Brand story- including your mission, vision and values
Logo – how to use it and how not to use it
Colour palette – what colours you use, and what are their CMYK codes (for printing) and hex codes (for online use)
Typography – what fonts you use and what size they are. If you want to say no Comic Sans or Papyrus, now’s the time
Imagery – what images do you want to associate with your brand, and which do you want to steer clear of
Tone of voice – how you speak to customers – whether that’s formal, informal or somewhere in between
You may want to include examples of your brand in action and some master templates for employees to use.
Not got a style guide? Get one created as it will make life easier in the future. You can buy off the shelf guides or make one yourself, but I’d always recommend getting a designer to create one.
It may take extra time to get these things prepped, but it’s definitely worth doing.
The pitch deck creation process
Putting a pitch deck together is not a ‘one and done’ process.
Many founders I’ve worked with thought they could cobble a deck together in the space of an evening while bingeing Squid Game, but the reality is, it’s not that simple.
Depending on the size of your deck and your skillset, it could take anything from a week to a month.
In my experience, it takes five iterations before finalising a pitch deck.
As Ernest Hemingway is claimed to have said: ‘The first draft of anything is shit’.
Here’s the best way to finalise your pitch deck.
Version 1, Build your structure in Google Slides or PowerPoint and add your headlines. Don’t pull together your slides just yet
Version 2. Start putting together the easiest slides. Don’t stress if there are lots of gaps… things will get better!
Version 3. Start work on the more challenging slides and refine the easier ones. At this point, you’re probably ready to throw everything in the bin, change your name and catch a plane to another country, but keep pushing through
Version 4. Work on the slides and start polishing up the design. Now you can share the pitch deck with your trusted advisors for feedback
Version 5. Focus on making tweaks based on feedback and sharing your deck with more people
Congratulations, you’ve got yourself a pitch deck! Go order a takeaway and grab something cold from the fridge. You deserve it.
Is it better to create the deck yourself or get someone else to do it?
If you’re a small startup or like to be hands-on, there’s nothing wrong with creating a pitch deck yourself, as long as you have the time.
Otherwise, you can delegate the design to someone in-house or hire a designer/specialist to do the work for you.
It ultimately depends on your timescales and budget. The funding stage you’re at can have an impact too. The more money on the table, the more complex the production needs to be!
Still panicking about putting together your deck?
Here are my top tips:
Keep the number of slides small
Ignore anyone who says you need multiple decks for reading and presentation. One will do the job just fine
Draft first and edit later
Keep it simple – the fewer words on each slide, the better
Have a deadline in place – we all work better when there are timescales involved
If you’re using an external designer, keep an open mind. They may have ideas that will elevate your deck to the next level
Remember – done is better than perfect
When you finish your pitch, you don’t want investors to go on and on about how well you spoke or how the typography worked so well with the slide colour.
You want them to say, ‘let’s talk.’
In summary: Be prepared
If there’s one last tip I can give you – it’s to be prepared. Line up all your critical documents, have your strategy and style guide ready, and your pitch deck should fall into place a little easier.
What's next? The elements that every pitch deck needs to include
I hope this guide has given you a bit of insight into how to develop and create a pitch deck that will get you investment. Either that or it’s given you lots to think about!
In the next PlayBook we will tackle the age of question... 'What slides do I need in my pitch deck?'.