Your pitch deck arguably is the single, most important document that you will generate in the life of your company. It is the opening salvo with your potential investors. It is “the hook” by which you will (or will not) capture the attention and imagination of a potential investor.
What does a “perfect” pitch deck look like?
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a “perfect” pitch deck because pitch decks are always being refined and tweaked to optimize for the immediate audience to whom the deck is being presented. In other words, one size does not fit all when it comes to a pitch deck.
Your audience is the single, most important factor in shaping your pitch deck. Here are some factors to think about in terms of assessing your audience:
How familiar is your audience with your market? In other words, how much of the presentation should be dedicated to educating your audience about the market opportunity and the pain points that your product is solving.
What is the forum in which the deck is being presented? A deck that is being emailed to an investor will “read” very differently from one that is presented to the same investor in a one-on-one meeting. Similarly, a deck used in to present to a big room in a “one way presentation” will play very differently from a presentation to a room full of VCs who are ready to pounce in with questions.
These are all important factors in assessing the most ideal pitch for each given situation. So, you shouldn’t assume that the one deck that you have prepared is the deck for all situations. Having said that, a good pitch deck should cover each of the following areas, in varying detail depending on your audience and your presentation setting.
1. High-Level Summary Slide(s)
These are the opening one or two preliminary slides that summarize some the highlights of your business from the ensuing slides. Think of it as the high-level teaser. These slides capture the “essence” of your story and include the points that you would want to make sure you communicate if you were asked to absolutely distill everything into one or two slides.
2. The Problem You’re Solving
Again, depending on your audience’s sophistication, these can be as short as a couple of perfunctory slides or as long as three, four or more educational slides. The idea here is to convey the nature of the market opportunity that you are seeking to address with your business or product by highlighting what is “broken” or “not working” and, if at all possible, to scope out the size of the market opportunity. Ideally, these slides make it clear to your audience that market participants are spending real dollars for imperfect products that do not adequately address their needs. Remember, investors generally like big markets that allow a market entrant to grow a large business by solving pain points and friction that are not being adequately addressed by existing players. So, that should be the key take aways from these slides – that there is a real (and hopefully sizable) market opportunity to sell into and that current products in the market place are inadequate (and inferior to yours). Remember to be thoughtful about your market opportunity and the real and tangible pain points that you see in the marketplace.
3. Your Product
Hopefully, having set up the problems faced by your customers (or would-be customers) in the marketplace, the next few slides in your deck are all about YOU. First and foremost, you want to describe your solution, at a high level, for the unmet market demands that you have described in the preceding slides. What are you doing to tap into an unmet market demand? In so doing, you will obviously want to drill in on how your products are differentiated – whether that is borne out of your technology platform or otherwise. The idea here, again, is to convince your audience that you have a better “mouse trap.” And to do so, you have to describe what you have done to improve on the art of trapping mice. In a lot of ways, this is the “meat” of your presentation. These are slides that will either entice an investor – or not. So, approach them with a critical eye. Question all of your assumptions. Be cynical. Challenge yourself. And most importantly, run a “beta” on your positioning with some trusted friends and advisors. Make sure that they aren’t seeing holes in your story or asking questions that you are leaving unanswered in these slides. That’s what you want to avoid.
Having wowed your audience with your product and business model, you’ll want to proactively articulate a go-to market strategy. Obviously, the scope of these slides will be completely dependent on your stage of development but you want to clearly demonstrate the fact that you have thought about how to roll out your product and how to capture market share.
If you haven’t already heard this, here it goes. Team, team, team. That’s what investors are looking for. They are investing in your team, your passion and your dedication. You’ll need to introduce your team in a few slides and in a manner that not only highlights your team’s strengths but more importantly, makes it clear that they are people that are committed to building something big and are going to be great to work with.
The truth is, unless you are a later-stage company, the numbers in your projections typically don’t matter. But – and here’s the big but – putting together a set of thoughtful projections around your business, both on the revenue and cost side, will enhance your credibility with your potential investors. Moreover, these are the slides in which you can (and should) demonstrate an appreciation of the capital you are raising and how you intend to deploy it to meet milestones that will be critical for future fundraising. And while your audience may feel as though projections are premature in helping assess the business, they will appreciate the fact that you understand financial metrics and how to “operate” a business.
The last thing that you’ll want to think about in pulling together your presentation is the tone that you want to convey. Nothing is more important in determining the right tone for your audience. Be creative and try to avoid a dry, mind-numbing presentation but always gauge your audience and play to your audience. At the end of the day, content is king when it comes to a deck. But if you can layer in some creativity and show some personality on top of great content, then you have a winning combination.