The Art of The Investor Pitch Deck

In many cases, the pitch deck is your calling card: It is the first thing investors will see before they schedule a meeting. In this article, we tell you what should go in it — and what shouldn’t. Preparing a pitch deck is ultimately an exercise in storytelling - you must portray your story in the best possible light.

Key Takeaways:

  1. A good deck tells a story, and it should be believable, compelling, and concise. 
  2. As you describe the product, opportunity, and team, grab investors' attention with your first slide.
  3. Don't over-inflate your promises; investors will see straight through.

When evaluating your startup, investors look for a clear explanation of the problem you're solving, the size of your market, potential competitors, growth models, and the ability of your team to execute it. But how do you cram all of that into a pitch deck? What is the best way to summarize something you've spent countless hours researching? Imagine your pitch deck as a calling card, a persuasive presentation that you're onto something big. Having a good deck can help you land coveted meetings with investors before you secure an investment.  The best decks provide a narrative. Founders can use a deck to show they have considered the most critical aspects of their businesse. Additionally, the deck gives a glance to whether the founder will be able to hire a great team, win customers, and  partners. Each year, VCs and angel investors may view hundreds of pitch decks. It may take them two to five minutes to read it before deciding whether to meet with a founder, which is why it must be both complete and concise. Ultimately, investors might end up doing only a few deals a year. During a crisis, like the COVID-19 pandemic, they may not commit to any. Although a stellar pitch deck won't land you a term sheet, you need to know what goes into the best of them, what's necessary and what's optional, as well as how to communicate your proposal effectively. Here are eight tips to get you started. 

01. Create a Compelling Narrative

Storytelling is essential for a good deck. There's no single way to tell a story, but most good ones grab their audiences right from the start. Opening your pitch deck with a relatable statement about why you would be excited about the opportunity, or why others ought to be, would be a good idea. Not every founder will have a compelling opening statement. Nonetheless, work on distilling the essence and impact of your message into a concise statement. Simplicity helps convey a clear vision and raises the likelihood of selling. Keep your story concise as you move beyond the opening slide. You should ideally have between 10 and 25 slides in your deck, with each one telling a story about the opportunity you have to offer.

02. Be Able To Describe Your Product

Your deck must, of course, explain what you do. Although this is obvious, founders often struggle with it. Defining the product is a challenge. As a founder, you're closest to the product you're creating. After reading the deck, it's worth asking if someone outside of your company can explain what you do. Keep it simple. Don’t clutter your slides. Don’t make them dense with text. 

03. Show, Don’t Tell

A visual demonstration of your product will increase investor confidence the most. Demonstrations of a product are more useful than presentations, since slides describe a thing, whereas demos show the thing itself. Good slides, however, may convey what a product can accomplish or how it looks.

04. Accurately Describe Your Market

Most founders like to boast that the opportunity they're tackling is one worth billions of dollars. Congrats if you're one of them. But you better explain why to investors. Generalizations and exaggerated risks give the impression that the entrepreneur doesn't know the market or is trying to trick the reader. In spite of how big your market may be, investors want to know you've taken the time to understand the opportunity.

05. Don’t Claim To Know It All

A great deck doesn't pretend that you're right and everyone else is wrong. Not only must you be honest about the strengths of your product, but also about the challenges it will face. Similarly, don't try to gloss over your competitors' successes. If you have a unique perspective or approach that could give you an edge, you should show it. Investors will take notice. Nevertheless, do not act like everyone else is stupid and only you understand.

06. Prove you’re the right founder and right team

Investors must be convinced that your team is capable of executing your vision. Be sure to show off your team's accomplishments and professional background. However, that alone may not be enough. It is important to explain why they are the right team for the job. Credentials and skills are less relevant than why they are relevant to your company. What’s more, in today's world, you should also consider the diversity of your team. 

07. Finally, understand your audience

So you've built your deck, what's next? Decide which investors are a good match for you and your business. Your pitch is more important than anything in the deck or how good it is. Among the things you must research about potential investors are: areas of interest, investment theses, targeted investments sizes, existing portfolios, as well as investment climates. As well as paying attention to the rumor mill about how the investors treat the founders, you should also learn about their character. Whom should you trust and whom should you approach with an open mind? You're wasting your time and money if there's no chemistry.