Building a Successful Pitch Deck
Raise your hand if you’ve woken up peacefully after sweet dreams of nailing your perfect pitch. Raise your hand if you’ve woken up in sweats after a not-so-sweet dream of not quite nailing your startup pitch. Trust us, we’ve all been there. There’s something about a pitch that can be invigorating and draining all at the same time. As a startup seeking funding, you want your pitch to be perfect. It’s got to have the best elements of your elevator speech combined with the absolute best pitch deck you’ve ever created. It’s one high-pressure moment. As we all know, funding can sometimes make or break your startup, so even though a pitch can be incredibly stressful, nailing it can be incredibly rewarding. Angel investors invested more than $20 billion in 2010, and with more up for grabs in today’s world, you’ve got to be on top of your game. Even the most experienced founders can fumble through a pitch deck, so what can you do to ensure yours is up-to-speed? While having a formula is helpful, allow us to walk you through our expertise one step at a time.
1. Define your revenue model
Before you even get started, one of our first and most important pieces of advice is to think about and include a clear description of your revenue model. After all, since it takes money to make money, you’ve got to have this part down. Most frequently when startups are pitching, they don’t include a clear description of the revenue model (aka. how they are going to make money). Including an idea of a product’s pricing and how the product will be sold whether through direct sales, inbound, or partner channels is a crucial part of your pitch. It might be a good idea to be prepared for follow-up questions such as “what does the sales model look like?” Knowing your revenue model from the beginning will make for a smoother pitch.
2. Build your pitch deck
Once you’ve got your revenue model, it’s time to actually build your pitch deck. There are a lot of templates out there, but one of our favorites is the pitch deck template by Sequoia Capital. Not only does this template walk you through a logical way to organize your pitch, but it also explains exactly what you need to include. Don’t come with a 30-slide PowerPoint; use 10 to 12 slides, and make each slide count. In addition to their ten or so pitch topics, we also recommend making your pitch deck not just visually appealing, but a complete representation of your brand story. That means using large fonts (the easier to see you with, my dear), including a ton of modern (and relevant) photography or graphics, and ensuring the slides don’t distract from what you’re saying. Not interested in building your own? Bring in the experts if you don’t have the resources to tackle this piece in-house. Our friends over at BICAD Media right here in Atlanta, GA are an award-winning design house with lots of successful pitches under their belt.
3. Follow a few best practices
All of that leads us to some pitch deck best practices. First, practice, practice, and did we mention practice? Practice not reading from the slides; the presentation should augment the verbal side of your pitch which is a lot more important than the slide part. Practice in front of people. If that means you practice in front of your team members, your kids, or your dog, it doesn’t matter as long as you practice in front of someone. Ask for feedback from your audience, too. They could help you identify things like words you’re repeating or confusing parts of your pitch. If you simply can’t muster up a live audience, videotape yourself (and watch it!). While it might be tough to watch, you’ll be amazed at what you see. Finally, use a stopwatch. Most pitches are limited to 3–5 minutes which means that you’ve got to get your timing down. A stopwatch can help you do just that (and one is conveniently built into your smartphone). Want even more practice? Check out these 14 additional pitch tips.
4. Never forget the follow-up
Our final piece of advice is to be prepared for the follow-up. At the end of your presentation, you’ll likely be asked a series of questions. Nothing makes an investor more comfortable in his investment than you being able to accurately and confidently answer his or her follow-up questions. Be prepared to answer things like how much money are you raising? What are you going to use the investment for? I see you’re seeking 2 million dollars today; what might you do with even more funding? How do you plan to acquire customers? Have you determined how much it will cost to acquire customers? Whatever questions arise, have a clear, next step answer.
As you develop your pitch, keep these suggestions (along with our other 14 Startup Pitch Tips) in mind. With our help, you’ll be well on your way to securing funding for your business. And who knows? Maybe in the process you’ll discover your own pitch deck groove. Be sure to share it with us when you do.