What’s a “teaser” deck, and how to make one that works

Investors often ask to see your deck before agreeing to meet. This is what we call a teaser deck — A standalone document that could be consumed without a presenter. Often entrepreneurs use their (in-person) presentation deck as their teaser deck (or vice versa). But is that the best approach?

There are different use cases for a deck

A presentation deck is a supporting document that helps a presenter deliver their message. The goal is to re-enforce their talking points — not to add new information, or distract the audience from the presenter!

A teaser deck, on the other hand, is a standalone document that’s consumed by itself without a presenter. In most cases, it’s read in one or two minutes, and the goal is to create enough interest for a follow up.

There are also diligence decks that are much more detailed and are created once you’re further into the due diligence process with an investor.

These are fundamentally different documents! Confusing their purpose or creating a single deck for multiple use cases is often detrimental to your desired outcome.


Where should I start?

Often it makes sense to start with a teaser deck. Once you collect enough feedback, create a presentation version for in-person meetings.

How do I make a Teaser Deck?

Make a short deck with 10~15 slides, and discuss the core questions. What you include depends on your startup and your stage. There are plenty of articles out there on how to create a deck, so we won’t get into details here.

Keep your teaser deck short. Remember that your audience won’t spend more than a couple of minutes on it, so your core message should not be buried in a lot of text and unnecessary detail.

How do I test and iterate my Teaser Deck?

First, create a master document (or a Trello board) where you meticulously compile every question you’re ever asked. Think of this like product testing: solicit feedback, document and organize it, and address the more critical or more frequent issues first.

One great way to test your deck is to perform a Stream of Consciousness exercise:

  • Allocate one-on-one time with a few friendly advisers.
  • Provide them with the deck at the start of the meeting, and ask them to read it as if you’re not there. Don’t present!
  • Ask them to speak what’s in their mind as they go through the deck without reservations or worrying about your feelings.
  • Sit there quietly and take note of every comment they make.
  • This is key: Do NOT respond to any criticism or feel like you need to explain or defend your decisions. This would defeat the purpose of this exercise. It takes tremendous will power and some practice to stay quiet!

The purpose is to see inside people’s mind as they read your deck. Your job is to unblock them, so they can follow your thinking and reach your desired conclusion. If they voice confusion or have questions, your job is to note it down. Even if they raise a question you address in a future slide, consider re-organizing the deck to address the issue as it occurs to your audience naturally. Don’t let any question hang!

Final tip regarding Teaser Decks: keep every statement airtight!

Any statement that raises doubt will be detrimental. Make sure every sentence is easy to back up with facts and evidence — and link to sources when possible, to avoid doubt.


How to go from a Teaser Deck to a Presentation Deck

Once you have a solid teaser deck, use it as a starting point for your presentation deck.

First, reduce fat!

Shrink each slide into one single core statement. Remove most of the text, and keep the core idea.

Teaser slide (left) versus presentation slide (right).

When presenting, your audience gets distracted by busy slides. In an effort to “not miss anything” as you proceed through your deck, they try to read your entire content, and stop listening to you!

Instead, keep only your core message in each slide and provide details orally.

Add additional content

Add the more technical or speculative subjects that aren’t suitable for a teaser deck into your presentation deck. Your testers will give you plenty of ideas on what needs to be added to your in-person presentation deck.

Finally, don’t insist on sticking to your slide order

During your presentation, if you’re being interrupted by a question, respond! Don’t ask them to wait for the appropriate slide. You may feel great about your presentation’s logical flow, but if you’re being asked a question, don’t leave it hanging or you’ll leave someone behind.

As I said earlier, your job is to unblock your audience mentally so they can follow your reasoning. Write down every question at the end of your presentation and revise your deck’s logical flow accordingly.

Happy presenting!