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7 Awesome Design Tips to Make Your Pitch Deck Sing 👨🏻‍🎨

This week Andy, our Head of Product, is dishing out some sound pitch deck advice. Not only is he an incredible designer, the guy has more than a decade of experience in UX/UI, graphic design, product ownership and Agile development practices! So take note people, this is not one to miss…

Our CEO Tom — singing alongside his pitch deck because he took Andy’s advice.

Don’t judge a book by it’s cover? Bullshit! If you’ve ever had an interviewee turn up late in their sweat-stained gym clothes, you’ll know how much first impressions matter. Investors are people too, and like all of us, they’re prone to making immediate emotional responses to what they see. If your pitch deck doesn’t stand out amongst the hundreds an angel investor will receive each year, or the thousands sent to an accelerator program each cycle, your perfectly planned path to profit is at risk of remaining unread.

A professional format and great design will help make a good first impression and show investors that you care about the project and are serious about your venture.

SeedLegals

Of course, a flashy pitch deck won’t save your business — you can’t polish a turd. But following these tips should at least make your pitch deck stand out in the crowd.

1. Choose the right format

Before you go jumping into PowerPoint, take a minute to think about how your pitch deck will be received. If you plan to deliver the pitch personally, then a presentation with strong visuals and simple bullet points is probably the right format choice. However, if you’re sending via email or application form, you might want to know that according to DocSend, 12% of pitch decks are viewed on a mobile device. So it’s probably a good idea to make sure you can open, and read, your presentation on a phone.

At Stakester, the first pitch deck I designed featured a lot of high resolution mock-ups of the app. It looked great, and I sat back waiting for the investments to roll in. But we soon realised we had a problem — the file size was huge. Our emails started bouncing back, and potential investors gave up trying to load it over their 4G network. Even the smallest bit of friction can cause your deck to be discarded, so get the format right to make sure you don’t fall at the first hurdle.

2. Be consistent

If you’re pitching for Seed investment, you may not yet have a brand or visual guidelines to draw from. If you want your deck to look professional (and you should) then consistency is the key. Make some choices, and stick to them.

Choose a primary colour that is appropriate to your business, and then expand that range to five colours using a website such as colormind. Use your primary colour a lot (for backgrounds, titles etc) and the others sparingly. Don’t use any other colours other than white and very dark grey. Never use black — it’s too harsh on screens.

Reliablepsd can help you choose a pair of fonts from the free Google library. It looks good to have one ‘display’ font, which is a font with more personality that you use for titles, and a simpler, more legible font, which you should use for most of your text. Do not use Comic Sans, Arial or Times New Roman for your pitch deck. Do not use Comic Sans for anything, ever.

If you want to add further visual elements, such as icons and stock photos, you can easily find free ones on the web. However, as with colours and fonts, the trick is to keep their style consistent. So try to find a library of icons drawn in the same style that meet all your needs.

3. Get them excited from the cover

The cover is the first and only time an investor will make an emotional snap judgement about your business. Get it wrong, and it might also be the only page they read. Get it right, and you can hook them in, excited to get stuck into the details.

“Many investors are going to make up their minds about whether they are interested or not from slide one.”

Forbes

Keep your cover simple. Include your brand name (or logo if you have one), and a mission statement to create intrigue. Famous cover page mission statements include “Book rooms with locals, rather than hotels” (airbnb) and “What’s buzzing on the web?” (BuzzFeed). Set your display font to a large size, compose a sentence that will get people excited about your business, and you’ll have yourself a great looking cover.

At Stakester, we used photos to communicate the competitive, tongue-in-cheek tone of the brand.

4. Go big or go home

Slides containing lots of small-sized text are unlikely to be read, so resist the temptation to cram everything good about your company into your deck. Instead, pick out the most impressive aspects of your pitch, and display them in a legible, confident way.

Large, bold text with a high contrast ratio to your background will always look good, particularly on smaller devices. A good idea is to pull out one of your key takeaways and treat it to its own slide. This will not only help to make your idea stick in the mind of a potential investor, but it will create a better rhythm in your deck, giving your reader a moments break from the denser pages.

A single-point slide will highlight a vital part of your pitch, and give your reader a breather.

5. Show your face

Entrepreneur.com calls the team slide “one of the two most important slides in your pitch deck”. It’s important because an investor is usually investing in you, not just your product or business. An easy way to make the team slide look more professional and relatable is to include headshots of you and your team.

As with the visual style, consistency is important. If you need to include photos of more than one person, it’s best if the photos all look the same. That means taking photos of everyone in the same place, at the same time, with the same set-up. If that’s not possible, then you may be able to create some consistency by giving the photos a treatment. At Stakester, some of our team were in the states, so we couldn’t all attend our headshot session. So each photo was treated with a gradient wash, so that they all felt part of the same set.

We used a visual treatment to create consistency across the photos we had at our disposal.

6. Hire a designer

Like most things, though it’s possible to do it yourself, you’ll get better results by hiring a professional. Whilst you can find good quality templates online to get you started, you run the risk of your pitch deck looking too similar to others to really stand out. A designer may seem like an extravagant expense for one document, but when the future of your business relies on it, going the extra mile to make sure it stands out from the crowd might just be worth it.

Websites like YunoJuno can connect you to freelance designers who can spend a day or two making your pitch deck shine. Just make sure to tell them that you need it in a format that you can edit at a later date.

7. Iterate

Don’t stop designing as soon as you send out your first deck. Get feedback, tweak, repeat. Always continue to look for better ways to communicate your idea. If you gradually improve with each iteration, it won’t be long before you’ve got a killer pitch deck.

And there you have it! Now, go back yourself, smash those pitch decks and chase those dreams.

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