Forget what you’ve learned about the perfect pitch deck
What really matters first in that fast five minutes
There is an inexhaustible amount of content on what constitutes the perfect pitch, and the perfect deck to go with it. You can read about colours, font sizes, text to image ratios, and of course, the all-important financials and the magic hockey stick graph.
And yes, all those things are important and can make a difference between a mediocre and a dazzling deck.
But in order to give a pitch that really hits the sweet spot, it is important to back up and make sure you know best how to deliver what’s on your slides so they can make the impact you need them to.
Poor delivery is like having a dancing elephant on stage when all you want is for that panel of investors to be in awe of the pace of growth on that slide it took you two weeks to get the graphics just right.
You will have seen these pitches yourself- or any presentation really- that are delivered so poorly it is painful to be an observer. You are so busy counting all the “ums” and “actuallys” that you totally zone out on what the speaker is saying. Or you’re getting seasick watching someone pace back and forth across the stage. Or you’re cringing on the presenters behalf every time they do that weird nervous nose scratch thing.
And these are only a few of the bear traps an unprepared pitcher might fall into.
But making sure your audience hears what you’re saying and gets the important information from your slides doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated. Just start with these four key anchors to build your delivery on and you can do that pitch deck proud.
Four key anchors to a strong pitch before you even get to the deck
- You’re there to tell a story: Start with a high impact hook that gets the audience’s attention and makes them want to hear more. Set out the problem with big numbers that show you are solving a real problem. “Did you know 90% of big dog owners can’t find a sweater to fit their dog? And the pet clothing industry is a $2 billion a year business!” Of course, do your research and be accurate, but make it illustrative.
- Get the audience to see the problem right away through empathy: “How many of you have struggled to find a sweater for your big dog, only to feel ashamed when your dog is the only naked one in the park on that nippy winter day?” The best feeling for me when delivering a pitch is when I see heads start to nod in agreement across the room. Of course not everyone will have the problem you are trying to solve, but get a few nods going, and feel the whole audience engage with your pitch.
- Get rid of those distracting habits: Practice, practice, practice, with a critical yet supportive listener. You can still be authentic with a memorised pitch, and you can give it a natural delivery if you can do it in your sleep. But have that friend make a face every time you say “you know” or clear your throat, or rehearse in front of the mirror to get rid of that nervous habit of rubbing your ear. These verbal and physical ticks are distracting for your audience and they take away from the impact of your pitch.
- Plant your feet and look everyone in the eye: A short pitch is no place to channel your inner Steve Jobs. You end up looking like a caged lion and distract from your deck. Not many people can get away with looking natural and impactful moving around a stage while trying to deliver a slide deck. There is too much going on. You want to deliver a good story to get the audience engaged with you, then direct their attention to the slides that matter- those that convince them you know what you are doing and you have done the market research and the math.
If you haven’t worked on your hook, story, and delivery, the most spectacular slides and numbers won’t save if you your audience can’t take it in because they are so distracted by your tics and roaming.
Get that down through practice practice practice, then knock their socks off with your perfectly put-together deck.
My first book, Becoming a Fearless Leader: A simple guide to taking control and building happy, productive, highly-performing teams is out now. You can find access to a free pdf workbook that accompanies it on my website. If you do read my book, I would love to hear your comments.
I write about how I became the founder of a tech startup as a non-techie, over-40 female with no entrepreneurial experience, and all I am learning along the way. You can see more here. If you think this might be helpful for others on their entrepreneurial journey, please recommend and share.