Pitch deck & pitching: everything you need to know
"Don't judge a book by its cover" doesn't apply in the startup world. Investors look at hundreds, even thousands of pitch decks. Sometimes, it just takes 30 seconds to move on to the next one. For an investor to read on, you have to make sure your pitch is
Catchy from the first slide
Looks good and lean
Is structured and "to the point" (no bla bla)
In this section, we will look at
What a pitch deck is
Why it's important
What needs to be included in the pitch deck
How to make it stand out
Different types of pitches (elevator pitch, 3 min pitch, 10 min pitch)
Tips on how to pitch
What's a Pitch Deck?
A pitch deck is a presentation of 10-20 slides, designed to present a business idea and a business plan in a condensed way (no one makes traditional business 100 pages Word business plans anymore).
Why are Pitch Decks important?
A pitch's purpose is to get a meeting with the investor. And that's something many startups get wrong. They think a pitch deck is supposed to give all the details about a business, so that an investor can make a decision whether to invest. However, this is not the right approach. The pitch deck's goal, actually, is to make the investor interested and make him want to learn more about the business over a meeting. Thus, a pitch deck becomes not a full overview of a business and its business plan, but a means to get a meeting to explain the business further.
The same applies to applications to incubators, accelerators and startup competition. However, some of them might have different requirements you should check before applying.
What needs to be included in the Pitch Deck?
Pitch Decks are expected to have certain content that will help the investor /incubator / accelerator / competition select startups for a next stage (for example, a meeting). Below you will find the 12 slides of an investors' pitch deck. Additionally, you of course want to add a title slide and a closing slide. Below, you will find all the details of what you need to include in a pitch deck, the messages you want to send with each slide and some ideas how to present your slides. Keep in mind that this structure is a very standard structure, but you can adapt it as long as the content reflects the points and has a good flow.
If you'd like additional information about the components of a pitch deck, you can watch the video below.
How to make your Pitch Deck stand out?
3 things will help you to create a pitch deck that stands out
An emotional storyline
1. An emotional storyline
The structure indicated above is a standard structure. We see it over and over. Although your pitch needs to include the points from above, you can change the structure and add build up emotional tension. You can do that by thinking about making your reader / listener go through 4 stages.
Stage 1: Build up the need for change
You've done your research, you've identified a customer need, this need is urgent and common.
That's the part where you show:
the need / problem
its urgency / strength
its recurrence / market potential
You goal here is to show that a change is needed NOW and to create FOMO (fear of missing out).
Stage 2: Suggest your way of making the change happen
You've created tension, the audience is hungry to know how you will shake things up.
It's time to introduce:
Your solution to make a change
How it works
Why it's special and different to competitors (aka your secret sauce)
Goal: bring excitement and show the uniqueness of your solution
Stage 3: Outline the plan to make the change happen
You've created FOMO and got your audience excited about your solution. But can you execute?
It's time to show that you CAN make the change happen by talking about:
What you already have done to make the change happen (achievements, traction)
What you will do in the future
Who will do it
Goal: bring confidence in your execution capabilities
Stage 4: Show them some numbers
You've really taken your audience on a rollercoaster so far: from FOMO to excitement and confidence.
Now, show how they can participate:
What you want to achieve financially
How much you need to achieve this
Goal: get your audience (investors) on board
Here is another perspective from the Startup Accelerator on the journey investors go through when looking through a pitch deck.
2. Validated information
To make your pitch stronger and more convincing, avoid generic sentences such as "many", "a lot", "some"... Try to quantify the claims that you make with "validational" data. The quantification can be in form of numbers, percentages, costs, etc . and can come from
3. Great visuals
Great visuals are not about having a fancy design. Great visuals are about representing information in easily understandable graphs, so that the reader only has to make the minimum effort to understand the slide. It's about putting and communicating information in very simple terms.
What are the different types of pitches?
The structure indicated in the section "What needs to be included in the pitch deck" is appropriate for a 10-minute pitch (yes, you can do it in 10 minutes!). However, there are two other types of pitches
The elevator pitch (1 min): for the elevator pitch, you don't need any slides. You can keep the following information for this type of pitch: Exciting intro - Problem - Solution + USP - Revenue Model - Market - Team
The 3-minute pitch: the three minute pitch is usually with slides and frequent in competitions. In this pitch, you want to keep the following slides: Exciting intro - Problem - Solution + USP - Revenue Model - Market - Achievements - Next steps - Team
Of course, your explanations and talking has to be narrowed down to short and clear sentences for each slide.
Tips on how to pitch
One of the best ways to train your pitch is to film yourself while practicing. It might be scary at first, but the results will be amazing. A few other tips for the speech:
Keep eye contact with the audience, don't fix one person or point, scan your audience
Work on your tone of voice to avoid being monotonous
Don't speak too fast, make sure to make pauses to let your message sink in
Be open to your audience through your gestures and a smile
Make sure to adapt your pitch to the audience you are talking to!
Here is a short video from the Startup Accelerator about the 7 Golden Rules of pitching.
If you'd like some tips on how to feel more confident when pitching you can watch this video:
Supporting Tools & Additional Resources
Here are a few additional great resources, not mentioned above, about pitch decks and pitching:
Equidam's pitch deck template: here
Startup Accelerator's pitch deck template: here
Guy Kawasaki's 10 slides: here
Swiss Startup Association's article: "Everything you need to know about pitch decks"
Famous pitch deck examples: here
Some tools for your pitch deck slides
Icons: The Noun Project
Pitch deck templates: Slidebean
As you can see, pitches are different and that's great. You have here plenty of resources to get inspired and the tips to make a great pitch. You can now decide what works best for you and for your startup. Sometimes, it takes time and trial to come up with a great pitch. Every time you pitch, you learn.