With thousands of new businesses looking for capital every day, you might wonder how you can stand out from the rest. One of the first steps for growing a business is putting together an effective pitch deck to present to potential investors and identifying funding opportunities. But how do you make it stand out from other companies and increase your chance of success?
We chatted with five experts with various experience in the business and investment world to find out their top tips for putting together a successful investor pitch deck. This will help you avoid the common mistakes and pull together an effective pitch that will grab investors’ attention quickly.
What Is a Pitch Deck?
A pitch deck is a presentation that you as an entrepreneur or business owner uses to showcase your business or idea to potential investors. It provides a concise overview of your business plan in the hope that investors will be interested in providing capital or connections to help grow your product or company. Pitch decks can either be sent to investors or presented in person.
While investor pitch decks can look different depending on the specific business and circumstance, they are generally concise and specific overviews. David Nows, a Chairperson of Central Michigan University’s Entrepreneurship Department, suggests following the 10/20/30 format created by Guy Kawasaki.
This means, on average, it should have 10 slides, be 20 minutes long and have a 30-point font or greater. This is a helpful way of remembering to get straight to the point and convey only the important information. However, there’s a lot more to putting together a good pitch deck, which we’re going to outline here.
What to Consider When Putting Together Your Investor Pitch Deck
While the exact format of a pitch might vary depending on the business, there are several key points entrepreneurs should consider when preparing their presentation to attract investors. If you can think about the following questions before you begin, this will help you start to build your pitch.
What problem does your product or service solve?
How and why is the timing right for your product?
How is your product currently performing and how will it grow?
Who is on your team currently?
Who or what is your competition and what sets you apart?
What does the market look like and what does the future growth potential look like?
Investors receive and hear hundreds of pitches every year, so you may be convinced that the chances of success are quite slim. However, our experts shared some of their top tips for preparing and putting together a successful pitch deck for growing a business.
1. Keep It Simple and Concise
According to fundraising data from DocSend, the average time investors spend viewing pitch decks is under four minutes, regardless of the outcome. This means that you have very limited time and space to get your point across and grab the attention of the investor.
“As someone who sits on a venture fund investment committee…one of the main things entrepreneurs can do to make their pitch decks look better is to make them short and concise with the most important things included,” says Luisa Zhou, an entrepreneur, business coach and investor. This means it works in your favor if you can jump straight into the main aspects of your business and capture the attention of your audience from the start.
This is the reason that Matt Sexton, financial writer at Fit Small Business, says the executive summary or introduction of your pitch is so important. “Many investors aren’t going to go through your entire pitch deck. However, they will read your executive summary and any visual aids brought to your presentation. If these aren’t top-notch, the pitch might be short and unsuccessful,” warns Sexton.
Your initial summary or introduction should be a concise overview of your pitch, which will tell the investor everything they need to know in a very short time.
“You want to keep them interested. ... Give details if asked, but if you overload investors with every detail, they may tune out,” says Sexton. Try to keep your first few slides as concise and specific as possible to grab your audience’s interest from the start.
2. Tell a Story
While you want to get straight to the point, it’s equally important to tell your story. “Storytelling is one of the fastest ways to connect with someone, and if investors understand your “why,” they’ll be much likelier to see the value of your company,” explains Zhou.
This doesn’t mean you should include a long-winded narrative, but it’s simply a way of building a connection with the reader or listener so they’re more likely to be interested in hearing more.
“Storytelling helps get investors onboard. By selling your concept piece by piece in a way that would convince average consumers to buy your product, investors will put more stock in a well-branded concept,” explains Kevin Miller, SEO expert and recently named Entrepreneur of the Year in the 2021 American Business Awards.
Storytelling in your pitch is like building up your business or product step by step in an intriguing way. How might this look in your pitch?
Start with your attention-grabbing summary and introduction and then move through each slide by weaving them together to finish with your long-term goals and financial plan. It’s all about keeping the audience interested enough that they want to hear or read the ending.
3. Make Your Pitch Personal and Relatable
One of the best ways to help your pitch stand out is to “make the pitch personal to you, your co-owners and the investors. You need to show what this business means to your ownership group. You also need to sell that vision to the investors to show them why they need to be a part of what you’re doing,” explains Sexton.
There’s no harm in adding emotion and personality to your pitch because this will only help convince investors of your passion and determination. Too many pitch decks are heavily bogged down in numbers and projections rather than also showcasing the brand, the story and people behind it. It’s about making your pitch memorable and unique, and this can be best achieved through personality and being relatable to your potential investors.
“That doesn't mean speaking like it's a hangout at the bar, but make it a comfortable (but professional) conversation. When emotion is involved, it can be harder to turn someone down,” explains Sexton.
Plus, making it personal means making it relatable. “The more memorable, organized and concise you can make your presentation, the better backers will remember it. You have to hit every checkmark in a way that feels as if you gave investors a tour of the entire concept to drive it home effectively,” says Miller.
4. Ensure You Have a Realistic Financial Plan
One of the biggest shortcomings of investor pitch decks is in the finance section. “Entrepreneurs often pitch unrealistic short-term financial outcomes which do nothing but lose them credibility with their audience. If an entrepreneur can show they understand the short-term realities of the company and have a plan to make it the next big thing, that can set them apart,” says Nows.
At the end of the day, having a realistic financial plan is what most investors are going to be looking for.
Graham Davis, CEO of Addition Finance, says you should include the following aspects in the financial slide of your pitch:
How much money you’re seeking
How long you think the financing will last
What major milestones you hope to reach with the funding
What your key use of proceeds will be
Who your current or existing investors are (if any)
While this might seem intimidating to include in your pitch, it can be helpful to both you and the investors to know exactly what you need. “A huge mistake many entrepreneurs make is not making an ask at the end of their pitch. You should always ask for what you’re looking for, whether that be another meeting, investment capital or something else,” explains Nows.
In fact, data pulled together by Medium found that only 67 percent of pitch decks included a dollar figure ask. This is surprising considering that financials is what many investors are looking at.
The old saying rings true here: If you don’t ask, the answer is already no. You should always try to include a realistic financial plan in your pitch, which outlines what you need from the investor to achieve it.
Nail Your Pitch to Investors Every Time
Putting together a presentation to pitch investors can be an overwhelming task. However, if you take the time to prepare the perfect pitch deck, you’ll be much more likely to score the investment you need to get your idea or business off the ground.
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Jenna Scatena is a writer and content strategist with a love for stories that have never been told before. More than a decade of working with prominent magazines and brands informs her approach to impactful storytelling. Her stories have reached more than 30 million readers, won multiple awards and been anthologized in books. Jenna's work has appeared in Conde Nast Traveler, Vogue, Marie Claire, The San Francisco, BBC and The Atlantic. She's the founder of the editorial consultancy, Lede Studio.