Ultimately, like most things in life, less is more. The perfect pitch deck should be anywhere between 5-10 slides and, critically, not cluttered. It is important to remember that a pitch deck should only include high-level information and, if pitched live, should not last any longer than 15 minutes. We humans have short attention spans, and investors can always ask additional questions if they require more information. Too much information included in each slide will only serve to distract those that are reading it. Further, if you are using it to present in front of a room full of investors, too much writing on each individual slide will ensure that they are concentrating on the included information and not on what you are saying – which is far more important.
More detailed information, including financial forecasts, can be included in an appendix at the end. It is quite common to have two formats: one shorter deck and one longer, with the latter including the appendix and used as a follow-up after an investor has expressed initial interest. It is also recommended that, in tandem, you should always have a full set of up-to-date management accounts on hand (profit and loss, and balance sheet), as well as a detailed cashflow forecast. You would be surprised how many founders are not able to produce these on-demand and being able to do so shows good financial knowhow – something investors deem of great importance, which makes sense seeing as how they are entrusting you with significant sums of their money!
In terms of the individual sections that should be covered in any pitch deck, they should consist of the following:
- Team: If you have an all-star team (which every startup should), it is best to start by introducing yourself, your team, and their impressive backgrounds. This is your opportunity to highlight the expertise and unique experiences that make your team extraordinary.
- Problem: This is your chance to highlight the size of the market/problem, and set up your relationship to the problem and positioning within it. Investors want to hear your passion and know you will stop at nothing to solve this problem.
- Product: The best way to do this is to jump into a demo of the product. For the slides, they should include pictures or screenshots that can be used as visual references. Reference to any competition (and hopefully their deficiencies) as well as your USP should also be highlighted.
- Go-to-Market/Traction: The Go-To-Market section should describe both your strategy around customer acquisition, as well as any traction that there has been to date. This should include a focus on the overall commercial strategy, marketing and sales process.
- Terms of the round: The final slide of your pitch presentation should always include a call to action, which should outline the target raise and equity percentage.
Finally, in terms of the design, while in theory you can spend hours on this, sorry to say that this is not going to be what swings it for investors. Anyone can pay a designer hundreds of pounds to make their pitch look good, but it is the substance that really counts. That is not to say that it can be lacking in quality, but there are plenty of easily accessible PowerPoint (or similar) templates that will more than suffice.
The most important thing to remember is to only include the most pertinent information and keep the slides simple. With this behind you, the rest is on you to deliver a killer pitch expanding on the slides. Pull this off and you could have investors reaching into their pockets in no time.