1. Structuring Your Pitch Deck
Deck Building: Structuring Your Pitch Deck
So before we look at the design of the deck, it’s helpful to make sure the structure will follow some of the more common conventions used when developing pitches or presentations in general, but especially in the realm of startup decks. Because of this, let’s go over the problem-solution model. I’m sure you've already seen and understood this format, especially if you’ve taken inspiration from the likes of Uber and Airbnb. However, I think it’s important to highlight why it’s effective and how a firm foundation of content can easily translate into a well-designed deck.
So let's start from the top:
This is where you introduce your company and prepare your audience for your presentation. It’s pretty self explanatory and you can keep it simple. While you’re introducing yourself and perhaps sharing your qualifications, your audience will be looking at your presentation title, maybe a subtitle like the location and date, your logo, and your name. The design of this slide should be minimal, but it should give the viewer a glimpse of your company's branding and match the look and feel of the presentation as a whole.
Here you are simply and concisely stating what problem your product or service is trying to solve. This should include hard facts, with no room for dispute. Make sure to remember your audience, especially when presenting the problem. If you are presenting to those that aren’t educated or familiar with your problem, help them understand in layman's terms and avoid any kind of buzzwords. No matter who you are talking to or how complex your solution is, your problem should be immediately understood.
Bottom line: If you successfully sell the problem, you won’t need to sell the solution.
Now that you’ve made it clear that there is a problem that needs to be addressed, you introduce the solution, which is of course your company or product. This is a good time to break down the 3-4 core functions of the product and briefly elaborate on how they provide the solution.
Again, you want to avoid any use of buzz words or industry jargon.
To further connect your business with the solution you are providing, you now introduce your product. This can either be an explanation of its main functions, somewhat similar but different to the solution slide, or include a full demo. The latter of course requires you having an MVP, but it can be incredibly useful in selling the tangibility and effectiveness of your product. However, demos are notoriously finicky, and you’ll want to avoid glitches or malfunctions at all costs. For this reason, it helps to just record and present a video of your demo to avoid any pitfalls.
While presenting, make sure the “Aha” moment comes within the first 30 seconds of your video, otherwise the limited time you have with your audience could be better spent on other slides.
Once your product and its value are clearly understood by your audience, it’s time to dive into the details. The market opportunity slide is where you sell your investors on the figurative “piece of the pie” your company will be capturing as well as sharing the bigger picture of how much opportunity exists.
This is where you will be presenting data to support your claims, and you can go about doing this several ways.
First is the top down market approach
- Here you’ll be determining the total market value
- Then you estimate your products potential share of that market
- Also you'll want to present both a realistic scenario and best case scenario
The second is a bottom-up market approach
- You first evaluate where your product can be sold
- You then compare similar products
- Then you determine the slice of sales you can carve out
Both approaches should make use of publicly available sales data that you will need to cite somewhere in your presentation, likely on the same page in the footer.
Now we move on to the business model slide, where you chart the course towards profitability for your business and your potential investors.
Here you’ll want to include things like your primary revenue streams, pricing strategy, and profit margin. You will not need to include financial models here as you don’t need that level of complexity for a first pitch, but having that in your annexes can be helpful.
If your business is already up and running, your traction slide is where you show your investors that it’s catching on and how quickly. This includes presenting accurate data for your revenue, customer acquisition, and month-to-month growth rate. You’ll need to clearly show, ideally through graphs, that your business is already growing and shows significant promise for future growth.
Now you’re ready to show investors how you compare to the other companies you’re up against. While pretty self explanatory, the competition slide has some nuance which can come from how the information is presented.
You’ll want to show the competitive advantage of your company while explaining where it sits in the market amongst other companies with similar features.
Here are the two most common approaches:
- Competitive landscape
This is a format you'll often see, and it’s common because it’s simple and easy to understand without providing too much detail.
You start by creating a 2 by 2 matrix with features making up the axises, for instance “cost and complexity”, or “effectiveness and implementation time”. Then you and your competitors' logos are placed inside the grid and positioned according to the features features you've chosen to highlight. With this, your audience should be able to easily identify how your company will set itself apart.
The second option is…
- The feature matrix
This is a more detailed multi-feature approach, but it’s equally easy to understand. Here, you’ll create a table listing all your major competitors in columns. Then in the following rows, create a list of features that in a not-so-subtle way show why your business stands apart from the competition.
Remember that in either approach, your competitive advantage should be as clear as possible. As the deck comes to a close, there should be no confusion in the minds of your audience as to what makes your company special.
Now we move on to the Team slide, one that is deceptively important. You are presenting your team in the best light here, especially in terms of their qualifications.
Depending on how many people you have, it’s good to provide their headshots, names and positions, and even occasionally their education and previous work experience. Make sure to emphasize the unique and valuable traits that the founding team has.
Thank you/Contact Slide
Finally, you have the contact slide. This one should be very simple, much like your intro,
This should include the names of the presenters, their contact information like their email and phone number, then your business’s logo. Below that, if you have a brick and mortar location, include the address, a general inquiries email if you have one, and then finally your website.
In summary, your deck should concisely tell a story that will attract, engage and impress those being presented to. While the 10 slides i’ve listed won’t necessarily cover all the bases, this structure can provide you with the roadmap for a great pitch. However, you’ll need to drive the point home with great design.
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