Getting an investor on board with a startup often starts with an elevator pitch. Once this short pitch catches the investor’s attention, it is time for a more formal and longer pitch at a scheduled time. Importantly, this pitch should not be a one-way presentation. When entrepreneurs simply talk at investors for 30 minutes without stopping, the audience is likely to get bored and become disinterested. Instead, entrepreneurs need to pull investors into the presentation and get them to ask questions. Interactivity is key to building excitement.
One of the most classic ways to involve an audience in a presentation is through a slide deck. However, not all slide decks are created equal. When the slides simply mirror the presentation, they add little to the whole pitch. Instead, slides should pique the audience’s curiosity and prompt them to ask questions. Below are some key tips for creating a great pitch slide deck.
- Provide a concise overview immediately. Investors likely see an overwhelming number of pitches and they can become confused when entrepreneurs try too hard to hook the audience before simply overviewing the company. In the very first few slides, the entrepreneur should establish exactly what the product is and what the company aims to accomplish. The story and the hook come with the elevator pitch. Now that the investor is already interested, it’s time to get right down to business. In the end, investors are busy people and they should not walk away from any pitch feeling that their time was somehow wasted. Once the general overview is put in front of the investor, entrepreneurs can get into specifics of the product and why it will succeed in the marketplace.
- Leave room for imagination and discussion. Too many entrepreneurs try to explain everything over the course of their slides. This strategy fails for a number of reasons. First, the sheer number of slides will become overwhelming, and the amount of information covered will make the audience’s heads spin. Second, the slides will become so cumbersome that people stop paying attention to them altogether. Third, this method does not pull the audience into the presentation. Ideally, the audience becomes part of the reasoning process; the presentation should lead each member of the audience to decide for themselves that the product is necessary. By strategically leaving important information out of the deck, entrepreneurs can prod investors to ask the right questions. And when the investors start asking questions, they start to sell themselves on the product.
- Include a soundbite that makes the company memorable. Some people think that soundbites or slogans are gimmicky. While they are, that is the point. Investors can hear hundreds of pitches each month, so what is it that they will take away from each? How can entrepreneurs make themselves memorable? The quickest and easiest answer is through a soundbite. This part of the presentation should be formulaic. Successful soundbites almost always include two descriptors, which refers back to the natural way people talk. Something like “we’re the x of y” is a good way to go, or entrepreneurs can find a combination of two concepts that encapsulates their company. For example, Pinterest is “visual bookmarking” and Evernote is “universal capture.”
- Provide visuals as much as possible. Blocks of texts are not exactly inviting for investors. If text is included, it should be in bullet points to facilitate fast reading. What draws in audiences even more, however, is visuals. Charts and graphs are a great way to give a clear view of revenue projection or business strategy in a relatively short amount of time. These sorts of visuals not only save time, but they also invite questions from the audience, which keeps them engaged. If possible, entrepreneurs should also include visuals of product prototypes, or even the actual prototype itself depending on the nature of the product. Even a mock version of the final product can give a better sense of what the company wants to accomplish.
- Focus on a single business model during the pitch. One of the biggest pet peeves that investors have is a startup that tries to show a wide range of different revenue sources. While entrepreneurs may think that this will sell the idea more—after all, more sources of revenue mean more revenue altogether—the opposite is true. Including a number of revenue sources can suggest to investors that the company does not actually know how it is going to make money. The majority of small companies first earn money from a single revenue model, so it is important to focus on one, or at most two, business models during a pitch.
- Spend some time talking about the team. In the end, the product and the strategy do not build the company. Instead, it’s the people involved—the entrepreneur and his or her partners—who will determine the company’s success or failure. Investors understand this basic fact and will want to know about the leadership team and how it will grow stronger in the future. Pitches should include at least one slide that focuses on the experience and skillset of the team, including how each member’s different perspective complements the others’. Many investors believe that the strongest team will create the best product, so entrepreneurs should aim to prove that they have assembled a better team than their competitors.