How to Build a Pitch Deck

Pitch decks are like new words: once you learn about them, they are everywhere. Some prospective startup leaders or innovators have never heard of these simple presentations, and yet they are virtually required for getting your project or business off the ground. Here is an overview of what pitch decks are, why they matter, and how to build your own.

What is a Pitch Deck?

A pitch deck is a slide presentation designed to persuade the right people to invest time or money in your idea. Pitch decks help startups attract potential partners or investors, but can also be used internally to promote new projects, concepts or products. They are career-builders. When successful, these presentations show you have the knowledge, business savvy and passion to turn an idea into something great.

The beauty of pitch decks is their simplicity. Your objective is not to flesh out your entire proposal, but rather to make your audience want to learn more about your idea. You do not want to drown potential partners or investors in information or overstay your welcome. In other words, forget about lengthy PowerPoint presentations stuffed with tedious financial information and bullet points. Stellar pitch decks are engaging, visually interesting and to the point.

The Rules of Deck-Building

Successful, now-public pitch decks from companies like Facebook, Buffer and LinkedIn show us what works—and what does not. Here are the unofficial rules of building and presenting pitch decks.

Do ThisNot That
  • Tell an engaging story
  • Keep it simple – 15 to 20 slides max
  • Use infographics and other visual devices to add interest
  • Use a consistent style and format
  • Update your deck regularly
  • Print copies for easy review
  • Include your copyright
  • Deliver a lengthy business proposal in slide form
  • Overwhelm your audience with text, data and tedious details
  • Exaggerate prospects
  • Come unprepared for questions
  • Continue to present outdated or ineffective decks

12 Must-Have Slides for Your Pitch Deck

Pitch decks are not one-size-fits all. After all, your job is to distinguish yourself from the competition and showcase your ingenuity. However, some slides contain such important information that they are virtually required. Here are some of them.

Vision Statement

Your vision statement introduces you and your company to your audience. Draft one to two sentences summarizing who you are and what you want. Do not rush drafting your statement: as in life, you only get one chance to make a good first impression.

Value Proposition

A value proposition is a slogan and short statement that introduces your business idea and, as the name suggests, its potential value for customers and investors alike. Try to keep it short and sweet. Great value propositions have a nice ring to them without being overly technical or trite. For example, Uber’s proposition slogan—“Tap the app, get a ride”—is followed by 29 simple words that highlight the service’s major features.

Your Team

A slide featuring photos and brief biographies personalize your business and let your audience know you have the knowledge, commitment, and experience to see your pitch through.

The Problem

Successful startups fill a need or desire, whether or not customers realize they have it. Examples include:

  • Facebook: Reconnecting and keeping in touch with people is difficult on a busy schedule.
  • LinkedIn: Employees and employers need an easy way to network and connect that does not hinge on applications and email.
  • Lyft: Finding and hailing cabs is a nuisance.

Your Solution

Tell your audience how your proposed product or service will address the aforementioned problem. Be sure to emphasize qualities that separate you from your competitors. Is your solution cheaper? Easier? More innovative? This is an excellent time for a demonstration.

Your Target Market

Who is most likely to benefit from your business or idea? In other words, what market demographics experience the problem most often. You need not include extensive data for each group; a simple infographic might work. Be sure to touch upon the size and buying power for example demographics.

Market Demand

Are prospective customers or clients seeking a solution to the problem presented? How high is that demand? It is also helpful to clarify demand for your particular solution. Are people looking for a technical solution? A face-to-face service?

A Competitive Analysis

In a pitch deck, a competitive analysis summarizes key players in your proposed market. This need not be a detailed report; just list your competition and how they approach the problem.

Your Business Model

Even the best ideas are hindered by poorly planned or organized ventures. Use this slide to clarify how your business will work, from conception to final profits. Again, keep things relatively short and straightforward.

A Roadmap to Success

Potential investors want to know you have a realistic plan to achieve your goals. Questions to consider:

  • When would you launch your business or idea?
  • What are the key phases and milestones, and when would you aim to meet them?
  • How many workers would you need? When?
  • How will you pay your employees?
  • What additional resources do you need?

Key Financials

Use this slide to forecast costs and profits associated with your idea, your current financial situation, and a cash flow plan for the first three to five years. Focus on projected sales, customers, costs, and earnings—not the nitty gritty details or extensive charts.

An Exit Strategy

What will you do in the event your proposal fails? How would it impact your audience? This slide is less crucial than most of the other pitch deck slides featured on this list, but it underscores your forward thinking and provides a security net.

Bonus: Contact Information

Potential investors and partners rarely green-light pitch decks right away. After all, they need time to process your idea; consider how it fits into their business model and vision; weigh potential benefits and pitfalls; and evaluate their budgets. Make it easy for your audience to send follow-up questions or additional meeting invites by ending your presentation with your contact information. Make sure to give all attendees a printed copy of your pitch deck.

Inspiration: Pitch-Perfect Decks

The idea that it is better to copy genius than create mediocrity is the business world’s version of Pablo Picasso’s famous declaration that “good artists borrow, great artists steal.” The concept also applies to pitch decks. That is not to say you should build your entire presentation around them; it is vital to be original. You just do not need to reinvent the wheel. These undeniably successful pitch decks can inspire your own and demonstrate how pitch decks evolved over time.

Before They Were Big

Short and Sweet

Visual Mold-Breakers

Where to Begin

Once you grasp the ins and outs of pitch decks, find an inspiring model, and figure out how to apply to your own business or idea, it is time to get your proposal down on virtual paper. While PowerPoint is a perfectly acceptable tool for creating pitch decks, there are several online builders explicitly dedicated to them. Try a few formats and visual styles and decide which suit you best. Some of the most compelling services include:

Aimee Hosler
Aimee Hosler
Writer

Aimee Hosler is a long-time journalist specializing in education and technology. She is an advocate for experiential learning among all ages and serves as the director of communications for a non-profit community makerspace. She holds a degree in journalism from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo.

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