This article will guide you through understanding what is a pitch deck presentation, and empower you to create a compelling one that aligns with your company goals.
What is pitch deck?
A pitch deck is a 10-20 slide business presentation designed to give a short summary of your company, your business model, your traction, and your startup vision. A pitch deck can be used for several purposes, from trying to get a meeting with an investor, to presenting in front of an audience during a demo day.
Different scenarios and time constraints allow adding more or less information, but the basic structure remains similar. The pitch deck definition can be summarized as the following: the story of a startup, its milestones, and its ability for exponential growth.
The story of a startup, its milestones, and its ability for exponential growth.
When do you need a pitch presentation?
A pitch deck is usually needed at several stages of a startup’s life. Most US accelerator programs will require you to submit a pitch deck of your company as part of the initial screening process. If you’re admitted to one of these programs, they will also have what is called “pitch practice” that basically consists of pitching sessions where the founders of each startup take turns and rehearse presenting their deck out loud. These sessions are meant to prepare founders for the accelerator demo day, where all companies from the batch present in front of an audience of stakeholders including investors and program managers.
The most common use of a presentation deck, however, is when companies decide to raise venture capital from investors. It has become an industry standard to use a pitch deck when having interactions with investors, whether as a send-out document that is shared prior to meeting in person or to go over your value proposition if you get an actual meeting with them. This deck presentation serves a dual purpose: it allows investors to quickly go over your business proposal in a way that’s easier for them to assess the investment opportunity, but it also forces you to think about the building blocks of your company and pen down key pieces of information about your startup.
What should be in a Pitch Deck Presentation?
A number of authors, venture capitalists, startup founders and evangelists have created different versions of what they consider required elements to successful pitching presentations. Most of them agree on the following:
Pitch Deck Structure:
Traction / Milestones
Fundraising/Use of Funds
These core sections actually follow a deliberate structure that goes from general to specific, from providing the context for the business opportunity to explaining why this company can fill in a market gap.
If you’re looking for pitch deck examples you can check out our curated gallery of pitch deck templates here.
While this structure is pretty much a common denominator in the startup ecosystem, it is worth noting that companies at different stages will adapt their storytelling to better fit their strengths. Because they have little to no traction, early-stage startups usually rely more heavily on the problem-solution sections, the market opportunity, and being first-to-market. Later-stage companies on the other hand bet more aggressively on showcasing their revenue traction, their financials, and the ability to grow the business if more capital is injected into the business.
Regardless of the size of the company or the milestones to date, the ultimate goal of a pitch deck presentation is to provide a blueprint for how the startup works, its strengths, and future growth opportunities.
The ultimate goal of a pitch deck presentation is to provide a blueprint for how the startup works, its strengths, and future growth opportunities.
Are there different types of pitch decks?
More than different pitch decks per se, there are different types of pitching needs or scenarios, and so the basic narrative is adapted to fit different time constraints and content requirements. There’s no universal rulebook when it comes to pitch deck types, but here are some of the most common pitch deck types:
Elevator pitch deck: a super summarized version of your pitch deck. As the name suggests, the idea is that this pitch should be delivered during an elevator ride with an investor. While this is obviously figuratively speaking, elevator pitches are usually covered in 2-3 minutes, they should leave out any granularity, and they should focus on the most essential pieces of information.
Demo day pitch deck: typically a little longer than an elevator pitch, but similarly falling under the short-ish side of the spectrum. Demo days usually jam together entire batches of startups and thus constrain each founder to keep their presentation under 5 minutes or so. They are usually presented in large auditoriums so they should have as little text as possible and make things more visually appealing by means of photos/images.
Full investor deck: This is what you would normally find when looking for whats a pitch deck. This is the archetypical pitch deck, and the most widely used. It is a full-length presentation that showcases your company for an investor to review and assess your fundability. This is a more in-depth look at all the aspects of your startup, from business model and go-to-market strategy to financial projections and fundraising needs. These decks usually range from 15-20 slides, and they provide a full picture of your business. These decks are sometimes shared so people can review them without a presenter, so they allow the addition of more information. They can also be used to guide an in-person meeting and help the founder highlight traction data that would otherwise be trickier to explain verbally.
Investor data room: An investor data room is a digital compilation of all the due diligence of a startup as the closing of an investment approaches It extends beyond the pitch deck and covers other important documents that validate your company’s credibility and support the information shared throughout the deck. When an enterprise wants to buy a company, this information helps investors ensure everything is in order. In the investor data room, investors check that everything you pitch is real: your legal structure, your contracts, stock vesting agreements, trademarks, and financial data. For more information on this topic, you can check this article.
What makes a good pitch deck?
A good pitch deck successfully combines these key ingredients:
Good story structure - storytelling arch: When it comes to pitch decks, the order in which you present your information is almost as important as the actual information on the slides. The information should follow a sequence that makes sense to grasp the full scope of your business. Most, if not all of the storytelling best practices for public speaking apply to the context of telling business stories.
Easily understandable: Closely related to the previous point, the information on the slides should be easy to understand and follow. This means the information should be phrased in a way that even someone who’s not familiar with your industry can still understand the value proposition. A lot of tech companies fall into the trap of including technical jargon in order to sound more knowledgeable or gain credibility, but this usually backfires in making the information less accessible. Keep things simple and don’t overcomplicate your message.
Human-centered & relatable: It’s tempting to focus too much on the solution you created and give lengthy explanations of your product’s features and capabilities. The reality is that the best product is meaningless if it doesn’t solve a real human problem. Make things relatable by providing proof of the user pain points, and how your solution improves their lives. If your audience can’t relate to the problem, it’s going to be hard to convince them of your solution.
Compelling visual resources: While the content of the presentation is important, it is also critical to pair up this information with visually appealing imagery in order to make the slides more engaging. People get bored easily and a graphically rich presentation can help the viewers make a better connection with the information that is being delivered. We process images faster and easier than text, which is an abstract form of communication. Leverage this in your favor by making striking slides that elevate the content in them.
Traction-oriented slides: The best pitch decks bet on traction more heavily than any other content on the deck. This is because nothing provides more credibility to a business than showing the data of actual paying customers.
A healthy, exponentially growing business: The simplest (but hardest) truth about making a pitch deck is that the best ones usually depend on a company’s performance. A revenue-generating business, a low-churn product, a company with exponential growth and healthy engagement with its users… these are the things that spark investor interest. The hard truth about the startup world is that investors want to 10x their investment, and despite having a reputation for being risk-takers, their real expectation is to have returns on their investment.
A pitching presentation is a great tool for both founders and investors to evaluate business opportunities together. It forces you to tell the story of your company in a comprehensive way, and it allows potential investors to learn about your startup in a framework that they’re familiar with.
It lets you convey the market opportunities you’re business has found, and provides the medium to explain how your product and business model are the key to unlocking massive scale and ROI.
I hope this article has been able to answer what is a deck in business. Feel free to check out other articles in our blog that cover pitch deck basics.