The 3 Key Pitch Deck Components

The traditional three-act structure of pitch deck components

A pitch deck is what gets investors on board to fund your company. The best way to do this is by summarizing your company story, using a series of strategically arranged slides to argue why your company has unicorn potential and is worth investing in.

When we say that a pitch tells your company story we're being literal: the best approach to this is to structure the presentation as if you're outlining the plot of a book or movie. Your team is the main character, and the market you're tackling is the obstacle you must overcome (the bigger the market size, the more exciting the plot!)

We've refined this structure over ten years, drawing from our experiences and analyzing hundreds of successful pitch decks from companies like Airbnb and Uber, combined with effective storytelling techniques. With this strategy in mind you'll never look back at old-school business plans, instead outlining your pitch like a blockbuster.

Why Emphasize Storytelling?

The secret to any solid pitch deck is its ability to tell a story. Depending on the company, this story can take various angles and approaches but should generally follow a similar story arc. A compelling story illustrates how your team has navigated challenges, creatively seized opportunities, generated revenue, or built an A-team, making your business case an undeniable fit for its target market. The goal of this great story is to capture a potential investor’s attention for future meetings.

The traditional three-act structure

This is something that's usually taught at film school, but the logic can be applied to our case to craft a compelling pitch deck.

During Act I, the SETUP, we are introduced to the characters and the status quo. We’re presented with a universe that is believable as long as it's realistic and consistent with our own experiences.

Next comes Plot Point 1, around a third of the way in. This is where the story takes an unexpected turn, and the plot changes direction.

In The Social Network, this happens when the coding genius we've met is presented with the 'Harvard Connect' idea by the Winklevoss twins and decides to steal it.

This plot point also opens up a range of possibilities for where the story could go. As viewers, we're at the mercy of the script and often have no idea how the conflict will unfold during the second act.

As the plot changes direction, the stakes get higher. We care more about the characters, and the excitement builds. This all leads up to the story's climax, which comes after the second plot point.

In The Social Network, the second plot point is Eduardo freezing the Facebook account, which is another unexpected turn. Unlike the first plot point, this one narrows down the possibilities, leading to the climax: the confrontation between Mark and Eduardo in the Facebook office.

Now, try placing your pitch deck story within this arc.

Start with an introduction: the status quo. What’s going on? How does the world operate today? What are the flaws?

Your Solution slide is the first plot point. You pivot the direction of the story, changing the current status quo and opening up endless possibilities.

Next, start narrowing down. The product takes shape. Stakes get higher. We understand the hero of the story: the product.

The second plot point and climax will vary depending on your business. Maybe it’s in your traction slides, showing how you tapped into an incredible distribution channel.

Maybe the twist revolves around competitors who overlooked something crucial your team knows. Or perhaps it’s about your team’s unmatched background and experience.

The climax is when the viewer is most engaged. It’s after this climax that you make your ask for funding.

Four Guiding Questions

These questions will help frame the structure of your pitch deck:

  1. Why is the market ripe for disruption? What’s broken?
  2. What have you created? How does this solution solve an existing problem?
  3. Can you prove that the market needs your solution? Does your growth back up this claim? How fast are you growing?
  4. Can you and your team scale this company?

Structuring Your Pitch Deck

Taking all of the above into consideration, the key components of a pitch deck are the Intro or Status Quo section, the Product/Market section, and the Why Us section. These function like the acts of a play, with the Intro section outlining the current state of the market in the first act, the product clashing against it in the second act, and the climax in the third act -proving that your team and business model can rise up to the task.

First Act: Grabbing Attention

  • Set the scene and establish the status quo. Highlight the market opportunity and what's currently broken in the competitive landscape, which should, ideally, be ripe for disruption.
  • This section includes the Problem, Solution, and Business Opportunity slides.
  • We mention the "status quo" so often because it's the way things work at the moment: think of this as the problem your product or service solves and what you'll be addressing in the first slides.
  • The Solution slide is the hero's introduction: don't talk about the product in specific terms yet; rather, focus the content of this slide on proving how the company directly addresses the problem identified before.

Second Act: Building Excitement

  • Showcase your solution and demonstrate product-market fit with compelling and clear data. Prove the market needs your solution and back up this claim with growth metrics.
  • Introduce the business model, which is an explanation of how your company will achieve its goals. Think of this as setting the expectations of the path you'll follow.
  • Establish further goals - raise the stakes of the story and aim for exciting but realistic milestones.

Third Act: Delivering the Knockout Punch

  • Make a clear case for why investing in your company is an outstanding opportunity. Show how you and your team can scale the company, tying everything together to leave a lasting impression.
  • In a traditional story, this is where the hero draws from their established strengths to overcome their obstacles. Think of this as displaying and highlighting your core team and their skills, as well as the key elements of your product that set it apart from the rest.
  • While not a part of the classic three-arc structure, many modern narratives set up a cliffhanger for a possible sequel here. This is where you go all in and ask investors for the amount you'll need from them, what will get you to the next funding round and allow you to achieve the future milestones you set out to meet.

With this structure, you create a narrative that informs and engages potential investors, setting the stage for further discussions and meetings.

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