What is a Pitch Deck: Meaning, Example, and Guide

What is a pitch deck
This article will help you understand the concepts and components of an effective pitch deck.

Throughout many years of helping startup founders navigate fundraising, we’ve come across many pitch decks. We can confidently say that we know a thing or two about writing good pitch decks. In this article, we’ll do a deep dive into the definition of a pitch deck and what the ideal pitch deck looks like.

Pitch Deck: What is It?

A pitch deck is a business presentation that tells your company's story. Depending on your stage and your particular journey, this ‘story’ can take different angles; solving a pressing problem, a unique business model, remarkable traction, revolutionary tech, or superhuman founders. Usually, a deck will have between 15-24 slides, but this depends on all the above factors and shouldn’t be taken as a rule of thumb. The deck's goal is clear: you need to persuade your investor audience to trust you and your solution so they want to invest their money in your company.

A pitch deck can be used for different purposes, such as emailing it to help you land investor meetings, pitching, and presenting in front of an audience. Depending on these scenarios and time constraints, the presentation can have more or less information, but the structure should generally be the same.

When will you need a pitch deck?

You'll need a pitch deck throughout your journey as a founder and many stages of a startup’s life. For starters, almost every U.S. accelerator program will ask for a pitch deck during their initial screening process. Once you're in, get ready for the  "pitch practices." These spaces allow you to rehearse your pitch and refine your presenting skills. Rehearsing is crucial; it’s designed to prepare you for future demo days. An event where you present your business to a room full of key players—think investors and other program coordinators. 

However, this is not the most common use of your deck. The most common use for a pitch deck is whenever you and your team decide it’s time to seek external capital. Think of your pitch deck as your ‘presentation card.’ Often, what will determine whether you can sit in front of potential investors is if your deck has a clear and compelling story that can be understood. The presentation decks can also serve as a pre-meeting brief, allowing investors a sneak peek before a face-to-face conversation, or as a discussion tool during your meetings to walk them through your value proposition clearly and concisely. 

A pitch deck serves a dual purpose: not only does it provide investors with an overview of your company, making it easier for them to evaluate the investment potential, but it also helps you, as a founder, as a mental exercise into articulating the key aspects of your startup and pen key information and data about your company. 

The ideal structure 

Again, think of your deck as a story/journey your reader is going through. Throughout the presentation, the key questions the pitch needs to answer are:

  1. What market opportunity have you discovered? 
  2. What have you built to tackle it? How does it work, and who is it for? 
  3. How much are you growing, and will you continue to grow? 
  4. And why are YOU and your team THE right ones to change that status quo? 

These four guiding questions will frame the structure of your pitch deck.

First, you want to set the stage with your deck's introduction. This encompasses the cover slide and the status quo section. What’s the current landscape, and what isn’t working?

Next, we pivot to introduce your solution—think of it as the story's hero. This is where the narrative takes a turn. We focus on what sets your solution apart, its features, how it generates revenue, and its target audience. 

For seasoned entrepreneurs, this is also the point where we'd highlight any traction gained, demonstrating your understanding of your business's growth trajectory and your concrete plans for expansion.

Then, it’s time to size up the market. You should explore how the target market responds and how big it is—the stakes couldn’t be higher. But that’s not all; your audience will also be eager to learn about the competitive landscape and how you are better than your competitors.

Finally, we reach the climax of the pitch deck. Here we highlight the founding team, your unique competitive edges, or perhaps your innovative rollout strategy. We wrap up this section by clearly outlining your funding needs and providing a breakdown of how the capital will be used.

What should be in a Pitch Deck Presentation?

Many authors, venture capitalists, startup founders, and evangelists have developed various iterations of what they believe are the essential components for successful pitch presentations. There is definitely not one correct answer. However, there are certain best practices and highly recommended components the deck should have.

At Slidebean, we’ve created this visual to show how we visualize the ideal story arc of a pitch deck.

This fits perfectly into the ideal pitch deck structure we tend to use at Slidebean.

pitch-deck-meaning-1

Pitch Deck Components:

Very broadly speaking, the key elements that fit this structure are listed below. This doesn’t mean the deck should have no more than 13 slides. Depending on your particular case, many of these sections should be expanded into more than 1 slide. 

  1. Problem
  2. Market Overview
  3. Solution
  4. Product/Features
  5. Audience
  6. Revenue Model
  7. Roadmap
  8. Traction 
  9. Go-To-Market
  10. Market Size
  11. Competition
  12. Team
  13. Fundraising/Use of Funds‍

These core sections of a pitch deck are intentionally designed to flow from broad to detailed, starting with the business opportunity and gradually zooming in on why this particular company is poised to fill a gap in the market.

If you're on the hunt for some pitch deck inspiration, check our gallery of successful pitch deck templates right here.

I want to take a moment to re-emphasize that this structure is, by no means, a rule of thumb. Every company has its own story, and whoever is creating the pitch deck will adapt these slides into the order that produces the best possible story, given their strengths. Early-stage startups, who usually don’t have relevant traction, lean heavily on the problem-solution fit, the market potential, and being first to market. More mature companies, in contrast, tend to emphasize their traction, KPIs, unit economics, and how additional funding can accelerate their growth.

Regardless of the size of the company or the milestones to date, the ultimate goal of a pitch presentation is to provide a broad overview of how the startup works, its strengths, and future growth opportunities.

Are there different types of pitch decks?

More than different decks per se, the main factor to consider is that there are different scenarios in which you’ll use a deck, so we definitely need to adjust the narrative to fit these different time constraints and content requirements. While there’s no one-size-fits-all guide to the types of pitch decks, here are some commonly encountered decks:

Elevator pitch deck:

This is a deck that should, as the name suggests, be able to deliver a pitch for 1-2 minutes during an elevator ride with a potential investor - figuratively speaking. Nonetheless, these sorts of decks are highly condensed versions of your pitch. Focus on the most essential information: problem, solution, traction, market, use of funds, and growth. 

Demo day pitch deck:

Usually a bit more detailed than an elevator pitch but still on the shorter side. These pitch decks are common on demo days when many startups present sequentially, and the time limit is sacred.  Here, founders usually have no more than five minutes to present. These pitches are often presented in large auditoriums, and the focus is yourself, so the deck itself should have little-to-no-text and be heavy on visuals to capture your audience’s attention.

Full investor deck:

This is what you normally find when Googling “What is a Pitch Deck” or “Pitch Deck Meaning”. A full investor deck is the archetypical pitch deck and also the most commonly used. Typically, it showcases your company for potential investors to review and assess if it is venture-backable or not. This is a more in-depth look at your startup's aspects, from business model and go-to-market strategy to financial projections and fundraising needs. These decks have between 15-24 slides and are also called “email decks,” meaning they are sent to help you land investor meetings. They can also be used to guide in-person meetings and help you highlight traction and data that would otherwise be trickier to explain verbally.‍

Investor data room:

Beyond a pitch deck, an investor data room includes all the due diligence materials of a startup as the closing of an investment approaches. It goes deeper than the pitch deck, including crucial documents that confirm your company’s credibility and back up the claims made in your presentations, particularly regarding your financials. This setup is particularly valuable during acquisitions, as it allows investors to verify the essentials like legal structure, contracts, stock vesting agreements, trademarks, and financial records. For more information on this topic, you can check this article.

Key components for a solid pitch deck

  1. Good Story Structure - Storytelling Arc: In pitch decks, the order in which you present your information is crucial—almost as critical as the content itself. Your information should follow a logical order that paints an overall business picture and has a story arc that makes sense. Most storytelling techniques in public speaking also apply to narrating your business story.
  1. Easily Understandable: This point goes hand in hand with the structure and order of the deck and, honestly, is quite obvious. Readers need to understand your company and the deck, regardless of them being unfamiliar or unrelated to your industry. The typical trap in which many fall is getting too technical and using jargon that many of us simply - don’t understand. Try to tell the story clearly, compellingly, and concisely so that anyone* can understand the deck and get excited about your company. 
  2. Human-Centered & Relatable: It’s tempting to focus too much on the solution you created and give lengthy explanations of your product’s super cool features. The reality is that the best business idea is meaningless if it doesn’t solve a genuine human problem. The deck needs to convey that there is a clear problem/solution fit. Make things relatable by providing proof of the user's pain points, quantify the problem, and mention how your solution improves their lives - and why your team is the only one that can do it. If your audience can’t relate to the problem, convincing them of your solution will be hard.‍
  3. Compelling Visual Resources: While your presentation's content is vital, your slides' visual look is critical in engaging your audience. People get bored quickly, and a visually dynamic presentation can help you maintain their interest. We process images much more efficiently than text; use this to your advantage by crafting visually striking slides that enhance your message. And please, remember that this is not a business plan. You shouldn't have everything in your deck. This is a high-level document that has to paint a solid picture of your company. There will be a time and place to deep dive into different areas of the company; the slide deck is not the place.
  4. Traction-Oriented Slides: If you have the traction, brag about it. Results and actual data tend to be more relevant than anything else. They demonstrate you’ve found or started to find product/market fit, and that your addressable market has been identified and defined. Nothing gives you more credibility than actual, measurable success with paying customers. Bonus points: you must be prepared to discuss these metrics and unit economics once you present them, so make sure you know and understand them. 
  5. A Healthy, Exponentially Growing Business: The simple (and hardest) truth of crafting a solid and compelling pitch deck is that it depends on your company’s performance. Revenue-generating businesses, low-churning products, exponential and sustained growth, and consistent usage… these are the things that investors are looking for, and that will charm them. The reality behind the startup fundraising world is that investors want a 10x return for their investment. Despite the reputation of being risk-takers, they ultimately look for their investment to yield results. 

A pitch presentation is valuable for founders and investors to assess collaboration opportunities. A solid deck can take you really far, and a deck full of red flags can deter you from even having the opportunity to pitch in person to investors. It is a good exercise because it forces you to do a conscious exercise to articulate your story in a compelling manner, as well as a format that is compatible with the majority of investors around the world. By no means is it an easy task, but the exercise of writing it will help you understand your company from an external perspective and force you to understand key aspects of the narrative you have: growth, metrics, solution, problem, etc.

I hope this article has clarified what a business deck is and the components of a 5-star deck. 

For more insights, feel free to explore other articles on our blog about pitch deck basics.

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