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What in the heck is a pitch deck? (And why it’s important)

Anyone can be struck with a vision or idea, whether they’re walking down the street or taking a shower inspiration is created without warning. What then sets apart an individual who acts on this inspiring idea and one who doesn’t? Sometimes individuals develop an intrinsic desire to create and see their ideas actualized. Regardless of the reason, there is one constant amongst all ambitious people who take this path: a well put together Pitch Deck.

What is a pitch deck? 

A pitch deck is a common term to describe a small business or startup’s first attempt at showcasing their idea to potential investors or supporters. A pitch deck should be a “brief presentation that gives potential investors or clients an overview of your business plan, products, services and growth traction” (Manhoor Sheikh via Visme). If the startup process were to be compared to the dining experience, think of the pitch deck as a sample platter. Every successful startup has created a pitch deck that propelled them through the investing process. Linked here are some famous examples including Facebook, Airbnb, and Uber. Functionally, a pitch deck is a slideshow presentation (with potential for product demonstration). Some popular services that are created for pitch deck creators include slidebean, Canva, and Apple Keynote.

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What makes a pitch deck successful?

Like any slideshow, a pitch deck needs to be formulaic and organized. Below is an example of a common structure used by startups:

  1. Introduction: This slide sets the tone for the presentation, the aesthetics should represent the colors and logos that your company has chosen to be a part of their story, and the name of your company and innovative idea should be made readily apparent.
  2. Problem: What is your product going to solve? Investors want to know that your company will fill a need, have a slide that talks about the issue in the world you are seeking to solve.
  3. Solution: Discuss how your product will solve the problem previously laid out.
  4. Market Opportunity: The importance of this part of the pitch deck cannot be overstated. If you are presenting this idea to investors then they must be able to believe that they will come out with a profit from investing in this product. Doing extensive market research and having tangible data is crucial to determine where your product fits in to the financial landscape.
  5. Product: Here is where you can be creative. If your product is something physical then it may be exciting to see a demonstration of it in action (for example, a prosthetics company could showcase fingers moving or toes curling). If your product is a software then feel free to have a video presenting its capabilities.
  6. Growth: Discuss the goals that you have for your company. These should be ambitious yet achievable and show that you are forward-thinking.
  7. (Optional) Talk about personnel: If you feel like this helps tell the story of your company then have a slide where you discuss who the founders are and where their inspiration comes from. You may also want to include a section about some core team members.
  8. Competition: No matter the novelty of your idea there will be competition. Do your research and talk about why you will rise above the competitors in the field.
  9. Financial: Demonstrate clear financial knowledge of how this product will make money going forward.Needs: This should be the end of the presentation where you tell the investors what you need from them and why. For example, why do you need a specific amount, what will it be used for in your company?
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What makes a successful pitch deck?

When delivering a pitch it is helpful to think of yourself as a narrator. You are telling the story of this company that you have put resources into. Why is this company meaningful to you? Discovering that fact will allow you to be able to tell this story in an engaging way to the investors. Adding a narrative element that is present throughout all of the slides will also assist with coherence during the presentation and will help the audience (investors) to connect with your idea.

One thing that commonly gets lost during a pitch presentation is the aesthetic appeal of a deck. A clean, eye-catching presentation gives that extra little boost to a pitch deck that may be the difference between receiving funding and not.

Remember, you are selling this company. Using persuasive strategies are of the utmost importance. Below are some common mistakes that people can make when creating a pitch deck, so be sure to avoid them (

  • Avoiding redundancy and a glut of text
    • Instead try representing your data with graphs and models which are much easier to visually interpret
  • Never exaggerate or hyperbolize your numbers or figures. While this may seem harmless, investors are sharp and will be able to tell if you are fudging the budget
  • Don’t approach each investor as the same
    • Make sure to do extensive research on who you are pitching to. What have they funded before? What kind of style works with them? Is there anything you could personally connect with them on to quickly build rapport?

Last tip is try and enjoy yourself! If you are committed to your company and your product you should be able to execute a pitch deck successfully. Make sure YOU believe in what you are saying first and foremost, and last but not least… good luck!

 Author: Paxton Dodd

Paxton is currently working towards his Master's degree in Communication at Purdue University. He has spent the last year teaching and taking courses along with freelancing. He is interested in creative marketing and data analysis.