Cardinal Sins of Pitch Slides
Number one rule with slides: Slides show, not tell.
There is an art to communicate visually with your pitch deck; it’s a fine line between underwhelming your audience which undercuts your pitch, and overwhelming them with a PowerPoint busting with fireworks and smokescreens.
When describing the purpose of slides, I like to use the analogy of dance. In traditional salsa dancing, the pair creates the performance. The man acts as a frame, where as the woman steals the show with her kicks and spins. A pitch has a similar dynamic: your deck and your story must be in harmony. You, the founder, are the star of the show, whereas the deck is simply the frame around your story and success.
So channel your inner flamenco dancer emoji and discover some of the biggest issues with slides.
No one has time to read a book of slides.
If you have a three minute pitch and 30 slides, you may want to reconsider. Now there is no set number of slides per pitch, but these visuals are here to complement your startup story. The rhythm of them should follow a cadence as well.
Your audience is being stimulated by listening to you speak, watching your gestures, and understanding the story unfolding in front of them. (Yes, this is even true on zoom.) Now you want to overcomplicate their neurons by only allowing them 3 seconds to take in your slide? Not only is that unfair to your listeners, but it also does your pitch disservice by diluting the information on your slide to shorter than a Tik Tok video.
Your startup is not a Big 4 consultancy.
A startup pitch deck should not be the same as a consulting deck (unless your startup is a consulting agency). These decks have very different purposes and audiences.
A startup deck rides the rails of your startup story. It unveils your product piece by piece driven by the conductor, you the founder. It is not to give SWOT analyses, MBA market research, or corporate solutions in a terribly dry PowerPoint format.
Whenever startup decks come across as too corporate, it can disconnect you from your problem and solution, as well as your ability to communicate to your target audience.
Use the same language — which includes the visual language of slides — as your sector and your audience.
Please trial the doomed video ahead of time.
A video embedded in a slide can be a way to physically show your audience how your product or prototype works. It is a great way to leverage the power of the visual to showcase something that would be too complicated to explain in an image.
But, note a warning about the doomed video.
Often times, people embed a video into their pitch deck, and it works at home or the office perfectly. However, during gameday, it is frozen, choppy, or does not even load. Worst of all is when you are presenting virtually, and the Zoom lag creates a fatigue in your pitch that cannot be undone. Videos are a double-edged sword in deck slides, and it is your choice to use one.
Always, always try and trial your video if you do. (Or use some simple hacks like incorporating a series of images on slides to make it look like a clickable prototype, etc.)
Do not mistake an investor deck with a pitch deck.
Investor decks and decks that are to be emailed to individuals are completely different than a pitch deck. With your pitch deck, your slides have you to facilitate, but over an email deck, everything must be scripted out on the slides themselves to provide this context.
Whenever there is someone pitching with their investor deck, it is like reading a novel. It will drown out your pitch with lines and lines of text. (So, always double check which deck you upload!)
Making the slides before the script.
I know we all can get very excited with the potential of Canva and design tools. But, if you immediately jump to slide design, it is like buying your furniture before purchasing the house.
You will end up editing slides about 24 times before you pitch even AFTER you write the script first, and that number will triple if you start getting knee deep in the design.
Write your script and bullet points first, so you know which key points to highlight and what imagery you want to evoke on your slides. Then, go Canva crazy to create a sleek and coherent design.