9 Tips for a Persuasive Pitch Deck

Reka Forgach

We’ve written a post about what goes into a good pitch. But what about the collateral behind it? Building a good pitch deck is imperative for bringing a winning pitch to life. Here are the basics of what should go in it and some tips on better slide design.

Consider the context of your pitch

Whether it’s Demo Day, or you’re pitching for a Seed Round or Series A Round, your story will be different. 

A Seed Round is about getting someone to believe your vision for the product that you’re building and the gap in the market that you’d like to address. In a Series A, you’re no longer testing a hypothesis. You need to demonstrate traction and product-market fit, to demonstrate how you’ll acquire more customers and users, faster. You can read more about the difference in content between Seed Rounds and Series A here.

Once you’ve got your content down based on some variation of storytelling, go over it with a heavy red pen with the following rules in mind.

  1. Balance good storytelling with numbers

A lot of pitch deck advice suggests that you lead your pitch with a story in order to engage the audience with a narrative to follow and emotional connection. You can keep the presentation interesting with an arc, but keep an eye on the facts as well.

Whether you’re telling the origin story of your startup to demonstrate the problem, using customer examples to explain how you solved it, or exploring the grand narrative behind a market, make sure that key numbers from your business are pinning down your thesis.

While you don’t have to have these memorized to the tenth decimal point, knowing the key facts and figures behind your business are a good sign to investors that you’re on top of your game.

  1. Be clear about your product description

Practice the clarity of your pitch deck by presenting to others and asking one question - what does my product/service do? The answers to this question will be enlightening, and might take you back to the drawing board to clarify your content.

“As a founder, you’re closest to what you’re building. It’s worth seeing if someone outside of your company can explain what you do after reading the deck,” writes Karin Klein, a founding partner at Bloomberg Beta, Bloomberg LP's venture arm.

  1. Opt for accuracy

Go over everything to double-triple check that your argument is solid on a logistical level, and that you’re not overestimating data or figures on TAM or otherwise to tell a more impressive story. Whatever argument you have down on paper needs to check out under heavy scrutiny, so anticipate questions and know your argument.

If you’re pitching for a Series A, use as much data from your track record as possible as proof. Exaggerating - and getting caught in it - can either cause you to look foolish or greedy. And what you’re ultimately going for is well-versed in your industry.

  1. Focus your text

Once the content is down, it’s time to edit it like crazy. Keep copy to a minimum by working to eliminate lists and bullet points, and limiting the amount of words on each slide to a number that can easily be read in 3-4 seconds. 

This is especially important in the first slides as you establish your pitch. This is when the attention of your audience is fresh and you have the opportunity to make an impression. Further down the line, you may add additional information to back up your argument with data points.

MapMe’s pitch deck exhibits this well, with strong bold headlines in the beginning, and more detailed slides further on.

Check out the entire slide deck here to see simplicity in action

  1. Find the right images

Punctuate each main message with a strong visual. You can do this by deciding on a keyword for your slide and picking an image that drives that home. One visual is worth a thousand words, and directly illustrates your pitch without distracting your audience with material they need to read.

Canvas’ pitch deck uses visuals well to describe the evolution from digital to analog using three illustrations.

Check out the entire deck here for more inspiration

  1. Unify your deck with an accent color

You can dip your toe into color theory to determine the visual ‘flavor’ of your brand. Once you’ve zeroed in on a simple palette that matches the emotion you want to meet, use it to unify and customize your presentation. You can easily achieve this by working with a template on Canva or Powerpoint and editing the color settings.

  1. Review your typography choice

Find a typography that’s readable and doesn’t distract with too much of its own style. Sans-serif is recommended for both of these points. Project your pitch deck ahead of time to make sure that the font size is large enough so that everyone in the room can see it - make sure to calibrate according to whether it’s a conference room or a meeting room.

  1. Use the rule of three

The rule of three is a writing principle that suggests that a list of three things is optimal for creating a satisfying and engaging impact in audience members than more or less items.

Use the rule of three to organize your content, especially in the benefits and features section. The rule of three works because it’s brief enough to be catchy, but provides enough rhythm to create a pattern and a takeaway. This same principle is popularly repeated on landing pages for the same reason.

  1. Make them feel your product

This could either take the form of a demo or a meticulously curated visual of your offering. 

Though demos are hands down the most convincing way to demonstrate your product, they might not always be possible as they require a lot of upfront logistical preparation. Use screenshots, mockups or animations of your product where possible to give your audience a ‘real feel.’ And if you do opt for animations or demos, make sure to test everything beforehand to make sure the delivery is smooth, and undisturbed by unwanted load times.

At the end of the day, in the words of Kevin Hale, partner at Y Combinator, make your pitch deck ‘legible, simple, and obvious.’ By doing this, you’ll make sure that you know exactly what you want to say, and that your message comes across as intended. Everything above and beyond that is a cherry on top, but you might be surprised how far these simple maxims will take you.

CEU iLab one-year incubation program

The CEU iLab incubation program makes entrepreneurship more accessible by providing mentoring, know-how, network and a community for high-impact teams. All of this in a world-class environment, at a world-class university.