How to craft a successful pitch deck: Top presentations analysed

06 August 2019

Whether it’s Facebook, Uber or Airbnb, even the biggest businesses started small. And, for a majority of such organisations, raising capital from investors came down to one thing: creating a successful pitch deck. 

What exactly is a pitch deck? It’s a brief presentation that gives an overview of a business, including product showcases, a summary of the business model, and an introduction to the team, to potential funders.

Though the best pitch decks are short, they’re immensely powerful. And, since winning investment isn’t as straightforward as we’d all like, a proper pitch deck has to be expertly crafted.

Very much a case of make or break; getting a pitch deck right is no easy feat. That’s why we’re turning to the pitch presentations of some of the world’s most successful businesses to help you out. We’ll consider the components of each presentation, breaking down the elements that made them so successful in the process.

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How long should a pitch deck be?

Professionals listening to a pitch

You might think that the more extensive and exhaustive the pitch deck, the better it will be. However, there’s an average time that pops up time and again with regards to the perfect pitch deck length: 3 minutes and 44 seconds. That’s the median time investors spend reading one pitch deck – so it pays to include the all-important facts and figures while keeping it light and breezy.

Take, for instance, the number of slides featured in these future heavy hitters’ pitch decks: 

social pitch decks

Be ruthless when it comes to the finished presentation; trim the excess and keep the main points as straightforward and lean as possible. If you have too many slides or lack direction, then you can bet the minds of your potential investors will start to wander. If you know you’ll go overboard, then here’s where an appendix section can come in handy.  

Best-practice advice for creating pitch decks

State the problem

The vast majority of pitch decks have a problem statement to use as a launching point for the rest of the presentation. Something like “user X has Y problem” or “market A has B inefficiency” is straightforward and succinct, and your solution should show how you’re going to solve it.

What doesn’t appeal to investors is hypothetical “imagine a world where…” type scenarios. Identify real pain points and demonstrate a competitive advantage in a brief but powerful way.

Airbnb’s take on this is a great example. They presented their slide with a rule of three that was memorable and simple in three slides: problem, solution and numbers. It’s easy to see how this to-the-point approach paid off.

Pitching to investors

Make your messages clear and concise

Investors want to know what your product is and how it works as quickly as possible. As we’ve stated, time is of the essence in pitch deck presentations, so use your words in a way that will grab the attention of your audience.

Facebook defined itself on the fourth slide of its pitch deck as follows: “Facebook is an expanding online directory that connects students, alumni and faculty.” On the first slide alone, Airbnb summed up its value proposition with “book rooms with locals, rather than hotels.” Youtube’s second slide shared its company purpose: “to become the primary outlet of user-generated video content on the Internet, and to allow anyone to upload, share, and browse this content."

Though the lengths of these differ, the point is they appeared early on in each pitch deck, and summed up what the respective companies were about in a concise, straightforward manner. It’s important to do the same in your pitch deck.  

Show the product in action

You’ll need to show what your product looks like and how it works. Go for screenshots of your product in action with short descriptions to describe what’s going on. The better the visual element of the product, the more successful your pitch deck will be.

  • Facebook featured an early version of the now-familiar profile; the screenshot contained the contact, personal and course info – as well as the profile photo – that’s so ubiquitous nowadays.
  • Airbnb went for a trio of screenshots with a simplified UX journey: “search by city > review listings > book it”.
  • Buzzfeed’s comprehensive screenshots showed editorial content, algorithmic content and user-generated content, making it clear how the site functions in the process.

Social pitch decks

Engage investors with data

Your data about growth, revenue and expenses should be impressive, and should illustrate your knowledge of the market and show the solution to problems you’ve identified in your industry.

An aesthetic punch adds a nice one-two to the pitch deck that will make investors sit up and take note too.

  • Facebook dressed up their data with impressive icons to drive the point of their figures home.
  • Airbnb’s clean, bold shapes and layouts gave their impressive data plenty of visual power.

Power to your people

It’s important to give both the pitch deck and your business a face; make a slide that identifies your management team. Many investors place considerable value on whether or not to invest based on the company’s most senior personnel.

Well-informed, passionate team members will hook in investors. Include pictures of key team members, their roles and relevant experience or expertise, and involve them in the presentation in some way.  

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Use competition to your strength

No business is unique, even if the founder thinks they are. If you’re a start-up, there are more than likely going to be competitors, potential competitors or substitutes that deal with your customers’ problems already. Rather than shy away from this, address the situation; if you don’t, it might appear to investors that you don’t know the space well enough, or you’re being wilfully obscure.

Instead, when you present the view of the market, note the scale of competitors and substitutes, as well as how much of a threat they could be. This is basically saying “who else can do what you’re doing and how well resourced are they to do it?” It illustrates more of an understanding of the market compared to just ignoring your competition.

Dealing with costs

Now it’s crunch time; you’ve laid out your data, who your competition is, and what your plans are. At the end, you’re going to need to say how much it will cost. Frequently used in a pitch deck’s “ask” slide are the following: 

  • Expected milestones and metrics to be achieved
  • Projected spend allocation
  • Remaining cash, burn rate and runway
  • Expected participation from existing investors (if any)

The more investors can understand where you want to go and how they can play a part in your success, the better chance you have of delivering a successful pitch deck.

Gazprom Energy is a leading and award-winning business energy supplier, helping thousands of small businesses manage their gas and electricity contracts. To find out more about what we can offer your business, visit the homepage or call us today on 0161 837 3395.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within this article are those of our third-party content providers alone and do not represent those of Gazprom Energy. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed.

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