Pitch deck tips - 3. Common Mistakes
In the 3rd of our series of mini blogs, we wanted to explore some of the key things you need to know before creating your pitch deck to set you up for success and avoid the dreaded investor delete button.
In blogs 1 & 2 we’ve covered investors' perspectives & how to achieve the goals of your pitch deck. This post is focused on avoiding the coming mistakes that we see time and time again and how they are easily avoided by following our simple top tips below.
Most mistakes happen simply through inexperience or a big rush to get something out the door and in people's inboxes. Inexperience can be easily fixed with the advice below, whereas impatience needs a big deep breath and an understanding that these mistakes will stop your outreach progress dead in the water, so, take some time to review and check that the below aren’t issues sat starring you in the face when you review your current deck.
In this post, we discuss the common mistakes that apply to a large majority of early decks and will too often result in them not passing the critical 30 second skim read, the important 2-3 minute review and worse still not pass that biggest barrier to overcome of getting that important first meeting.
Let's dive in!
1. Making the pitch more than 15 slides long
Some startup founders make the mistake of presenting a pitch deck that is longer than 15 slides. This won't work because investors have a short attention span and a busy schedule to attend to, it's too much information for them to digest and is overkill. Despite the desire to cram in all the perceived “really important juicy stuff”, there is no need. Less is more when it comes to an opening intro.
“Investors have a notoriously short attention span.” - Tony Conrad, Co-Founder and CEO of about.com
2. Having an unprofessional look and feel:
With the amount of free or cheap online templates there is no excuse for an unprofessional look and feel. Your deck represents you and your business, so you need to put in some effort to ensure it is presentable and won’t turn someone off the second they click open and a scruffy powerpoint, with dodgy design and layout hits them between the eyes. Thats the wrong type of impact to make! The common issues for deck design are:
- Inconsistent fonts
- Low-quality illustrations
- Range of different font sizes
- Unclear titles for each slide
- Inconsistent layout
- Overwhelming tables of data
- Complex charts
- Too much detail and small text to each slide.
The list goes on, but don’t let some basic presentation skills ruin your chances before they’ve even read anything.
3. Failing to include all important areas:
All pitch decks should be unique in design, order and content, it's your personality and business after all. But there are some key key slides you need to provide so an investor is able to get the key takeaways they need. Some investors will look for every one of these, some may just head straight to the financials first, whilst others may step through in their own order. However you can’t omit these key slides from seasoned investors as you are creating a friction point by not allowing them to answer some of their standard initial information needs:
- Company Summary
- The Problem
- The Solution
- The Team
- The Competition
- The Market
- The Product
- The Competition
These are the established slides for a reason, so ensure you have strong content for each.
4. Showing unimpressive or unbelievable financial projections:
Figures flatter than a cold cappuccino or hockey stick heroes with huge revenue projections will turn off an investor rapidly. Firstly it's important to understand what an investor wants, each investor is different, so you should be sending in your financials to investors that match your businesses aspirations.
Sending projections showing around £5m revenue in 5 years to a VC is as much use as a chocolate teapot. You need to understand what will be of interest to that specific investor, do they want realistic and conservative or do they want unicorn roller coasters?
Whichever camp your model falls in you need to ensure that you don’t make unrealistic assumptions in your estimates, such as how you can achieve a 10x increase in revenue while only increasing operations and marketing costs by a factor of two.
Step back, assess your models viability and consider are these numbers going to get them interested, hysterical or just bored?
5. Stating there isn’t any competition
Instead of including the competitive landscape, how their product, technology, and marketing are better than competitors, they tell investors that they have no competition.
“There are a handful of red flags that turn off investors. One of them is when the CEO of a startup says, "We have no competitors. No one else has thought about this, we are the first ones!." - Alex Iskold, Founder 1k project.org|Managing Partner 2048 Ventures
This shows huge naivety and will immediately raise concerns that you either don’t know your market or are ignorant to the fellow sector competitors. If you can’t compare your strengths & weaknesses against others in your space, then how can you demonstrate effective barriers to entry, how your USP rates against the rest and importantly is there even a commercial opportunity for your offering?
Avoid common mistakes when creating a pitch deck
To summarise, there are many common mistakes when creating a pitch deck to secure investment. You should focus on making it less than 15 slides and spend time to make it look professional. If you then include the core areas all good decks have and make sure your financials are appropriate to the investor then you are ticking the right boxes. Then finally, always be aware of your competition so you can demonstrate where you sit in the market and how you can find your niche. Dodge this common pitch deck issues and you’re one step closer to gaining those first investor meetings!
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