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20 Reasons Your Pitch Deck Failed

Christine Argier
Christine Argier

Pitching your idea to potential investors is difficult enough without worrying about the quality of your pitch deck. Avoid these 20 common pitch deck mistakes to ensure your deck works for you as an invaluable tool to help you secure the investments you need to make your ideas a reality.

#1: Boring Cover Slide

It might be surprising, but your cover slide is quite important and shouldn’t be overlooked. It sets the tone for the rest of your deck and can either draw in your audience or leave them yawning. Don’t simply drop in your logo on an otherwise bare slide. Make it pop with bold colors and imagery, seamlessly working in your logo and tagline to establish your brand presence right from the start.

#2: Text-Heavy Slides

While text is likely an important part of your deck, it shouldn't be all your slides are made up of. Too much text is boring, overwhelming, and will result in your audience merely reading your slides instead of listening to your pitch. Balance out your copy with images, charts, and graphs and opt to display information visually with infographic elements when appropriate.

#3: Missing CTA

Every solid pitch deck needs a call-to-action or CTA. Your CTA slide should come at the end of your deck and is the spot where you’ll ask your audience what you want from them, how much of it you want, and what you plan to do with it. Don’t make the mistake of pretending you’re only there for a friendly meeting and skip the important step of asking for an investment.

#4: Deck is Too Long

Investors are busy people and don’t have the time to sit through a pitch that drones on for 50+ slides. Keep it short at 10-15 slides and only include the pertinent points to pique your audience’s interest and keep the conversation going. Try this test: if you can remove a slide from your deck without impacting the message, you should strongly consider hitting the delete button.

#5: Ugly Design

Even the best idea and strongest message can be overshadowed by a poorly designed deck. Avoid rushing through the design process and look into collaborating with a professional designer if you can. If your only choice is customizing a template, dedicate plenty of time to lay out the design of each slide and ask for feedback from multiple colleagues before using your deck in a live pitch.

#6: Disorganized Content

The slides in your pitch deck should be arranged methodically for the best results. Your goal is to introduce your company, explain the problem, detail how you solve it better than the competition, and provide your projections for the future. Delivering this information in a disorganized fashion can be confusing and jarring, two pitch deck qualities you definitely want to steer clear of.

#7: Not Addressing Risks

Experienced investors know that every investment comes with risks. It’s your job to present these risks and how you plan to overcome them, not to conveniently forget about the risks completely. Be honest about the risks you face and clearly present your solutions for handling them to ensure you are still successful. Investors will appreciate your ability to plan ahead for potential issues.

#8: Omitting Competition

It’s highly unlikely that you have no competition, so don’t forget to address your peers in your pitch deck. Simply omitting any information about your competitors will come across as lazy or arrogant. Be honest about who you’re up against and what they do successfully, but also use this space as an opportunity to set yourself apart and really show why you’re better than the rest.

#9: Arrogance

While confidence is imperative to success, coming across as arrogant is a sure way to turn off potential investors. Even the best ideas will be turned down if investors don’t like a person’s poor attitude and complete lack of humility. Avoid coming across as arrogant by being honest about risks that you face. It’s also especially important to never bad-mouth your competition.

#10: Messy Charts

Charts, graphs, and tables are necessary to display important data, but don’t make the mistake of cramming too much onto a single slide which will make the content nearly impossible to digest.Go for simple, clean data visualizations that will make sense to your audience at first glance. Don’t be afraid to split important information onto multiple slides to really drive the important points home.

#11: Too Cliché

Investors see a lot of pitch decks. If you want yours to stand out from the crowd, avoid clichés like describing your company as “the X of Y”. Find an innovative way to present your idea, tell a story, and appeal to your audience’s emotions instead. Also keep in mind that investors can tell when you’ve only plugged your content into a template, so spend some time to add uniqueness to your deck.

#12: Lack of Branding

An investor is unlikely to be wowed by a deck that is clearly nothing but a purchased template with your content added. If you want to stand out, add polish to your deck by making it clear that it was created for your company and your company only. You can accomplish this by using appropriate fonts, colors, and images that match the look and feel of your brand and incorporating your logo and tagline.

#13: Ugly, Mismatched Charts

While charts and graphs are a great way to display your content, don’t make the mistake of copying and pasting from another source. Including charts that lack any cohesive design will look unpolished and unprofessional, taking away from your credibility. For the best results, recreate any charts and graphs to match your company’s brand and the design look and feel that you have created for your deck.

#14: Bad Animations & Transitions

Slide software includes a variety of animation and transition options you can employ on your slides. Don’t make the mistake of going overboard with these which will look extremely unprofessional and take away from your message. Stick with simple animations such as wipes and fades, use the same transition through the entire deck, and avoid sounds at all costs.

#15: Un-Relatable Problem

An important goal of your pitch deck is presenting the problem your company solves. If you don’t present the problem correctly, investors will not feel compelled to back your solution. Appeal to your audience’s emotion by using imagery and telling a story. Make sure they feel the pain right off the bat to pique their interest in learning how you solve the problem and how they can help.

#16: Vague Plans

Without a clear roadmap of your plans for the future, investors will not feel secure about funding your company and are less likely to invest. When asking for an investment, be very clear about exactly where those funds will be spent. You can express this as a percentage of the total investment secured and should consider displaying the information visually so it’s easier to digest.

#17: Too Much Content

Your deck should serve as a visual accompaniment to your verbal pitch. It does not need to stand alone and shouldn’t be used as a teleprompter. If you want to leave something behind for your audience to reference later, don’t provide copies of your slides. Instead, create an executive summary document that complements your pitch and goes into all the necessary details.

#18: Low-Quality Images

Using low-quality images reeks of un-professionalism and is a sure fire way to turn off potential investors. Remember, your deck is a reflection on you and your company so overall quality makes a difference. Make sure to use high-quality images throughout your deck. Avoid amateur photos and if you plan to include head shots of your team, hire a professional to make sure everyone looks their best.

#19: Outdated Design

Investors are looking for new, innovative ideas to back and if your deck looks like it was made 15 years ago, you’re likely to be passed up fairly quickly. For the best results, avoid outdated colors and cheesy effects like 3D shapes, bevels, and lens flares. Current trends favor flat, modern design elements and simple graphics. If you’re stuck on this, consider hiring a designer for professional assistance.

#20: No Demo

Without a demo, it can be difficult for your audience to really understand your product or idea. If you can, show a demo of your product in action. A demo could be screenshots, an app mockup, or a video. Regardless of your method of delivery, the purpose is to help potential investors visualize your product, making them more likely to take interest and be more secure in their decision to invest.

Image Credit: Fizkes / Getty Images
Christine Argier
Christine Argier Member
I am a presentation designer and visual communications expert with more than 10 years of professional marketing experience based out of Las Vegas, Nevada. I work with clients from around the globe, using my unique skill set to take all types of marketing materials from dull to dynamic. I collaborate with clients throughout the entire design process to ensure I fully understand their needs and expectations and that the final result achieves the set goals. I understand the value of my clients' time and work diligently without sacrificing quality to deliver projects with ample time to spare for any requested tweaks or revisions. I place a high value on transparency, trust, and collaboration and strongly believe that these elements are the key to the successful completion of any project. //PRESENTATION DESIGN I use my design skills and technical background to create presentations that are not only beautiful, but functional as well. The layout of each slide is executed with extreme attention to detail to ensure your audience stays engaged with your content. Color palettes are determined scientifically and complex data sets are displayed optimally. I can polish existing presentations, build new decks from the ground up, and create usable corporate templates based on your brand style guidelines. //PRINT PIECES Print pieces such as flyers, brochures, reports, and sales sheets are an important aspect of any marketing plan. I take your vision and bring it to life, creating unique pieces designed to grab attention and keep your audience interested in your message from start to finish. Colors, typefaces, and images are selected based on your company's brand guidelines as well as design best practices to create a compelling marketing asset. Deliverables are prepared according to the specifications of your chosen print company to allow for full color bleed, folding, scoring, and any other features that you require. //SOCIAL MEDIA In today's digital world, social media is more important than ever before. In addition to customizing your social media profiles, I also assist with the creation of ads and image posts to help you optimize your social presence. When customizing social profiles for clients, I take into account the intricacies of each platform as well as how a design will look when scaled for mobile devices. All designs are thoroughly tested prior to delivering to the client and detailed upload instructions and support are provided. Social media posts and ads are built according to the platform's unique specifications to optimize your marketing efforts and any monetary investment.