How to Make a Great Pitch Deck

By Eric Leopardi,
business.com writer
|
Jun 29, 2020
Image Credit: Farnot_Architect/Getty Images

Pitch decks can be valuable tools in accomplishing your goals if you know how to leverage them properly.

Imagine that you are getting ready to stand in front of a room of potential investors or clients. You want to pitch your business and show the investors that you have what it takes to deliver profitability or communicate to your prospects how you solve their challenge and deliver value. Under normal circumstances, you would be a little nervous about handling this type of pitch on your own, but today you are using your new secret weapon. You made your presentation using a pitch deck, making it easier for you to communicate your ideas clearly.

You've likely heard the term pitch deck, but they can go by many names. PowerPoint presentation, Google Slides presentation, or Keynote presentation. Whatever you call them, these tools can be valuable assets in accomplishing your goals, if you know how to leverage them properly.

A pitch deck is a brief presentation that is often used on presentation platforms such as PowerPoint, Google Slides, Keynote, and Prezi. The pitch deck offers the audience you are presenting to a quick overview of your business or offering, and typically includes top-line details that are of key interest to your audience. Pitch decks can be used to deliver presentations during face-to-face or online meetings with potential investors, partners, customers, and business co-founders. 

However, pitch decks can also be used as marketing collateral to drive success with email marketing, lead generation, or proposals. For example, I own a multi-location agency, and we routinely deliver an agency pitch deck – along with case studies – as part of both our email marketing outreach and our proposal processes. With so much marketing done digitally nowadays, it's important to use tools like pitch decks as visual aids in the relationship-building process.

For proposal pitch decks, we ensure the prospective client gets a customized "deck" — short for pitch deck — with a personalized note, their logo/branding inserted, and other customized elements for maximum impact. You can also make a generic deck for your brand, but it's wise to take the time to customize it for your audience — even if ever so slightly — to show you value their time, and you're making an effort to earn their business. Always think of "earning" your client's business, not "winning" it, but more on this in future articles.   

The properties of a pitch deck

There are different variations of how a pitch deck can be set up, heavily driven by who your audience is, what your message is, how you want to position yourself, and other aspects. The way that you set up your particular presentation is up to you since these are customizable. There are no defined "rules" for a deck, as each one should be laser-focused on the intended target audience and objectives.

However, there are standard components that tend to appear in most pitch decks, especially when conducting a business meeting or in the presentation atmosphere.

Introduction

In the introduction of the pitch deck, the slide is going to tell the audience who you are and why you are there. When creating this slide, make sure that you are keeping it short and straightforward. There does not need to be much information here. You should, however, find a way to briefly illustrate why you're uniquely positioned to discuss this matter. I try to do this by mentioning the prospective audience's purpose, to show I've heard their needs and that I’m here to deliver those. I'll start with a line similar to, "You're likely looking for a hassle-free solution to [insert clients challenge] But you've experienced [illustrate pain point] in the past due to [define problem]." I like to end with a question, so I'll usually add something like, "Did I get that right?" In just a brief sentence, I've shown those I'm presenting too that I hear them, I understand their needs and challenges, and I'm prepared to discuss solutions.

Team

Introduce your audience to the team that is behind the ideas you are going to be presenting. Give a little background on each of these individuals, why they're uniquely positioned to help, and include images that are cheerful and non-intimidating. This is not the place for your sunglass-wearing motorcycle picture or that awesome gym selfie. This is the place for a welcoming smile, professional attire, and general energy that engages

The problem

Show the audience the problem that you are going to solve with your product, service, or business. Explain to the audience why this is a problem, usually illustrating facts and statistics from highly reputable sources. Utilize PPT Infographic templates to give a beautiful visual illustration and further engage your listeners.

Advantages

Why are you uniquely positioned to solve this problem? You hear me use the term "uniquely positioned" a lot. This is because it really should be the core of your messages. There are many businesses in the world and we are all competing for the same dollars. Tell your audience why your solution is unique, different, and — most of all — effective. Explain how you and your solution are better than the competition but don't do this by putting the competition down. Your prospect may have a relationship with them, and that won’t serve your purpose if you insult those they do business with currently. Instead, illustrate differences and allude to the notion that you’re the right choice. Use terms like, "most suited", rather than "better than." The devil is truly in the details.

The solution

Tell the audience how you plan to solve the problem in detail. Please don't go into too much detail that you are boring them, though. This shouldn’t be their afternoon lecture. This should be that part where they get excited. Hit top line details as to your processes and discuss step-by-step the experience they can expect if they decide to work with or invest in you.  

Product or service

Show the audience how your product or service works. Show them examples of this product or service in action, and certainly, show them social proof. Social proof can come in many forms, and one or many can be included. If you have testimonials and case studies, these should definitely be included. However, don't overload the deck with data. Remember, most will be briefly skimming it. So, callout and illustrate key pieces of data — like KPI's you hit for a past client, or statistics indicating a given market is projected to increase by 2024 (cite your source).  

Traction

The traction of your presentation is the customer base that you have and is measurable enough to serve as showing potential. What does this mean? Using a marketing agency sales deck as an example, we would illustrate some of our enterprise clients and include a few logos — if we've been given permission to use them. In the case of an investor pitch deck, this is where you illustrate proof of concept. Have you run test markets that showed promise? Illustrate that here, and include charts and icons to help make your point visually appealing and easy to understand.

Market

Have the knowledge or a general idea of the size of the target market for your product or service that you want to reach. This is especially key for investor pitch decks. Remember, the best idea in the world is not a good investment if there is little-to-no market for it. Use sources like the Bureau of Labor and Statistics to identify the size of your target market. You can also find information on average gross margins, and other key data that will add value to your deck. Dig deep into reliable sources to identify specific metrics and facts you can use to further illustrate this information.

The competition

Tell the audience the other solutions to the problem that you presented to them, but then make sure to have a strong argument to show them how your product or service surpasses all of them. Remember, though, this is not the place to gloat about why you are better positioned than your competitor. Win with class, and your customers will respect you for it. Deliver the data, and allow the audience to clearly understand why you're uniquely positioned, without you necessarily saying it to them directly. This is where the art of the pitch comes into play.

Business model

If you're pitching investors, they want to clearly see and understand your intended path to profitability. How — step-by-step — will you deliver a return on their investment, and how quickly do you anticipate delivering? These are key questions you should be prepared to answer, and also be prepared for pushback on your initial concepts. Your first business plan will almost always be torn apart and restructured by investors — with few exceptions. Be open to input, and don't get defensive when they ask tough questions. After all, you're asking for their hard-earned money. The least you can do is answer all of their questions intelligently and with respect.

Investing

Again, if you're pitching investors, they will want to know where their money is going and what returns you anticipate — with evidence, of course. How will you spend your investment capital? What percentage is allocated to marketing relative to sales, and what type of annual returns can your investors expect? Be clear here, but don’t overcommit if you don’t have data to support it. If you don't know, say that, and commit to finding the best available data to answer the question at hand.  

Contact information

Make sure you give your contact details on a slide. This slide can stay up after the presentation to allow for the audience to have a means of contacting you quickly. By having this up during any question and answer sessions, you may allow for it to stay fresh in the audience's minds and many times will get a call or email long after your presentation. Make it stand out, make it clear, but don't overpower or intimidate the audience. Give your email, your phone number, your web address, and any other relevant contact information.

 

Benefits of using a pitch deck

You want your presentation to make an impact on the audience who sees it, and remember your deck is probably not the only one they are seeing. You don't want to be quickly forgotten because of a dull presentation or lack of substantive data contained in your presentation. That truly is the power of the pitch deck. Without overthinking and with minimal design skills given so many resources for templates nowadays, you can create a stunning presentation that is bound to leave the audience talking (positively) long after the presentation is over.

Remember, the key purpose of your pitch deck is to spark dialog. Your deck isn't intended to close the deal for you. The deck is intended to guide the reader or listener through your presentation in an organized, systematic fashion that ultimately leads to them asking questions and continuing the dialog further. The pitch deck is an entry point, not a means to an end. You shouldn't expect to send out 100 pitch decks and receive 10 closed deals immediately. You still must work and — here I go again — earn your clients business or your investor's capital. 

Also, the pitch deck puts something tangible in the hands of your audience that goes way beyond a business card. They will likely share this deck with friends, advisors, and family as they consider your proposed offering. Be open to this, and if possible track it. We use Hubspot when we send decks, and this allows us to see when readers click on it, how much time they spend on any given page, and if they come back and view it again later on. This type of data is helpful as you refine your pitch deck style and visual elements. Does everyone quickly leave on page 4? Why? Identify that issue and fix it. How do you identify the issue? You make changes and test them. Alter part of the deck, send it out again, and see if the data comes back the same. These are all valuable tasks you can complete using a pitch deck that will ultimately help you be far more successful, regardless of your offering.

Design and graphics

You no longer have to earn a Bachelor's degree in graphic design to produce eye-popping, engaging pitch decks. There are many providers in the market today that offer thousands of templates to help you every step of the way and make producing beautiful decks fast and easy. You can find things like PPT Infographic Templates, Icons, Slide Templates, and charts or graphs that are linked to Excel files for fast, easy editing. Take the time to find the right templates for your audience and improve your visual appeal.

When you choose a company like SlideQuest — for example — you can download thousands of templates for a one-time fee. Of course, there are quite a few other options in the space that offer recurring subscriptions, like Envato Elements. Many buyers choose to grab templates from quite a few different providers, so they always keep their decks up-to-date and eye-catching. These templates can be used and re-used at your disposal, subject to licensing terms so make sure you review those for whichever provider you choose.

With options available like an all-access pitch deck pass, you can download as many as you want, when you want, and with a lifetime of free updates. There's really no excuses for an ugly deck anymore.

Understanding the dos and don'ts of pitch decks

When working with a pitch deck, make sure you follow a few cardinal rules. These rules are here to help provide you with the best possible pitch deck presentation you can create.

Do:

  • Tell an exciting story with your pitch deck. Keep your audience engaged during the entire presentation.
  • Limit the amount of information on each slide to one idea or concept.
  • The first 2 to 3 minutes of the presentation are the most important. Make sure you make them count. Illustrate why you're uniquely positioned to solve their challenge.
  • Showcase the team that helped you come up with your ideas, or who they can expect to meet if they choose to work with you. Use warm, inviting images.
  • Keep the look throughout the pitch deck consistent and use templates to produce stunning decks.
  • Know your metrics and anticipate any questions that may be asked. Be an expert on your product or service, and never take offense to questions. The point of the deck is to start a dialog.

Don't:

  • Don't use too many bullet points or the information may get lost in translation. Remember, one concept per slide.
  • Don't make the presentation too long, because no one wants to sit through a lengthy presentation. It should be more of a presentation than a college lecture.
  • Don't read the presentation word-by-word, like reading from a script. Keep it engaging and hit on the top-line points.
  • Don't create a text-rich presentation and neglect the images. Use tools or templates to produce graphs, charts, icons, and other visual representations of your ideas.
  • Don't come to a presentation unprepared. Be able to answer any question that is thrown your way. Expect the hard, uncomfortable questions, and be prepared for them. Those types of questions indicate that your audience is actually considering your offering.
  • Don't use small fonts. Making the audience work harder to read your presentation will make them not want to read it. Whenever possible, use visual representations and short bullets.

How to Make Your Pitch Deck Work For You

When you put your presentation in front of your audience, it should do most of the work with you simply guiding the audience along. You are merely there to add the audio for a stunning visual presentation, or — if you’re using a deck as we do in marketing outreach — you may be using the deck to introduce yourself and simply land the presentation.

Every point you want to make should be showcased in your pitch deck presentation, and whenever possible try to use illustrations, charts, graphs, and reliable sources. Using a pitch deck will allow you to keep the presentation esthetically pleasing, engaging, and offer you options that you would not have available for your presentation without them.

The next time that you need to make a stunning presentation look into the option of using a pitch deck, and explore some of the great template options that exist to bring visual appeal to your deck. Focus on delivering substantive information to your reader, and ultimately leverage a deck as a tool to start a dialog with your audience. 

If you follow all of these steps, and you're targeting the right prospects, there's no doubt that your pitch deck will produce a measurable improvement for your prospecting efforts.

Eric began his TV career as a child actor more than 25 years ago, working on TV, Print, & Radio campaigns for Kroger, United Dairy Farmers, Tide, and Paramounts Kings Island, among others. A union talent since 1999, Eric's client list includes some of the most recognized networks & brands in the world, including NBC/Universal, NFL, NBA, PGA Tour, Lexus, Honda, and countless more. Erics diverse experience reaches across many different roles including Executive Producer, Director, Media Buyer, Producer, Writer, and Network Voice. Additionally, Eric is also an accomplished digital marketer, with certifications from Google, Hubspot, and Facebook, delivering single client growth results over $50Million/year. In 2010, Eric Leopardi launched The Micc Group, a marketing agency focused on web design & digital marketing. Since then, The Micc Group has grown to include world-class Video Production, Sports & Media marketing, Content Distribution, TV & Radio advertising, Retail Distribution, Media planning & buying, as well as SEO, SEM, and other ancillary functions. Career highlights include negotiating national TV distribution for a new series, negotiating NFL & NHL player brand endorsements, and earning product distribution into the worlds largest retailer, Walmart.
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