In our first installment of Pitching 101, it was all about defining yourself as a company and understanding your competition. Now it’s time to actually put together your pitch deck. But this isn’t just another business school powerpoint.

When someone stands in front of a giant screen with a remote in-hand and talks to a small audience, there’s a lot of room for awkwardness. The key to an effective pitch is being able to bridge the disconnect between human (the founder) and machine (the presentation). You must suspend investors within the dream of your vision. Much like a movie, any clunkiness in slide transition, or any major speech flub reminds the audience that they’re watching a presentation, rather than getting lost in your company’s possibilities.

To help you achieve the ultimate seamlessness in your pitch, we’ve put together a progression of advice that begins with the necessary slides to include your deck, then discusses the need for brand identity and continuity, and ends with beefing up the slides investors pay the most attention to. This approach not only builds a comprehensive presentation, it also helps you to understand your own company on a deeper level.

1) Beginner’s Phase – The Necessary Slides To Include

Chance BarnettForbes“The Ultimate Pitch Deck To Raise Money for Startups”

Written by the CEO of Crowdfunder.com, this article serves as the ideal foundation for anyone putting together a pitch for the first time. The heart of the piece is a list of the 11 necessary slides in any pitch deck, including a download link for the Powerpoint template. Where the inexperienced founder might risk not including enough information for potential investors, Barnett ensures that, generally, the founder will display a functional understanding of the investor-side of entrepreneurship.

While Barnett’s framework is certainly very helpful, it doesn’t necessarily offer an in-depth look at the subsets of information for each slide (nor was it probably his intention to do so). For example, for the Revenue Model slide, he stresses to include who your primary customer is. But what is the x, y, z that investors look for within a founder’s definition of his primary customer? You might include your own idea of how to describe it, but it may miss a few targets for the seasoned investor. Of course, Barnett wasn’t attempting a pitch deck encyclopedia, but any founder is best served to research the subsets of each slide further.

2) Intermediate Phase – Brand Identity and Continuity

Renee WarrenOnboardly“The 9 Best Startup Pitch Decks of All Time”

As a PR Agency, Onboardly knows all about the intricate relationship of appearance and information. But with her 9 Best Pitch Decks list, CEO Renee Warren isn’t just talking fonts and templates. Many of the companies on her list were able to combine lean stats and figures with a presentation that established both brand identity and its continuity. Piccsy, as a social network that solves image discovery and fragmentation, ditched the standard 10-slide deck for a lightly-animated presentation that makes their graphs and numbers come alive. Bottom line: if images are your business, then make your business your presentation. Yes, investors are money-first, but a pitch that shows cohesive branding also suggests cohesive teamwork, one of the intangibles for long-term success.

The esoteric part of Warren’s list, however, is how every startup can achieve brand continuity within their own presentation. Let’s say your company’s product is IoT data integration software. Where Piccsy can play with images for its pitch, your presentation has to find a way to embody the interconnectivity that your product provides, without being too cute or even too abstract about it. Then again, worrying TOO much about this can lead to cheap gimmickry that distracts from your company’s potential. So what’s the sound of one hand clapping?

3) Advanced Phase – It’s Not Just What You Say, It’s How You Say It

Kim-Mai CutlerTechCrunch“Lessons from a Study of Perfect Pitch Decks: VCs Spend an Average of 3 Minutes, 44 Seconds on Them”

Not only is Kim-Mai Cutler an operating partner at Initialized Capital, an early stage venture capital firm, she’s also using an in-depth study of over 200 pitch decks by DocSend, a provider of secure sharing for files like offer letters and legal agreements. The study looks into both founder- and investor-side metrics. One focus includes the most common types of pages included in a deck (“Company Purpose,” “Problem,” “Solution,” etc.) and how many pages make up each section on average. The most common ordering of said slides is also tabulated. Then each page type is ranked according to the amount of time investors spent viewing that page type, with “Financials” and “Team” topping the list at 23.2 and 22.8 seconds per page, respectively.

Cutler’s inclusion of investor-centric data is very revealing, but her article, much like Barnett’s, doesn’t discuss the x, y, z of what constitutes the most valuable articulation of “Financials” or “Team.” You could have a tremendous amount of financial data, but what you do and don’t include can very well decide whether or not you land investment. A lot of metrics, however, are industry or market-specific, so to include a universal template for required slide info may just be unrealistic.

Now It’s Time To Do the Damn Thing.

At tekMountain, we’re no stranger to pitch competitions. But we also know that the best way to refine your pitch is one-on-one mentorship. With 13 mentors in-house from a vast spectrum of industries, we’ve got enough eyes and ears to bump your company to the next level. Contact tekMountain today to learn what’s missing from your pitch deck.

This blog was produced by the tekMountain Team of Sean AhlumAmanda SipesBill DiNome, and with lead writer Zach Cioffi.

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