Pitch ‘deck’ perfect

As Will Rogers wrote, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

Just ask anyone who has pitched potential investors for the opportunity to secure funding for a new startup. Individuals and teams present a thorough slide deck highlighting their qualifications, skills, research and successes. The pitch deck presentation is a significant make-or-break moment for would-be-entrepreneurs.

Ronald Meyers, associate professor of entrepreneurship in the University of Cincinnati’s Carl H. Lindner College of Business, has analyzed thousands of pitch deck presentations.

“The biggest mistake I see is when the presenter gets ‘into the weeds’ behind the technology or the idea. When you get too granular or go into nauseating detail, you lose the attention of your audience and any momentum around your idea as a business. Investors will assume that you know what you are talking about,” Meyers said.

The pitch deck is a vital first tool to communicate with potential investors. It is a graphic depiction of your business plan that helps investors see the potential of your business.

Through the UC Venture Lab pre-accelerator program inside the 1819 Innovation Hub, teams learn the art of the presentation. Slides demonstrating essential facts about a product or idea are one thing, but communicating information is another.

There is a relatively short period to convey your message to investors, so slides must be succinct, engaging and direct. Creating a pitch deck requires an inventor or team to think critically about the company, the target audience and possible competitors.

It should be common knowledge that spelling and grammar should be perfect; however, according to Meyers, it is surprising how often a presenter fails to double and triple-check their slides.

Meyers shared the patterns he’s seen in pitch presentations.

“I’ve observed which types of content resonated with investors and which fell flat. The best pitches from the best entrepreneurs are more conversational than formal,” he said. “While they are usually well rehearsed, they are not stiff. Good body language and eye contact will allow you to connect with the audience. Investors want to know that you are passionate about your idea and coachable. They want to help you succeed.”

Meyers suggests that slides should communicate key points in the following order for the best results:

  • Problem
  • Solution
  • Addressable market
  • Size of the opportunity
  • Product
  • How you’ll make money
  • Go-to-market strategy
  • Existing solutions/competition
  • Your competitive advantage
  • Team
  • Traction
  • Financial metrics
  • What do you need? What’s in it for me?

When done right, a pitch deck can be invaluable for securing funding and growing business.

Meyers affirms that pitch presentations can usually be accomplished in 12 to 14 slides but to practice for at least a 12-minute uninterrupted pitch. He suggests keeping presentations at a high level with more images/graphs and fewer words.

Featured image at top: People gathered for a UC Venture Lab graduation. Photo/Ravenna Rutledge/UC Marketing + Brand

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