Nobody disputes the necessity of a strong pitch deck these days. However, most companies focus intensely on the content, while few are attentive to their pitch deck design.
With 300+ projects in our portfolio, we at Waveup believe that placing an emphasis on proper pitch deck design is a smart way to highlight your assets to deliver a compelling deck. It complements your story. Even if you lack traction, strategy, or other information, a solid design will serve as a good tool to hook VCs. Note: presenting information in an easy-to-understand, refined manner will surely increase your chances of moving forward with potential investors.
In support of our design obsession, we have compiled for you a list of the best design tips with punchy “before/after” examples of the slides that are beloved by investors.
Show numbers whenever possible
Tons of the presentations we see on a daily basis are burdensome, long, and so, so boring. You get that feeling from the very beginning, which is most often a “Problem” slide. That is why “Problem” is one of the most important slides in the presentation. Not only does it set the tone for the rest of the deck, but it also shows investors why your solution is needed. Most people do recognize the importance of the Problem slide. However, almost everyone fails to pull off a compelling story about the problem they are solving.
The number one reason for that is the lack of structure. As it happens, most Problem sections are just a text overload. Having seen such long, wordy slides numerous times, we identified ways to improve a textbook problem slide.
- Start with the structure. First, outline the context for the problem (its description, size, why it hasn’t been solved so far, etc.). Then support your context with the numbers related to the issue (e.g., how many people suffer from it or how much $ is being lost due to it).
- Lead with the numbers. The best way to deliver an appealing “Problem” slide is by highlighting numbers as much as possible. Why? Numbers are much easier to study than text. You can skim through them and instantly get to the point.
To prove our ideas, we have prepared for you a “before/after” example that shows how design can change the tone of the slide.
(PS: Just slide it.)
See, numbers do change the angle.
Find the right structure for your complex slides
People always try to squeeze on one slide all the information they possess on any given topic. Generally, we would not recommend that. More information leads to more complex slides. More complex slides lead to confusion. Remember, your presentation should explain, not confuse. Confusion can be avoided though, even if you deal with complex slides like a go-to-market strategy. Check out the example below to see what we mean:
The “Before” slide is obviously overwhelming. With so many text blocks, it’s totally illegible. On the other hand, our slide has everything in place. We provide structured information, presented as a sequence, and grouped by key elements (Products, Segments, etc.). This is a perfect layout to tell investors three things:
- Our strategy is well-defined;
- We understand our strategy;
- We can outline our strategy so that it can be studied in less than a minute.
Always compare your product
In your deck you will obviously need to describe how your product works. Most often companies do it by explaining step by step what their products do. Nevertheless, we don’t believe this to be a good choice, as you may leave an investor wondering whether your process is any better than those that already exist. So, we went one step further. Pun intended.
Instead of just showing the process, we also provide a comparison of steps involved. We first show how the issue is currently tackled on the market and how many steps it involves.
Then we show our solution, step by step. The comparison helps to show why our product/solution is superior. Take a look at the example:
What we are saying is: “Look, our product cuts by half the number of steps required to solve the issue. Therefore, our product is better.”
Go creative when you lack data
We all know how important it is to show traction to a potential investor. It is great when you have a handful of stats to display. We would generally advise you to use graphs and charts that deliver a clear picture of your venture. However, this will not work well if you have little to no data to present. If that is your case, we strongly recommend using the following:
Customer logos and reviews – These don’t need to be paying clients; maybe you have done demos for some big brands that can capture the attention of investors; Why not include them?
Maps – If you have done business in different locations, highlight them on a map. This will let investors know that you are already a global venture.
Press mentions – It is always a good option to share quotes written by some popular press sources. This will show that you already have public approval.
To see what we mean, let’s analyze the example below:
If you look at the ”before” picture, you will find it quite generic and empty. Four countries—not much. Generic text bullets—boring. However, our version of the map with brand logos and highlighted numbers shows that you already operate on three continents, work with global brands, and—last but not least—have some initial traction.
Graphs are always a good choice for financial slides
Yes, we do insist on using graphs and numbers whenever it is appropriate, as they are the perfect way to display any kind of growth or breakdown. The above is especially ideal for your financial slides. Check this out:
Our example shows once again how graphs can change the overall look of the slide as well as its legibility.
Comparing features is not a good way to deliver a compelling competition slide
All decks should contain competitor analysis. Many companies, however, simply compare features of their product with the direct competitors’ products. What we can say from our experience is that this strategy is not efficient. Look, features do not provide lasting defensibility.
Instead, a good way to deal with the Competition section is to outline a clear positioning with a brand map, a tool designed to outline the market landscape of direct and indirect competitors through a graph. Take a look at the example:
Rather than just showing some incredible characteristics of your product, with this layout you will say the following:
- Your product wins over direct competition.
- It is hard to copy.
- Big brands are not a threat to your product, as you do not compete directly.
- You know your market landscape perfectly well.
Add value to your team slide with logos and meaningful bios
The Team slide is a crucial part of any presentation. Investors study this slide longer than any other slide of the deck. Nonetheless, Team slides either miss something (team members and their bios) or they are overwhelmed with something (yes, team members and their bios).
To address that, we would like to show you how to create a balanced Team section. Consider this:
- Always use logos of the companies related to you and your team; This will work especially well if you used to work for a big company, like Google, but were not a senior there.
- Bios should prove only one thing: you and your team can successfully manage the business you are offering in the deck. So, write only concise bios with the most relevant facts that support this idea.
- Mention advisers separately. Generally, investors are only interested in the core team.
- Put up to six people on one slide. The Team slide should only contain the core team. “The more the better” principle does not apply here.
To wrap it all up, let’s check our final example:
Could you please sum up? I am running out of time.
What we tried to communicate through this article is that design is a tool that brings your pitch deck to a whole new level of legibility, attractiveness, and professionalism. It can help you to compensate for your lack of data, strategy, and other inputs by presenting everything in a reinvented, appealing manner. Remember: a good pitch deck design is the solid bridge that connects you and your potential investor. That’s why it must be outstanding in every aspect, including design.