Neil Patel

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What are the do’s and don’ts when creating a pitch deck?

What should and shouldn’t you do when creating a pitch deck to ensure it is effective and maximizes your odds of getting the funding you need?

The Power Of Pitch Decks

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The Ultimate Guide To Pitch Decks

Pitch decks are an incredibly important piece of the puzzle for startups. Yours can make all the difference in getting off the ground, maintaining the funds you need to keep surviving and thriving, and whether you can really unleash the potential this business idea has, or not.

You really only get one shot at making a first impression with your pitch deck. If you blow it, you have probably blown your chance of funding from that investor. If you nail it, that successful connection can lead to many more pitches and opportunities.

Even beyond the present fundraising round, your pitch deck can be very influential when it comes to recruiting the best advisors, partners, and key team players.

With so much on the line, it is worth investing the time and energy to get it right. Let’s get started exploring the do’s and don’ts when creating a pitch deck for your startup.

The Do’s Of Creating A Winning Pitch Deck

There are volumes of amateur and outdated advice on pitch decks out there today. It is a hot topic many people want to cash in on. Unfortunately, that can make knowing what to do really confusing too.

Here are some of the most important things you do want to do when it comes to creating your own deck.

Keep It Super Clean & Simple

Simplicity is your friend and white space is your ally.

If in doubt, leave it out. It is better to have more empty space so that viewers can absorb the most important points, and don’t gloss over or get bored before the call to action.

Use images and graphics where it makes sense. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Focus On Your Four Most Important Slides

There is a lot more that goes into crafting a powerful pitch deck than most realize. In fact, it can sometimes seem a lot harder to create a very simple looking deck than to just brain dump everything you’ve got in slide form. Between research and design each slide can be more demanding than you anticipate. So, make sure you put the most energy and thought into the four slides that are most pivotal and important for investors.

These are:

  • Cover slide: it’s all about first impressions, and getting them to keep swiping
  • Problem slide: demonstrate clarity on the problem, and how big it is
  • Financial slide: this is where investors will spend most of their time
  • Team slide: the team is even more important than your startup idea

Show Your Traction

Millions of people can talk a good game when it comes to selling and presenting. Very, very few can really execute. What can you prove that you can actually do?

Show the progress you’ve been making, the milestones you’ve achieved and the growth you’ve maintained.

Show What You’ll Use The Money For

If they are interested in your startup, what will you use their funds for? Put yourself in the investor’s shoes. What is a worthy investment of their capital that will really yield returns? Do you still need to finance building a prototype? Do you need to hire experts to build this? Or is it scaling a proven marketing and business model? Make sure your ask lines up with these uses.

Get Feedback Before Sharing

Get third party feedback from qualified advisors before you hit send and bet everything on this deck.

Keep in mind that in fundraising storytelling is everything. In this regard for a winning pitch deck to help you here, take a look at the template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) that I recently covered. Thiel was the first angel investor in Facebook with a $500K check that turned into more than $1 billion in cash.

Remember to unlock the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.

Let’s move on to the don’ts section of the critical do’s and don’ts when creating a pitch deck for your startup.

The Don’ts Of Creating A Pitch Deck – Common Errors to Avoid

Knowing what to do is only half of the battle. Knowing what not to do is equally, if not even more important.

These are some of the critical don’ts when it comes to your pitch deck.

Don’t Go Too Long

Shorter is better when it comes to slide count in a pitch deck. You should definitely be under 20 slides. Under 12 is even better. You might even be able to get under 10. Going too long is a huge red flag, and your slide count alone can kill your funding chances, even before they look at a single page.

Don’t Provide Too Much Detail

This is not the place to take a deep dive into the details of your product, technology, and all the features of your solution. They don’t need to know how it all works, and typically don’t want to. It will only take away from the important points and show you haven’t even bothered to Google what makes a good pitch deck.

Don’t Put In Anything That Requires A NDA

If you feel that you have real proprietary secrets you don’t want shared, just say that, and leave out the details. Demanding an NDA from anyone you want to see your deck or who can benefit from seeing it in their work is going to dramatically shrink the pool of those who will be interested, and that usually means excluding the best talent and investors right away.

Don’t Try To Reinvent The Wheel – Avoid this Pitch Deck Pitfall

This is not the place to reinvent, show off your innovation, disrupt, and break things. That’s what your business does. Don’t try to reinvent the pitch deck. You’ll just confuse investors. Serve it up in the format they expect. Besides, it is far more effective and efficient to use a proven pitch deck template anyway.

Don’t Forget Your Contact Info

How tragic would it be if you wow an investor with your deck and they want to fund you, but you didn’t make your contact information obvious enough so they can quickly take action?

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Keep these essential do’s and don’ts when creating a pitch deck for your startup in mind and you’re sure to get the funding you need.

You may find interesting as well our free library of business templates. There you will find every single template you will need when building and scaling your business completely for free. See it here.

I cover this topic in detail on the video below called dos and don‘ts when creating a pitch deck.

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Hi, everyone. This is Alejandro Cremades, and today we’re going to be talking about the do’s and don’ts when creating a pitch deck. Before we get started, make sure that you hit that subscribe button, and this way, you will never miss out on any of the videos that we roll out every week.

If you’re even thinking about raising money, you’re going to need a pitch deck. You’re going to need to capture the essence of what you’re doing in 15 to 25 slides, depending. Here’s the thing: there are many things, there are many shoes, many problems, many pitfalls that you want to really avoid so that you can get that excitement on the other side of the table so that investor gives you the money, jumps on board, wants to help in investing in you, investing in your company, and helping you to build a business. In today’s video, we’re going to break down what are the do’s and what are the don’ts so that you’re able to have a better path and really understand how to guide yourself to what’s in front of you. So with that being said, let’s get into it. 

Starting with the do’s, you want to keep it super clean. Here, you want to keep that balance between the text and the visuals because I can’t stress enough how many times I’ve seen a pitch deck, and then I review it, and it’s like you need to read it, you need to spend time per slide. Investors don’t have time to go through stuff. You cannot literally give the stuff to them to figure it out. You need to hand-hold them, and that’s why having that nice balance between visuals and text is going to allow them to skim through the presentation much quicker. Typically, investors remember that they’re going to be investing about 2 minutes and 41 seconds.

By the way, below is a pitch deck template that you can use to get started, and that’s something that founders are using around the world to raise millions. Again, remember that it’s all about keeping the balance, and perhaps bringing in a designer to polish the visual side more is something that may pay off.

You also want to focus on your most important slides. Here’s the thing: you’re not going to be able to really nail it on every single slide. There are always going to be goods, and there are always going to be bads on some of those slides. But here’s the thing. When you’re especially dealing with investors, you’re going to also need to get good at taking the temperature of the room, understanding, and not leaving a single question unturned because remember that those questions that are in-between you and the money is really what’s going to forbid you from closing the round. So always, always, always make sure that you’re asking if there are any questions if you’re on the financial slide, which is the #1 slide where investors spend the most amount of time. 

And then also on the team slide because remember that at an early stage, especially, the investor is investing in you. They’re investing in your team. They’re investing in helping you to build the business. So make sure that they don’t have any questions around your background, your capabilities, your previous accomplishments, either yours or perhaps your teams.

Also, you want to talk about the market size. Those are the three key areas that you want to really be completely sure that there are absolutely no questions and that you’ve really nailed it on your pitch deck in terms of putting those slides together.

Metric slide: This is the thing. A lot of people can talk, but not a lot of people can do the walk. So, you want to do both. You want to grab a KPI; you want to grab a metric that you’ve exceeded at, and you want to put it in that presentation and show that investor that over the course of time, that it’s growing, that there is progress, that they’re going to be investing in something that is moving in the right direction and that you’re giving them, ultimately, that assurance.

You want to show them what you’re going to be using the money for and do some research. I remember being part of certain presentations where the founder would come into pitch. I would listen to the presentation, and then I see that on the use processes, they say, “No. This engineer in New York City is going to cost me 30,000 bucks.” And, essentially, it’s not $30,000 what that is because an engineer in New York is costing you $100,000 or even more nowadays. 

So, always do your research. Come across in a way that shows that you’ve done your homework, that you’ve done the work ahead, that you know how you’re going to be grabbing that money and putting it to work because if you’re not able to have an understanding on the money in and the money out, then the investor is going to be like, “Why would I give this entrepreneur my money. So, don’t make that mistake. Make sure that you’ve got your numbers to the T.

You also want to get feedback. You want to distribute this presentation – maybe team members, maybe advisors, maybe other people that you trust: family, friends, former classmates. Because it’s all about crowdsourcing that process, it’s about understanding what are some potential holes that you may have in your story and perhaps cover them by people that really care about you.

One thing that you could do is rather than going to the investors that you really care about, maybe what you do is, you go to the Tier 2 or Tier 3, get that as a practice run, get some of the feedback from them, and that will help you to uncover things that you didn’t know were there. And, essentially, once you’re able to implement that, then you go to the actual investors that you care about.

In terms of the don’ts of the pitch deck, the first one is not going too long. That is whether you’re doing the pitch deck and you’re going over 25 slides when it becomes like reading a book and people don’t have the time for that, and certainly, investors don’t have the time for that and also, when you are missing the boat when it comes to listening. If you’re presenting your pitch deck, for example, and the investor is asking you for the projections of year one, you should not give them year one, plus year two, plus year three, plus year four. You need to be down to the point. If they’re shooting you a tennis ball, give them a tennis ball. Don’t shot back a basketball, a soccer ball, and everything and their mother to make sure that they get it. Avoid that mistake at all cost.

Don’t put anything in there that requires an NDA. Here, you want to keep it super high-level. You want to avoid any barrier. You want to avoid all this admin stuff or having them negotiate to take a look at an NDA because when you’re at the early stages of those discussions, it’s just, for the most part, getting to know each other. I hate when, for example, I see a founder – and I know that investors hate it too – when they say, “We’d love to get together; we’ve love to chat.” And then, just for introduction, the founder says, “Hey, can we get an NDA in place?” You’re creating friction. You’re putting hurdles. You shouldn’t do that. 

What I would highly recommend that you do is keep it high-level. The secret sauce is something that you remove and that you keep for when you sign the NDA, once you’ve gone into the due diligence process. But for the time being, during those initial interactions, just keep it super high level and avoid putting in an NDA so that you can get that flow of information, that flow of the discussion, that flow of getting to know each other.

Don’t try to reinvent the pitch deck. This is another don’t of the pitch deck because the thing is that ultimately the investor is going to be used to a certain type of structure, to a certain type of flow when it comes to reviewing different stories of the different companies that are sending them pitch decks. So you always want to keep the standard format, and that’s why you always want to keep – like if you take a look at the pitch deck template below, that’s the type of structure that you want. It’s like the problem, solution, market size. That’s the way that you want to keep it because that’s the way that the investor is used to seeing things.

Another don’t is forgetting your contact information at the end on the thank you slide. You’ve got to even put in your cellphone if it’s needed because if there’s an investor that is interested in calling you at 2:00 am because they’re interested in making a potential investment, you need to be right there on the spot, ready to pick up the phone, and discuss whatever concerns or whatever questions they have. So put in there your contact info, your title, even your email on that thank you slide. 

Also, make sure that you hit a Like on this video. Subscribe to the channel so that you don’t forget to check those videos that we’re rolling out every week. And also, if you have anything that’s going on, I would love to hear what you’re up to on the comment section below. You could do that. And if you’re raising money, you can reach out to me if you need help. Send me a note at [email protected]. Thank you so much for watching.


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Neil Patel

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