When looking to secure funding for your business, there is no greater asset than a winning pitch deck (and maybe a winning smile!). Pitch decks are your one chance to make a great first impression on potential investors and to position your business favorably at the same time. With funding on the line, entrepreneurs typically spend hours upon hours preparing and planning their pitch decks before that ever-important meeting. However, even a knockout pitch deck can be held back by a few commonly made mistakes.
We’ve talked a lot about what you should be doing before, during, and after a pitch, but it’s equally important to know what not to do. To that end, we’ve compiled the top five most common mistakes to avoid when preparing your pitch deck –
1. Too Long/Too Many Details
It can be exciting to finally be making the case for your business, however, it’s extremely important to respect the time of the investors and not oversaturate them with information. For many entrepreneurs, this business is their baby. And like a proud mom or dad, they may want to overshare every detail of its existence. But investors have both limited time and bandwidth. So, if it isn’t pertinent to the primary message you’re delivering, you’d be well advised to omit it. A great pitch deck will have investors excited and wanting to learn more by the end, not overwhelmed by extraneous information.
2. Lack of Clarity
The message you are communicating with investors should ring loud and clear. Remember that the investor may know nothing about your business and/or industry, so your pitch deck needs to have clear and concise points regarding their merits. Entrepreneurs should avoid using too many buzzwords or jargon, which only tend to muddle the overall message of the pitch.
3. Ignoring Weaknesses
The very foundation of investing is about evaluating risk and reward. A pitch deck that does not acknowledge the weaknesses of the plan robs the investor of the opportunity to make a proper evaluation. Your pitch should help assess the risk for them and make the case for your business despite any weaknesses. Ignoring them will only make the investor think you haven’t fully analyzed your position or have something to hide.
4. Not Revising Enough
Never present your first draft to investors. Actually, never present your second or third draft either. Your pitch deck can only be perfected over time with thorough revisions to pick it apart and put it back together again. Revision is a crucial part of creating a winning pitch deck formula and eliminating mistakes.
5. Generic/Outdated Formatting
Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of focusing too heavily on what they want to say in their pitch deck rather than how they should say it. Make no mistake, the “what” is incredibly important, but the overall appearance and formatting will be one of the first visual components investors see—making it the “first impression” to your first impression.
An outdated or generic format or appearance will automatically make your pitch deck seem outdated too. Ensure that the formatting aligns with your product, the industry you’re in, and the consumer you’re serving. If you’re edgy, then the formatting should be edgy. If you’re conservative, then it should be more conservative. You want to create cohesion between the formatting and the content of the deck overall. In this particular respect, no detail is too small.
There’s no denying just how important it is to make a great first impression to potential investors. And avoiding these mistakes will help you do just that. In such a competitive and high-risk financial world, don’t you want to give yourself the best chance to walk out with funds?
Barker Associates provides strategic guidance and outsourced CFO services to companies of all sizes. We can provide the higher level of strategy your company needs to grow. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.
A Successful Pitch May Come Down to Your Words What to Say and What to Avoid
Lately, we’ve been talking a lot about pitching investors. We talked about the importance of your story coming through loud and clear and why you need two pitch decks. And with all this “talk,” it now comes down to your actual words.
You have a limited time to tell your story and make the best impression. Knowing what will resonate with potential investors, and perhaps, more importantly, what will not resonate with them, can make all the difference in whether you receive funding. Even if your pitch deck is perfect, it can easily be derailed by poor word choice. How you choose your words says a lot about you, your views on your business, and how you would fare as a potential partner.
Overall, your pitch will tell your story, including information about the problem (briefly), target market, revenue or business model, early successes and milestones, customer acquisition, team, financials, competition (briefly), funding needs, and exit strategy. As you’re talking about each, there are words and phrases you should avoid, as what the investor hears when you say them will be entirely different than what you intend. Take the following chart as an example of some of those situations.
No one can do it alone. This person will burn out.
No market or you have not done your research
Amateur – there are no guarantees in investing.
Any word or phrase you cannot explain well
A Quick Note on Buzzwords
People tend to use them because they think it will make them sound like they know what they’re talking about. But those people aren’t fooling anyone, particularly sophisticated investors. A “buzzword” is defined by Merriam Webster as “an important-sounding usually technical word or phrase often of little meaning used chiefly to impress laymen.” By the definition alone, you should see why you should exclude them completely. You want to impress the investors (who are not laymen) the right way – with legitimate numbers and proven strategy, not by trying to sound impressive.
Powerful Words/Phrases that Strengthen Your Story
Instead of the above words and phrases, focus on the following powerful ones that show you mean business:
Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) – explain how much your customer acquisition strategy costs and how it can be reduced over time.
Lifetime Value – explain how your customers will eventually cover the cost of operations.
Churn – explain how efficient you are about retaining your existing customers (eventually generate enough value to pay back their acquisition cost and help you generate a profit).
Burn Rate – explain how much cash you have remaining to operate and how efficiently you are operating your business.
Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) – explain the sum of all costs that go into offering your product.
Gross Margin – explain how well your business is performing.
EBITDA – understand what this means and have projections to back it up.
Use of Proceeds – explain how the investor’s money will be spent and make sure it is not to increase the existing C Suite or Founder’s salary.
These are the terms investors want to hear. Not only do they demonstrate that you know your business inside and out, but they also give more credibility to your numbers. A win-win for investors!
Other Pitching Tips
Now that you understand the words and phrases to avoid and those to focus on, other pitch tips include:
Be on time and respectful of your time limit. Show that you value the investors’ time.
Be confident, but not arrogant.
Focus on the solution, not the problem.
Don’t attack the competition. Instead, focus on your strengths.
Think and talk long-term. Investors are not interested in quick wins. They’re looking for companies that are going to make an impact on their industry.
Communicate your “why” passionately and infectiously.
Understand that there is a difference between creating a great pitch deck and creating a great pitch.
Going into any pitch is a nerve-wracking experience. Even with practice, you may struggle to find the right words, which is why focusing on them from the start is so important. There are many available pitching tips out there, but word choice alone can make or break the deal. At the very minimum, they can give some extra positivity, and who doesn’t need that on pitch day?
Barker Associates has extensive experience with assisting companies in preparing their pitches, including the keywords they want to use (and to avoid). Schedule a free 30-minute consultation with this link to my calendar to talk about how we can work toward getting you the investment money you need.
The Pitch Deck Something so Important, You Need Two of Them
As someone who regularly helps others prepare to pitch to investors, I see one situation far too often. This may all sound a little too familiar to you as well. You are an entrepreneur who has done everything right. You developed a product or service and turned it into a successful business, that business began generating revenue, and now you are ready and willing to scale, but need investment money to do so. Then, you seem only to hear a resounding NO from the investors you approach.
Why? More often than not, it’s because the investors have no indication of what you are actually offering them. And understanding what you offer comes down to two simple words, with not so simple connotations … “pitch deck.” Yet, if I can share one piece of advice with you, as I do in my book, Pitching to Win: Strategies for Success, it’s that one pitch deck is never enough. If you are serious about scaling your business by pitching to investors, then you must have two pitch decks – one to send to investors and one to use in your presentation (or pitch).
Let me explain. Some investors will not agree to meet with you until they have first reviewed your pitch deck. As such, they may ask you to email it to them before scheduling an actual pitch. And just as much as an email is not the same as standing in front of someone delivering a presentation, your pitch decks likewise cannot be the same.
Understanding how they are similar, and how they are different, is key to getting that next phone call, presentation, or meeting. To that end, I have put together the Top Five Tips for ensuring you have two pitch decks that will get you the right attention when you need it.
Pitch Deck Creation: Top Five Tips
1. Be Proactive
Research the investors who are already investing in similar products or services. If they have similar interests, they are the ones most likely to invest in you. Try to determine what types of questions they asked before and incorporate the answers into your pitch decks from the start.
2. Create Pitch Deck #1
This is also called the “Handout Pitch Deck.” It is the one that you will email to investors when asked for a copy. The key to this pitch deck – it must stand alone.It cannot rely on your verbal explanation of the content because, quite simply, you will not be there to explain it.
The Handout Pitch Deck must quickly communicate with words (but not too many), numbers, and graphics your “Why me?” to potential investors.
3. Create Pitch Deck #2
Use Pitch Deck #1 as a foundation to create Pitch Deck #2. Pitch Deck #2 is the “Presentation Pitch Deck.” This version is based on you delivering your pitch, aided by high-level slides with few words and many images. It does not, and should not, stand on its own. Pitch Deck #2 will have very few words and numbers, if any. Instead, it will function much like a television or movie screen, as your priority is having the audience focus on you and your messaging, rather than reading slides. Remember, at the end of the day, this pitch deck is a sales presentation.
4. Ensure that Both Decks are Concise, Professional, and have Visual Appeal
Pitching is never the time to get into the intricate details of your past experiences or even your product or service. Get to the business of what investors want to know:
(a) what your business is all about and
(b) most importantly, how it is going to make enough money to return
multiples of the amount of money you are asking them to invest.
5. Update Both Pitch Decks Regularly
Consider this scenario: a potential investor asks you to send your pitch deck via email or present it to a group of investors. You respond that you will get it to them in a couple of weeks. Chances are that when you finally prepare your pitch deck, the investor will have already moved on to other projects and entrepreneurs who are ready to take their money.
You want to be able to distribute Pitch Deck #1 or present Pitch Deck #2 at a moment’s notice. Just as every professional has an up-to-date resume to present at any time, a growing entrepreneurial company should have both pitch decks ready to email or present at any time.
The creation and management of your pitch decks are critical parts of the capital raising process. Remembering that the difference between the two decks comes down to your voice is of the utmost importance. Pitch Deck #1 must stand on its own, capturing your voice, without the benefit of you speaking, while Pitch Deck #2 exists to bolster your voice as you present. Barker Associates has extensive experience with assisting companies in preparing their pitch decks. Schedule a free 30-minute consultation with this link to my calendar to talk about how we can work toward getting you the investment money you need.