Do’s and Don’ts for Your Pitch Deck

I enjoy being an active part of the local startup community.  I have given some pitches, but I’ve listened to tons of them.  Sometimes, they are just open forums where the startup is looking for exposure and feedback.  Other times they are looking for real money.  These tips relate to anyone who is pitching, but this article is really focused on the early stage startup.

Here are some Do’s:

  1. Do provide factual and validated information. If you are ever caught lying, or perceived as deceitful, you’re dead.  Period.
  2. Do tell us ‘Why You’? Ideas are cheap, execution is everything.  Why are you going to be successful with this idea?  Is your team awesome?  Say so.
  3. Do get yourself a clicker and use the space (Time allocated). Engage with your audience through motion, eye contact and body language. The best presentations are conducted by passionate, animated entrepreneurs who do not hide behind the podium. While presenting don’t forget to target your key audience. These are the people who likely have investment funds.
  4. Do rehearse. Practice your pitch, and get the timing down.  Every group will have a different format.  Sometimes you’ll have 15 minutes to pitch and sometimes you’ll have less.  Sometimes there will be lots of questions with little time to respond.  Other times there will be few questions and dead air.  Tailor your pitch to each time frame and practice.  If you are new, put the important stuff up front.  If you are a pro, you will have your pitch timing down and you won’t run out of time in any situation. Be a pro.

Here are some Don’ts:

  1. Don’t use baseless information. This is tough, but try to validate information in any way possible.  What have other companies done in the past?  How long did it take them to break into the market?  What market share does the leader have? Have you ever spoken with a customer to see what they think?
  2. Don’t be sloppy. Nothing makes you look worse than showing up in jeans and a t-shirt (be appropriate for the venue) or have a PowerPoint deck with bad graphics, and a poor layout.  Do your research and make sure you put your best foot forward.
  3. Don’t throw out large numbers. Don’t use the size of the market to try to reflect the size of what you think your business will be.  Any major market is in the billions and trying to relate your company revenue to that is just ridiculous at this point when you barely have a validated product.  Don’t suggest that you can even capture 1% of it, that is an unsubstantiated number (since unvalidated isn’t a proper word).

Don’t create crazy projections.  Be realistic. If you think you can turn your startup into a $100M venture in a niche industry in 5 years, you clearly don’t have any idea what you are talking about.

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