Creating your deck: 5 tips to avoid common pitfalls

A deck is often the first impression a VC, Angel or potential customer will have of your product or company. How can you make sure it is a great one?

First off, I get that there is much to love about your business, and I assume you’ve worked really hard to get it to where it is today. It isn’t surprising you’d want to share those experiences with others to impress upon them your level of commitment and demonstrate your ability to overcome obstacles.

That being said, nothing conveys your understanding of a problem, its solutions and its potential obstacles more than your ability to clearly deliver a compelling message. The goal of a deck is to do just that.

Here are some tips to help make it happen:

Tip #1 – Less is More.

Your deck is an intro to your business. It tells the reader concisely what the problem is,  how you’re solving it and that they too can benefit from your success. Everything else is a peripheral to those points and are better located in an appendix or follow up.

If you don’t think you can convey your problem and solution clearly, or you feel you need to say a lot to convey your value, then take a step back and try to find ways to trim down and prioritize your message. It is imperative that you can do more with less.

Worried your reader will miss out of some great nuggets? Try thinking of it this way: if you’ve grabbed someone’s attention in your deck then rest assured, they will have follow up questions. All that extra data you are eager to show off will find its way to the surface eventually, and at a time where it will make a greater impact.

An adage that hopefully drives the point home: “if everything is important then nothing is”.

Tip #2: No, You Will Not Just “Get Through All the Slides Quickly.”

A common rebuttal to #1 is, “Yes, there is a lot of information but it’s necessary. We will get through them quickly.” Heck, I use to say that too when working on my decks. The truth is, you’re wrong in more ways than one.

Ask yourself, when have I ever found any points impactful and important when I am rushed through them? Could you imagine the climax of your favorite movie in fast-forward? If anything, “let’s get through it quickly” is a clear sign that someone has other more important things to do.

If your points are important then give them due justice. Be sure to convey them impactfully. Pauses in speech can create that, and leveraging a few, carefully selected words and images do too.

Think about the mixed signals you are sending if your plan of attack is to rush through slides. For example, you may be saying, “I want you to see these slides because they are important, but not important enough to allow you to take the time to understand them.” or  “I want to make an impact on this point, but I also think my time is better spent elsewhere.”

Trust me, I get that you have 15-30 minutes to make your pitch, maybe less. What I am trying to impress upon you is that speed is not your saviour. Prioritization of your key points and trimming the rest are.

Tip #3: Follow Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 rule

Guy Kawasaki has a great rule of thumb for creating a slides:

10 Slides

20 Minutes

30 point font

You can diver deeper into his 10/20/30 rule here:

Tip #4: If the information you present doesn’t impress the reader move on or change the information

You will not change someone’s mind by adding more information. If they like your angle they will be in touch to learn more. If they like what you have had to say they will ask questions. If they are having trouble making them time to take in everything you have to say then it’s over before it started.

What are some reasons people may pass on your deck?

  1. They are not interested in your space or industry
  2. They don’t understand what you are doing
  3. There is a conflict of interest
  4. They are not in a position to take action

It is hard to change the results for #1, #3 or #4 with your deck, it may be best to move on and find someone better suited for you. As for #2, you will likely need to step back and refine your messaging. Even if the reader is the wrong audience for you, the ability for them to understand may help push your deck to someone that is a better fit.

Tip #5: Be Critical.

Assume you received your deck in an email on a busy day. Would you take the time to dive into each of its 30 slides filled with hefty bullet-point lists?

The more critical you can be with yourself the more time you will save with advisors, customers, and investors. Hopefully the tip above can help make that happen.



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