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10 Pitch Mistakes + 10 Ways to Fix Each

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There is the Art of War, The Art of the Deal, The Art of the Start (we are looking at you Guy Kawasaki) and this little guide… let’s just call it The Art of The Pitch Deck. Right now, it is 10 critical things you SHOULDN’T say or include in a pitch deck but soon perhaps it will become a manifesto of sorts to help entrepreneurs travel the rocky roads of pitching.

Shall we get started?

1. Don’t make your pitch about the jargon
Yes, investors are scary… but really, they are people too. I mean come on… having an angel on your side sounds like a good thing right? Well, getting them on your side means sharing a relatable story, not boring them with the technical aspect of whatever you’re pitching.

What you should do
Most likely the angel will not be a specialist in your field so impressing them with your vast oceans of technical knowledge will not be a selling point. They want to know that you know what you are doing and they also want to know why you are special. At the end of the day, many people have your technical knowledge and investors wants you to explain to them why you are the best person to execute. Your pitch deck should strike that fine balance of assuming you are technically capable while weaving the story of why and how you plan to conquer your industry.

2. Don’t include more than 20 slides
Fred Wilson said to keep your deck to six killer slides. While we agree that shorter is better, we are’nt so strict… but we do encourage entrepreneurs to plan for between 10 and 20 slides (Although we typically like to hit the sweet spot of 14 slides). Giving investors an overview of your story and hitting each point in a clear and concise way, makes you believable. Adding too much detail can make you seem like you are overcompensating for something especially if you go into particular depth in one subject and gloss over others.

What you should do
Spend equal time on each subject and hit major points in a clear and concise way. If you are creating your slides and you are at slide 10 and not even halfway through your pitch, look at your current direction, reevaluate your strategy, and start your story over. Just like editors are needed for great novels, an outside eye can always add much needed edits to your pitch.

3. The Blank, Stock PowerPoint Template Travesty
Starting with a PowerPoint template isn’t terrible if you plan to customize it, add your brand’s flair, and keep it short and simple (see our template to get you started). But more often than not, those blank white pages encourage people’s inner novelist and a desire to cover every inch of the page in text and pictures.

What you should do 
We always recommend creating a cohesive brand from website to pitch deck because in our experience an investor places high value on seeing that your vision is strong. If you do want to use a PowerPoint template, make sure you don’t allow it to remain a template. You don’t want people to immediately recognize that you slapped something together in PowerPoint as it shows the care you put into executing your brand.

Even better, we have created a template that walks you through the suggested elements that should be in a pitch deck. You can download that here… and of course, if you want a custom solution, you can always send us a note.

4. Don’t just use words to tell, use imagery to show
As we mentioned in previous points (which will be a common thread throughout this list) your pitch should show the complete story of your brand. Showing, not telling is key to keeping interest as you present.

What you should do
Words are certainly powerful (especially when you don’t have too many of them) but imagery can describe your culture and offering like words can’t. Whether on-brand photography, illustrations or iconography, visuals that compliment your copy will help an investor get it. Appealing to both their auditory sense and the visual sense makes your pitch memorable.

5. Don’t forget to mention your competition
No one wants to think about their competition let alone add them into their story and present them beautifully. But your competition is part of your story and is validation that there is a market which is important to investors. Not mentioning your competition makes you seem like a novice and glossing over them in your pitch deck, or presenting them in some confusing, over complicated, messy matrix will not make your investors feel confident that you have completely analyzed who they are and where your competitive advantage lies.

What you should do
Fully analyze your competitive landscape and present it in an easily digestible format, then show why you have the competitive advantage. Use your competitors’ logos… call them out by name and show investors why your solution will make investors their money many times over.

6. Don’t present some wild, made up number
Investors are usually pretty smart….how do you think they made all that money after all? Big numbers sound great to your ears (hey who wouldn’t like to make a billion dollars in their first year), but as Guy Kawasaki pointed out… big, indefensible numbers make you sound ridiculous. While you may be able to confidently present them… when it comes to the Q&A part of the pitch, you will get roasted.

What you should do
Use reason. An investor would rather see a person who critically thinks about the challenges their start up WILL face than a dreamer that can come up with huge markets that no one in the history of ever has tapped into. Make sure every number you pitch can be backed up with substantial evidence and keep in mind that you will be questioned and big numbers are like a Staples Easy Button for investors if they want figure out where to start when picking your pitch apart.

7. Don’t include an NDA
Investors see many pitches a day… in fact, they probably saw a pitch with your same idea last week. Including an NDA is a sure fire way that all of these tips we have listed and your perfect pitch deck will never reach your investor’s eyeballs.

What you should do
Investors won’t generally sign an NDA to just hear your idea… as point 1 states, your pitch shouldn’t be so technical anyway that you would be giving away trade secrets.

8. Don’t use watermarked images
I know you are asking for money… but using watermarked images doesn’t make you look more needy… it makes you look like you don’t care.

What you should do
Of course, purchase your images… but also choose each image carefully and purposely. Don’t find an image to fill space. Make sure each item on your pitch deck speak to your brand and help convey the underlying message.

9. Don’t keep your pitch deck stagnate
An outdated pitch deck is like wearing an outfit from grade school… you may still like it, but everyone can see it no longer fits you. Pitch decks should evolve just like your business does. Don’t bring your seed stage pitch deck to a series A meeting.

What you should do
The information in your pitch deck should evolve as you learn and grow. After each pitch (especially unsuccessful ones) get feedback and evaluate. Bring in extra eyes and change your pitch according to what you have learned. If you need to hire a designer, make that leap.

10. Don’t forget what the pitch is really about
Remember, pitching is really about you. That is not to say what you are presenting isn’t important, but feeling confident about your solution, presenting it intelligently and in an interesting manner is the key to walking out of a pitch with a check.

What you should do
As said above, it is rare that investors are presented with a new idea… what they want to see is how you can execute this idea and a large part of this is how you execute your pitch.

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