To influence investors, pitch deck clarity counts

While attending several recent investment conferences, I was surprised by the number of companies using cluttered and confusing pitch decks to woo investors. As these presentations progressed, many potential investors left the room (whether online or in person) and probably took their funding with them.

Pitch decks matter. CEOs seeking invitations to meet with investors must first demonstrate mastery of the competitive landscape and their place within it. The key is to ensure the pitch is crisp, clear, and compelling.

I’ve been coaching CEOs on their pitch decks for many years, and following are some of the guidelines I share most frequently to help enable success.

Keep it brief. In 10-15 slides, provide the core information about the problem, solution, product, business to-date, market dynamics, competition, team, and financials. Remember that the Gettysburg Address was only 272 words, so 15 slides should be plenty.

Share your value proposition in 10 words or less. Start strong on your first slide, summarizing how your company makes life better for others. Use simple language. As a bonus, get right to the point with one sentence about the funding you seek and how you will use it – and follow up with details in a later slide.

Use complete sentences for slide headlines. The headline is the slide’s takeaway message, so use it to tell people what you want them to remember. For example, instead of a headline that says “Competition”, you could say “Competitors rely on outdated technology”.

Simplify graphics. Resist the urge to clutter slides with disparate and distracting graphics. Consider hiring a freelance graphic designer to develop graphics that tell your story. It will be a low-cost investment for securing high-value results.

Provide contact information. Make it easy for potential investors to contact you. Share your name, email, phone, and company website or LinkedIn page – and include the URL as a footnote on each slide. If you don’t have a web/LinkedIn page, you should create one.

Include an appendix. Investors appreciate CEOs who demonstrate due diligence, but you should not include every detail in the core presentation. Consider an appendix for additional charts, graphs, lists, and other information, and add a table of contents. You’ll be able to share the extra data without crowding your presentation.

Pitch deck clarity counts, and there is no magic to achieving it. Overall, less is more – as long as you take time to choose only the words and graphics that matter.

Bret Gallaway is a communications consultant, and he is a CEO coach with Entrepreneurs University. Previously, he was a communications executive with Morgan Stanley, USAA, and Trinity Health.

Say more by writing less: 5 (free) tips

While new software aims to make emails more concise, a few simple writing tips might be all you need.

Axios this week announced its product to make internal communications more effective, following Vox’s Chorus and other similar platforms. They can help with formatting, writing, targeting and measuring content. But they might not be right for everyone.

Despite the software’s utility, some individuals and small organizations might not be ready to pay the hefty fees. For them, and for anyone else seeking shorter emails, here are five time-tested tips to be more concise:

  • Lead with a purpose statement. Be straightforward and brief in one sentence, setting the stage for the entire communication. If it helps, start with “The purpose of this email is to…”
  • Provide a 2-3 sentence background. Explain the dynamics that led to the communication.
  • Use bullets (no more than six) to summarize key points. There is no need to cram key information into one paragraph. Let it breathe. If there are charts or other related material, this is also the place for a hyperlink or attachment.
  • Limit sentences to 20 words or fewer. Word efficiency forces writers to jettison the content nobody needs or reads. While this tip can be challenging, readers will appreciate the increased clarity and readability.
  • Leave a memorable and/or actionable final thought. This is the takeaway message, highlighting what the writer wants people to think, say and/or do.

By focusing on words that matter, any person or organization can be more concise and, therefore, more effective.