Seeking funding is a rite of passage for any entrepreneur. Sooner or later, you’ll have to get in front of funders to pitch your ideas and ask them to get involved with your business.
Your first step before approaching investors is creating a business plan. Traditional lenders will require one before they invite you to a pitch meeting. (Did you know creating a business plan is one of SOAR Innovation’s direct services? Contact our expert team today for assistance.)
We’ve recently interviewed angel investors to connect our entrepreneur community with advice on how to best prepare for a pitch. According to our region’s leading funders, creating a well-thought-through pitch deck is essential if you want to get their attention.
When you interact with funders, you have to be mindful of how you prepare. Investor attention spans are short — you must make a strong impression within the first 30-60 seconds.
Don’t worry if you haven’t brushed up on your deck creation skills in a while (or ever). You can follow a formula to create a pitch deck that’s modern, engaging, and concisely drives your point home.
Follow these steps to develop a winning pitch deck that will anticipate the questions investors want to know and get them excited about your idea.
What to avoid when creating a pitch deck
When the options for building a pitch deck are so broad, sometimes it helps to know what not to do before getting started.
Keep in mind that investors spend 25% less time reviewing pitch decks compared to 2015. You’ll need to stand out to get their attention.
So with that in mind, here’s what investors don’t want to see from a pitch deck:
- Poorly-researched ideas. If you can’t back up your pitch with hard numbers, you’ll immediately lose their attention.
- Text-dense slides. No one wants to read a wall of text on the screen. Focus on the most important takeaway information, and save the rest for your talking points.
- Poor design. Invest in the quality of your presentation visuals. Your slides are your business’ first impression: they reflect on you as someone who can (or can’t) execute a complex vision.
- Wandering storyline. Don’t take too long to get to the point. Remember what investors are looking for in your pitch: what’s the product, why it’s relevant, what’s the process, and where’s the profitability.
How to create a winning storyline for your pitch deck
We recommend The Greatest Sales Deck I’ve Ever Seen to SOAR Innovation’s network of entrepreneur clients. While it’s an essay about a sales deck and not specifically an investor pitch, the framework is 100% transferable into a funding context. After all, your pitch has to convince potential investors to buy into your offering.
Our team coaches entrepreneurs to align creative storytelling with data-driven plot points for the greatest success with investors.
We adapted the following steps from The Greatest Sales Deck I’ve Ever Seen to help you construct a framework for a winning pitch deck.
Step #1: Identify a big-picture change happening right now
Open your pitch presentation by setting the scene with relevant data. The big-picture change could be rapidly shifting market forces, changing demographics, evolving customer preferences, or other driving factors that create favorable conditions for a new business.
If you don’t hook your investors with this big-picture change, you run the risk of losing their attention for the remainder of your presentation. Test your ideas on neutral audiences before taking them to your pitch meeting.
For example, an aspiring agritech business might build an opening slide with a line that reads:
“The world will require 70% more food by 2050, but our current food system isn’t ready to meet that demand.”
Step #2: Call out the opportunity and how some will adapt and thrive — and some won’t
Now that you’ve identified a problem, you should acknowledge how it will affect the current industry players. Some will adapt and thrive, and some won’t.
This step sets you up to explain why there will be room for your company to enter this industry and succeed. It also helps investors begin to identify themselves with the direction of your proposal.
To continue with the example set above, consider the industry players that will be hit hard by a drastic increase in demand for food. This founder will need to present research on the production capacity limits or climate-related vulnerabilities of existing agricultural centers that our food system relies on.
Next, identify who is poised to win. This might look like existing investments in agritech or strategic shifts by other agricultural centers bearing ideological similarities to your business model.
Step #3. Set up the “Promised Land” — but don’t pitch yourself yet
This step is where you provide more details on what the solution looks like — without actually getting into the nuances of your product or service yet. Of course, you’ll be aligning this information to your product or service, but it’s too soon to talk about yourself just yet.
The agritech business founder will need to list the features of what the world will look like after their business is launched and thriving. This might include qualities related to food supply chain stability, future-proofed agricultural systems, improved local access to fresh food, and other benefits.
Step #4. Identify your product/service’s features — and how they get you to the “Promised Land”
Now that you’ve laid a robust foundation that backs up your pitch, this is the point where you integrate your business idea into the problem/solution framework you cultivated.
Better yet, you can use the concept of “old world” and “new world” features or outcomes to demonstrate the before-and-after impact of your business.
The “old world” outcomes of agriculture might include: blight, flooding, drought, production limits, or other sources of instability.
The “new world” outcomes of your agritech business may include: enhanced food supply stability, scalability, or establishing global dominance as an agricultural provider.
Your old and new world examples, of course, should be researched and precise.
Step #5. Hit them with hard data
Finally, you can close the conversation with additional data-driven insights to affirm your industry, market, and company are well-aligned.
Investors might believe in the industry or market factors at play. But they also need to believe in you, the founder, as someone who can take this opportunity and succeed.
Data is the most effective way to build that bridge.
Advice for building your deck
We also recommend using these tactics when placing your storyline into slides.
- Make sure your slides are concise and readable. Use a large font. Make sure there’s plenty of contrast between your background image and text.
- Use large-format hero images. Shutterstock and Adobe Stock offer plenty of free stock photos. Feature high-quality product shots or professional photography showcasing your business if available.
- Be consistent with branding. Select colors and fonts carefully and apply them consistently across the deck. Canva is a great resource for creating pitch decks and reusable branded templates.
- Charts are handy. Illustrating your data with visuals can make a strong impact when executed well.
- Practice, practice, practice. Getting feedback from your community, including neutral third parties, will help you understand which points land — and which need reworking.
Conclusion: Win funding for your Eastern Kentucky business
SOAR Innovation — powered by KY Innovation — provides resources to help our region’s founders secure funding.
Download Complete Guide to Entrepreneurship in Eastern Kentucky for comprehensive advice on business formation.
We also provide templates for key startup resources and direct services for growing businesses.
If you want advice on your pitch deck, including a review of your slides, contact SOAR Innovation for support.