Pitch deck design tips

17 April 2024

For the past few weeks, I’ve been head down in a pitch deck for a client, and although this is something I’ve done before, I tend to approach every new one with a fresh perspective, along with new research. So here are some patterns I’ve noticed as I worked on the pitch deck, along with links at the bottom.

Find clarity

In most cases, the message is diluted. A business plan involves many moving parts and what founders struggle with most is choosing one line of thought and putting all the effort into that thought. The narrative needs to evolve around that one concept or notion. This can be a USP, a technology, or an innovative way of solving a problem. A good exercise is to take the deck’s script and keep summarising it into one page first, then one paragraph, then one sentence. This should be the core message, and you can start opening up from that. It’s fine if your core message is now split into three, but the slides should all support that core message.

Pitch without a deck

Founders should feel confident enough to pitch their business without needing a deck — the typical elevator pitch if you will. Surprisingly, most founders do a better job at this without a deck. The deck starts as their crutch but becomes their Achilles heel. A deck should only support the message and not the other way around. So the first thing that I ask clients to do is to pitch their business without a deck and then I take notes based on that pitch rather than the deck itself. This is because founders tend to bloat a deck overtime for fear of missing any vital information but only make the message more complex and laden with repetition.

Understand the audience

Just like any piece of communication, this should be designed around the audience. Granted, in most cases, you will be pitching in front of VCs or other types of investors and funding boards. But you should do your research and get a feel of what their backgrounds are. Have they invested in similar businesses before? Would they understand industry-specific jargon or acronyms? Are you raising a Seed Round, Series A? All of these questions will influence how you design the pitch deck.

Use numbers and diagrams

Keep text to a minimum. As the presenter is pitching, the audience is trying to keep up with what the presenter is saying and also what’s on screen. The slides should serve as an illustrating model of what they’re pitching. Having paragraphs of text on a slide will fight for attention and take away the focus from the presenter. Using numbers, charts and diagrams can communicate a message very quickly without the need to read a lot of information. Having $32B in a large bold font can communicate “the taxi industry is a $32 billion market” much faster.

If you want to dig deeper into pitch deck design and presentation, here’s a list of articles I found useful.