Maximilian Fleitmann, an Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) member primarily based in Rhine-Ruhr, Germany, is the CEO of BaseTemplates and Partner at Richmond View Ventures. He has raised venture capital for his startups, helped hundreds of founders craft their pitch decks and fundraising strategy, and invested as a business angel. We asked him how founders can create the perfect pitch deck for their company. Here is what he shared:
During my career, I pitched my business hundreds of times—sometimes to friends and family, sometimes to customers, and sometimes to potential investors. I can do this in my sleep. Over time, I have refined every word I am saying at least twenty times.
Some of these pitches were very informal, sitting at the bar or walking around. But others were in front of huge audiences with everything at stake. And by everything I mean: “Will I get funding so that I can keep my business alive?”
For many of these pitches, it made sense to complement the words with a nice presentation—called a pitch deck. Most people think creating a pitch deck is only relevant if you are trying to raise funds from investors but in my experience, every company should have one.
Over the last few years, I have built hundreds of pitch decks for successful entrepreneurs and my own companies. I love to break down a whole business into just a couple of slides that make the viewer say, “Yeah. Understood. Amazing business!” Today I am sharing my five quick steps to building the perfect pitch deck.
1. Identify the core of your business
As an entrepreneur, you know your business best. But have you ever thought about how you could explain it to someone in the simplest way and simultaneously make them excited?
The first step in creating your perfect pitch deck is to identify what the essential pieces of information are so that someone who has never heard of your business will understand it. This should be everything from the problem you solve to your solution and the reasons your customers love it.
To start, I take a piece of paper and write down everything that comes to my mind in an unstructured way. Then I cross out the stuff that’s not important and bring it into an order.
2. Tell a story
Humans love stories! They appeal to the crocodile brain, a place of raw emotion that exists in every single one of us. With your pitch deck, you have the opportunity to tell your story as an entrepreneur and reveal how you make the world a better place.
Whenever I founded a business, it was because I saw a problem in my own life or someone close to me. I always try to take this moment and show it in the pitch deck. For example, I could talk about some massive challenge and how I went through many ups and downs to finally solve it. And you can close with the status quo of your company showing how you add real value to your customers.
I also encourage you to read about the hero’s journey. It’s a structure used in most modern films, and you can learn a lot from it that you can adapt for your pitch deck.
3. Follow a known structure
When I built my first pitch deck in 2013, I had no clue what to include. I created random slides and the design wasn’t ideal. What helped me get better was studying pitch decks of other companies. There are several collections on the web where you can try to understand what kind of slides and messaging companies like AirBnB or Shopify use to present their business. You can also get a sense of what outstanding design looks like.
The most common structure for pitch decks now is:
- Title slide (What is the name and claim of your company?)
- Problem slide (What problem are you solving?)
- Solution slide (What is your solution to the problem?)
- Product slide (What does your product look and feel like?)
- USP / Customer slide (Why do customers love your product or service?)
- Business Model / Pricing slide (How do you make money?)
- Market slide (What does the market you are in look like?)
- Competition slide (What are your main competitors and how do you differentiate?)
- Traction slides (What have you achieved so far?)
- Team slide (Who are your key team members and why are they right for the job?)
- Contact slide (How can someone contact you?)
Depending on your audience, you should adjust the structure accordingly and leave out slides you don’t need or add slides (e.g. customer quotes, roadmaps) with additional information.
4. Keep it brief
Most company presentations and pitch decks I see are way too long. Tens of slides and walls of text are not the thing investors, customers or anyone is looking for. A great pitch deck only includes the most important information in 10 to 15 slides. It has to be enough information to understand what your business is about and why it’s special but you don’t have to tell how the last Christmas party was.
I do this by creating the first version and then iterating it at least three times. With every iteration, I force myself to remove at least 20 percent of the content. With this trick, I end with a short and comprehensive version of my deck.
5. Make it beautiful
Although I am a very analytical person, I still think the design of your pitch deck is at least as important as the content because attention spans get shorter and shorter every year. So it is my job as an entrepreneur to leave a stunning first impression and make sure that the audience is hungry for more. Apple or Tesla are good examples of that. Their presentations are clear, straightforward and beautifully designed.
So after you have finalized your content there are several ways to accomplish that for your deck. You either have a designer (in-house) who can bring your words to life, you outsource it on a marketplace, or you choose one of the many beautiful pitch deck templates on the web.
I hope these lessons will help you craft a pitch deck for your business whether it is for a fundraising process or just for yourself. It will help you think about what you are doing every day in a different way and make you a better entrepreneur—because you will improve how you pitch your company.