Without you, your deck is just a memo with diagrams.
7 min read
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You’re proud of your deck. You worked hard to put it together, and you’re pretty sure it’s a presentation that will wow anyone who sees it — you can’t wait to show it off to investors. The problem is that VCs spend, on average, less than four minutes reviewing pitch decks.
The pitch deck investment is lopsided: While VCs spend mere minutes glancing over decks, companies invest in an average of 40 investor meetings before locking down funding. That means that funding doesn’t flow from the deck; it flows from the conversations surrounding it. If you send your deck ahead of time, you’re setting yourself up for something I like to call the “deck blocker,” which means you give potential investors the chance to turn you down before they even meet you.
Meeting you, however, is the first step in winning 39 more meetings. Here’s why you should make sure the first time your investors see your deck is when you’re standing in front of them.
1. You’ll give away the ending.
Chances are high that your pitch deck gives away everything about your business. It’s designed to show off what your product is and what problems it solves, as well as show how you’re going to make millions with your business model.
When an investor sees this out of context, it’s easy to judge your company without giving you a chance to debunk any misconceptions. Rather than sit across from a potential investor, countering objections, you’ll find yourself at the receiving end of a simple “Thanks, but no thanks” email.
2. You need to paint a worst-case scenario.
This advice sounds counterintuitive — entrepreneurs are encouraged to paint a picture of a world that’s better off as a result of their companies’ efforts. But the truth is that most of these rosy pictures don’t ring true; entrepreneurs who claim they’ll win 100 percent market share within a three-year period sound naive, which is a major turnoff to investors.
The better route is to use the deck to paint an ideal picture and then paint a more realistic one with your words. What’s the worst-case scenario? What will happen if people don’t invest? Explaining how Problem A, unresolved, will lead to Problem B, which will create Industry Trend C, is much more compelling than an ideal scenario that could ultimately be at the mercy of Industry Trend C, anyway. But you have to get in front of an investor in order to paint that verbal picture.
3. You need to acknowledge the competition — without giving them real estate.
Another naive tactic many entrepreneurs indulge in is deep, deep denial of any competitors. “We’re the first of our kind,” “our team differentiates us” and “our process makes us unique” are all common phrases that indicate an entrepreneur doesn’t realize that there are already others on his heels — or there will be soon.
At the same time, giving the competition a spot on your pitch deck is like giving them free advertising. To avoid sacrificing some of your precious deck real estate to the companies aiming for your same niche, you need to discuss them in person. Without a visual, they’ll be less memorable, but explaining how your organization differs from the competition — and improves upon it — will eliminate one real worry for your prospective investors.
4. Decks aren’t sales pitches.
If you’re a kick-butt presenter, your deck is built to enhance your telling of the story. When you’re standing in front of an investor, flipping through slides, the images connect with what you’re saying. Your tone, enthusiasm and supporting details tell as much of the story as the images on your slides.
When you aren’t there, those slides are merely words and pictures, leaving the investor to interpret them. This puts a spin on your presentation that could be misleading, resulting in your business losing an opportunity based solely on misconceptions.
5. People are much more compelling than a slideshow.
You may have the best idea ever, but investors are more interested in you than your product. They’ve learned through experience that they need to invest in people, not companies.
When an investor is judging your concept based solely on the presentation you’ve created, you miss the opportunity to build trust and camaraderie. Finding a way around sending your pitch deck ahead of time is an important first step in ensuring you get to meet that investor in person. Even if the investor has had the pleasure of meeting you previously, there’s no comparison to hearing you tell your brand’s story in the way only you can.
6. You’ll arm the competition.
It may sound like a tinfoil hat theory, but yes, some investors are shady. Even a trustworthy investor could end up hacked by a bad guy willing to give away all your great ideas. Some slide-sharing services have security features, which can help, but the safest approach is to avoid sharing the pitch deck in the first place.
7. You’ll weaken the presentation.
As I said before, you want to wow the investor. How are you going to do that if you give away the ending ahead of time? If the investor has already read through everything you’re going to present, start to finish, the result will be a “spoiler” effect that diminishes the power of the story you’re trying to tell. You’ll battle a checked-out listener who’s eager to cut to the chase.
So what can you do if an investor asks to see a copy of your deck? Be honest. Explain that your deck is designed to complement your presentation; without your narration, the information won’t be useful.
Maintain a document that summarizes what your company does, along with your revenue model and what you’re seeking. Make it clear that more in-depth information will be provided in the meeting, but send compelling information ahead of time, such as a link to a case study or the testimonials page on your website.
Play into the principle of FOMO, or the fear of missing out, by letting the investor know you’re meeting with other investors and that you prefer to streamline things by issuing a one-page description of your company’s offerings.
If an investor asks to see your pitch deck, run — or simply send over a one-pager that provides the basics of your business idea. The goal is to give investors just enough to pique their interest, but not so much that they judge your entire business model on a slideshow you put together to go with your earth-shattering pitch.