The Pitch Ain’t Got To Be A Bitch!

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A high-level analysis offering insights into common pitch structures derived from famous startup pitches and the most prominent schools of thought.

A great enchanting and most importantly persuading pitch resembles true art.
Another common denominator with art is, that a lot can go wrong.

While reworking our own pitch deck for Record Bird we had a look at some of the most prominent notions —  one could almost say “schools of thought” — as well as some best practice examples of how a great startup pitch should be structured.

Before you dive into the spreadsheet, here are a couple of things to consider:

Steal! Don’t Copy!

There’s a good chance that none of these proposed structures work for your specific business case. Likely, the best pitches break out — at least at some point — of any rigid structure. That’s how they stay memorable.

Still, if you’re not convinced that you’ve got one of the greatest pitch decks on earth in your hands, it makes sense to take a look at some folks who do. Nevertheless, you should look for shared trends and characteristics rather than copy/pasting an entire ‘template’ without giving it any further thought.

Consider Context

The best pitches are specifically crafted for their unique context — and only few contexts are alike. So yes, this means you need to rework / adapt your deck and narrative every single time!

A pitch to a potential employee should be vastly different from one to an investor or the press. The pitch structures analyzed in this sheet are largely from the context of seeking financial investment. Still, when preparing your deck or narrative, don’t forget to consider the following:

  • Audience: Who’s your audience? What do they know about you already? What should they learn? Apart from time (see below), nothing should influence your pitch structure as drastically.
  • Location: Are you on a stage or in a crowded bar? Is everyone looking your way or do you have to fight for attention? Which techincal equipment is available? What do you do when it breaks?
  • Goal: What is the goal of the pitch? Asking for an investment, getting someone onboard as an advisor, getting the attention of a future employee, charming the press?
  • Time: How long do you have someone’s attention?
  • Density: Think about how many pitches your audience was/is going to be exposed to today. If it’s more than three, think of something to stand out. Be remembered. It’s a thin line though, between being memorable and being perceived as slightly nuts.

The Spreadsheet

Markus Holzer from the Vienna Startup Community even did an in-depth analysis of the different structural patterns:

Copyright: Markus Holzer

3 Takeaways

Keep it short & simple:

There’s a reason no deck exceeds 15 slides. There’s also a reason why the different sections should fit on one, maximum two slides. It’s a reasonable length for a proper overview and that’s all that is required. On top, the deck is probably going to be printed. Maybe it is split and sent to various people for due diligence. If you think about it this way, no one wants to print or send or carry with them your 27 slides of market analysis with 49 fancy animations.

Team first vs Team last?

There seem to be two notions on where the team goes: either in the front section or at the end of the presentation. The best explanation I’ve come across here is the following: How big of an asset is your team? Sure you all have a killer team. But unless it comprises the guy who founded PayPal or you’re all holding PHDs, put it in the back. One exception: Your audience specifically asks for it. As an example, Techstars openly declares to invest in teams not ideas. In this case, put the team first and present your human capital as your biggest asset.

Don’t use a “Thank You” slide:

For a long time, the last slide in our presentation was either a slide which only said “Let’s talk” or “Thank You”. We though this to be either a nice and clean way to trigger a dialogue or end the presentation — but we were terribly wrong. What you should put up there is a memorable snapshot of your business case and a Call-To-Action. Saying “thanks” never hurts, but the focus should be on:

Who are you and how can they reach you?
Why were you here and what should they remember?
What are the next steps?

One more thing

This post and analysis was purely centred on the structure of startup pitches. There’s an almost infinite amount of literature and content out there, which helps you to improve your presentation skills, frame arguments, tone of voice, create presentations and many more.

One I’ve found particularly interesting is the following keynote by Nancy Duarte on analysing the world’s most famous talks and speeches.




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