I was reviewing a Series A fundraising deck with a founder yesterday. He had sent it to me in advance so that I could prepare, and as I had flipped through it, I realized the whole deck fell flat. It was a collection of external stats. It had the obligatory revenue chart that went up and to the right. It showed a team of experienced and very capable people.
But there was no explanation of what made this company truly special enough to warrant investment from investors that see far too many pitches every week.
So I asked him to explain to me what he thought was so special about his company. And as he started to talk, he ran through really important points and concepts that were nowhere in his deck. When he talked about his company and his vision, it was compelling. I was convinced.
But none of that had found its way into the deck he was sending around to investors.
His approach was to voice over these points in a meeting, but by then, it was too late. He was now going to have to expend energy in the meeting with each investor reeling them back in with explanations of important concepts that the investor hadn’t seen yet.
This happens more often than you would expect. Because when most entrepreneurs sit down to put their fundraising deck together, they open up a blank PowerPoint presentation and start creating slides. And that’s a mistake.
Your fundraising deck shouldn’t be just a collection of slides.
If you start this way, you’re going to end up with a deck that is a series of data points with no overarching narrative.
After having learned this the hard way, whenever I start creating a fundraising deck, I sit with the CEO and we just talk through the narrative. We talk as if we are explaining, but also convincing, someone about why our mission, our vision and our opportunity, is so compelling.
We often have someone join us to write down our key points as we talk, but you can also just talk into your phone to capture your thoughts.
We then open up a Word document and write that all down. In bullet points that can form the outline of slides. No PowerPoint yet. And we hone that Word document until the bullet points form a cohesive narrative.
Then, and only then, do we open up PowerPoint and create slides.
It can take us weeks of talking through the story and getting that document right before we ever started creating slides.
That process has become a really important approach for me whenever I’m creating a complicated and important document. Start as lightweight as possible. Talk it through. Then outline it. Start high level and then go deeper step by step.
When you start with something like PowerPoint, it quickly becomes too heavy and complicated to rearrange, reconstruct or even restart. You create charts and graphics before your narrative is locked in. You put hours into the design, and searching for just the right image, on slides that ultimately don’t effectively move your narrative forward.
And after all of that investment of time and effort, it becomes really hard to scrap it all and start over, so you end up settling with what you’ve created and assume you’ll be able to talk through the points that didn’t make it into your deck. Trust me. I’ve been there.
So the next time you need to create that investor pitch deck, start by talking to yourself in a room into your phone. You might look a bit like a crazy person as you get animated and start waving your arms around, but you’ll end up with a better result at the end.