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Building a Slide Deck to pitch in 3 minutes and 44 seconds

If you are looking for a compelling way to put together your next sales deck, you should be aware that it consists of five stages. Why should you approach your deck in stages? It’s mainly a guideline to help you compartmentalise your talk into smaller sections. For instance, in Stage 5, you know you have to allocate time and slides to build up to a call to action. Approaching your deck in stages simply allows you to “eat the elephant” in small pieces, making the task of building a presentation a bit less intimidating. Once you have completed these stages, you are able to progress on to the actual slide deck where you can pitch your business in 3 minutes and 44 seconds.

Stage 1: Relatability

The audience’s needs are addressed first: What are their hopes, fears, or concerns? Most presenters tend to forget about the importance of this stage, where their focus tends to be directed at themselves rather than the audience. Don’t fall into that trap.

Stage 2: Compatibility

This is where the core message is married to Stage 1. It shows how your solution solves, improves, or conceptualises what the audience wants. You’ll want to move through this section fairly quickly since it ties in so closely with Stage 1.

Stage 3: Stability

The world needs your solution. Stability is a place to establish where exactly your message fits in it.

Stage 4: Deliverability

Here, the structure of your pitch or story begins to unfold, backing up the claims made in Compatibility. Think of Deliverability as the nuts and bolts of your argument. It’s a critical stage so be sure to ramp up the effort here.

Stage 5: Possibility

Once the vision has been painted, the possibility of achieving this vision is drawn up for the audience. This is a call to action that ties all of the pieces together. In other words, this is your close. Make it memorable and impactful by circling back around to how you did your introduction (Stage 1) and following up with a compelling ask.

That said, what is the average amount of time an investor spends looking at a pitch deck?

Three minutes and 44 seconds.

You read that right. This short attention span is clear proof that presenters need to hone the art of the (short) pitch. If you are looking for a starting point, here are five essential elements to bear in mind:

1. Optimise Your Design

For starters, a pitch deck is the main device to help you raise money. Therefore, it doesn’t belong in a predictable or poorly designed template. Visuals are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text — and will be critical assets for you in those three short minutes — so make sure your design is top notch. Invest the time and money to get it done correctly by seeking outside expertise and design help.

2. Include the Critical Ten

A solid pitch deck always touches on ten items:

1. The Company/The Vision
2. The Problem
3. The Solution
4. The Opportunity
5. Product/Service
6. Team
7. Revenue Model
8. Competition
9. Financials
10. The Ask

You can change the order slightly, but all these are a definite must.

3. Focus on the Financials

If you are curious which one of the above points is the most important: It’s the Financials. In fact, a study done by Harvard (http://www.slideshare.net/DocSend/docsend-fundraising-research-49480890), reveals that the most amount of time (23.2 seconds) was spent on this specific slide.

4. PDF It

If you plan to distribute anything related to your pitch deck, send a PDF. Don’t leave yourself vulnerable to the formatting and font issues that come with software programmes like PowerPoint and Keynote. It’s an easy solution that will save your credibility.

5. Aim for Alignment

According to the same recent Harvard Business School study, there is absolutely no correlation between the number of investors contacted and the money that was raised. Like anything good in life, it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. In other words, your quality deck needs to get in the hands of the right contact. All presentations should have a purpose, something that the audience walks away excited to do. The “call to action” or CTA is an essential part of this process, detailing exactly what should happen next. It should entice and inform. It’s basically the secret hook at the end of your presentation; so how can you make it amazing?

Trigger an Emotional Response

You should already utilise storytelling in the core content of your presentation, because it’s the most effective way to make your audience pay attention. In fact, studies have shown that storytelling increases retention by up to 26%. Consider emotional triggers in pop culture. If you share a story that matters, end your presentation asking to support the same story you’ve introduced. The formula is two-fold: first, share something relatable to your audience like a personal story or cause. Second, show them how they can support this story, further it, help it, and make it better. Stats, data, and facts are an essential part of any professional presentation. However, stories should be the hero of your presentations, because stories are easy to remember, and inspire action.

Share a Sense of Urgency

This operates under the sales premise of “buy now!” Give the audience a sense of urgency: Why are you standing before them presenting today? Why is it important that they hear your message and “act now?” What will happen if they don’t act? Create a sense of FOMO. Build your CTA to be time-sensitive so that your audience knows they can’t put off their action.

Actionable Language

A CTA is nothing without action verbs to support it. Use words like do, see, use, help, download, visit, and share in the present tense, ensuring your audience knows when and how to act by the end of the presentation. Verbs are generally better off in the present tense, but keep a special eye on your CTA, which should be short and to-the-point. It’s the difference between “We have helped so many people in the past, how can we help you?” and “We can help you. Today.”

Give Incentive

Without sounding like a carnival booth worker, it can be positive to explain the outcome of the CTA if all goes as planned. What is the audience going to get out of it? Will they be part of something larger, help change the planet, feel good about themselves, or see immediate financial gain? Don’t leave your audience without a vision of the future as you see it.

Your call to action is the only thing that the audience will walk away with after a presentation. Like a game of Simon Says, be sure that they clearly know what the next step is by making it short, to the point, and actionable.

Mastering the art and science of pitching is difficult. However, if you follow these suggestions, you’ll have a solid foundation and will be off to a great start.