Pitch Perfectly: The Art of the Pitch Deck

Do you think you have the next big idea? Great! Unfortunately, so does everyone else. That said, how do you make your ideas stand apart?

With more and more businesses competing for funding, the pitch deck has become an instrumental term in the vocabulary of any great entrepreneur. A pitch deck is a short presentation, typically created through PowerPoint, that provides an overview of a startup’s business plan. An entrepreneur’s pitch is often his or her first interaction with an investor, so a strong deck of slides is key in creating a good first impression. In fact, the art of the pitch is so important, that organizations on Cornell’s campus like Life Changing Labs host pitch competitions on campus that offer cash prizes where the delivery and formatting of the pitch are often considered to be more important than its content.

What can you do to create an effective pitch deck? Entrepreneurship@Dyson has you covered. Check out our top 3 tips below:

1) Pay close attention to the 10/20/30 rule.

Guy KawasakiThe 10/20/30 rule is used as a key PowerPoint guideline for any firm looking to produce an amazing pitch deck. The formula dictates that pitch decks should feature 10 slides to cover in 20 minutes with text using 30 point font. Venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki explains, “this rule is applicable for any presentation to reach [an] agreement: for example, raising capital, making a sale, forming a partnership, etc.” While it’s okay to slightly deviate from the 10/20/30 rule if your particular situation demands it, avoid deviating too much. For example, according to Kawasaki, every great pitch must center around 10 topics which include the opportunity or problem, the solution, the unique capabilities of the business, and realistic milestones for the future.

2) The business’ profitability is just as important as your story. 

If you’ve ever seen an episode of ABC’s Shark Tank, you know how important a good pitch can be. Having seen countless pitches in his time on Shark Tank, Mark Cuban once commented, “Most people think it’s all about the idea. It’s not. Everyone has ideas. The hard part is doing the homework to know if the idea could work in an industry, then doing the preparation to be able to execute on the idea.” In other words, any strong pitch will feature a balance of the faces behind the company as well as the financial opportunity. Although most pitches place an emphasis on one or the other, it’s important to have a mixture of both to convince a potential audience about the viability of the opportunity as well as the strength of the startup team to execute on that opportunity.

3) Always include a call to action with your contact information.

When preparing your slide deck, it’s very important to make it clear what your ask is. The ask should be tailored to each audience you present in front of. For example, your business may need contacts or capital to succeed, and a strong pitch deck makes these needs clear up front. Similarly, especially when pitching in front of a larger audience, it is important to include a website link or other pieces of contact information so that audience members can contact you if they’re interested in learning more.

If you want to see what a great pitch looks like, check out one of E@D’s favorites from one of Cornell’s student business pitch competitions below.