February 23rd, 2010 | Published in Entrepreneurship
Building a product or service to match your vision can be very exciting. Every so often though, it is good to step back and crystallize that vision and your thought process into documents such as a presentation (slides) or an executive summary (one-page document or ‘one pager’). The work required to make these documents will most likely take away from the time you spend building your product or business, but remember that unlike you, not everyone is living and breathing your business. it is really important to have these documents on hand so that you can represent your business effectively to anyone who is not involved day-to-day with it. This post will talk about the two presentations every startup should have on hand.
Some people think business plans are completely passé. Regardless of what you think about business plans, your startup should at least have two presentations prepared: the teaser presentation and the pitch deck. I’m in the process of preparing these two for Lamhe but I figured I’d share my thoughts here for anyone else who might be in the same process.
The Teaser Presentation
The teaser is a quick glance through the essentials of your business. A good basic structure for a teaser is Guy Kawasaki’s 10-20-30 Rule of Powerpoint. To think about what’s appropriate in a teaser presentation know the following:
- They will be shown in a VC partner’s office or in a small conference room in a one-on-one sit-down conversation. The slides will probably be displayed on your laptop.
- The audience will consist of one or two people who will be fairly knowledgeable about your industry, from their past investments.
- Teaser presentations are not just delivered in meetings. They will often be emailed around and printed (sometimes in black and white). Make your teaser presentation on a white background so it prints faster and wastes less ink. And if you can, make your presentations thinking of a color-blind person – your slides should not depend on the availability of color ink to make sense.
- Feel free to go into details on the slides even if it makes them text-heavy. Put the really really detailed slides into an optional appendix that comes after the main content. I am ordinarily not a fan of slideumentation, but teaser presentations should at least carry answers to the most frequently asked questions that will come up in the conversation. Teaser presentations should also be capable of being printed out and read as standalone documents. Don’t get carried away with too many details though. Keep the total number of slides under 20, because these slides might need to be printed and stuffed into the back of an airplane seat, along with 5 other presentations like yours.
- Don’t use slide builds. When printed, they usually come out looking fairly messy.
Pitch decks are usually associated with a specific request (I refuse to use ask as a noun), such as funding or a business partnership. Keep these points in mind when making your pitch deck:
- Pitch decks are usually delivered to the entire partnership and investment team in a VC firm’s ‘pitch room’, i.e. a larger conference room with a projector.
- You may expect good baseline business knowledge from this audience but don’t expect them to know your industry very well. For this reason, pitch decks should not contain too much low-level detail. Save details for an appendix, which has the beneficial side effect of making you look exceptionally well prepared for the post-presentation Q&A.
- Pitch decks should ideally have a ‘show quality’ to engage your audience and maximize the chances of a successful pitch. Facts are important, but try making an visceral connection as well – you have to make something in the VC’s head light up to get them to the next step. For this to happen, reduce the amount of text on each slide and use backgrounds and good images so that they convey The Big Idea effectively.
- Feel free to use slide builds if you think they will communicate your idea better. This tip is especially useful for technically complex pitches.
- Make sure to put in a call-to-action slide. If you’re asked for the slides after the pitch, email your teaser presentation plus your call-to-action slide (not your pitch deck).
What tips for startup presentations do you have? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below!