From pitch poor to pitch perfect
Perfect pitch decks are few and far between. In fact, the PowerPoint presentations you’ve encountered in your working life are more than likely to have been pitch poor.
Inconsistent formatting, a lack of narrative direction and a haphazard visual identity are all contributing factors pertaining to a less than favourable first impression.
The reality is that securing the opportunity to pitch in the first place is often half of the battle. If you’ve reached that stage, you’re genuinely in with a shot. Where a lot of companies fall down, however, is at presenting their products, services – and indeed, themselves – in an interesting and engaging way.
It’s easy to blame the source material; the content is dry, the brand guidelines are strict, there isn’t suitable imagery. To my mind, these are the excuses of the unenlightened PowerPoint user.
When you’re making a presentation, you are asking a question of your audience – does this interest you? Is this something you can support? Is this an area in which you’d like to invest your time, money or resource? In this context, you are vastly more likely to be met with resounding enthusiasm if you give the audience something to enthuse about.
Here we investigate the top four things to consider when perfecting your pitch deck.
1) Target Acquired
As with every aspect of marketing, it is essential to consider who your target audience is. Are you presenting to peers, senior management, investors or the public? By deciding on who your audience is, first and foremost, you stand a significantly better chance of making a successful pitch. By determining who you’re talking to – and who you want to listen – you can set an appropriate tone of voice and corresponding look-and-feel for your deck.
2) Mistaken Identity?
It’s obvious to say, but pitching a new flavour of cider is a very different proposition to a launching a new software product. Similarly, a social app aimed at millennials poses a separate set of challenges to one aimed at connecting FinTech professionals.
A common pitfall of many companies is to let their subjective preferences override their branding. A bright, colourful, image-packed presentation is all well and good to appeal to creative minds, but is not certain to convert in every field. Whilst some pitches can be humorous, wacky and eye-catching, others call for a more ‘serious’ approach.
Whichever approach is decided upon, the most important factor at play is consistency.
If you’re a start-up, does your in-presentation branding leave a lasting impression? Can your audience infer what you company principals are? What your company culture is? Where you would sit within the market? Does your company come across as a professional outfit or a half-baked hack job?
For established businesses, finding the right balance can be even trickier. You may be looking to challenge common misconceptions about your company. You may wish to launch a disruptive new product positioned away from the parent brand. You may struggle to present a consistent look-and-feel due to the sheer scale of the business in question.
Whatever your message, it is vital to establish what your brand guidelines are and stick to them. If they don’t exist, then write them. Create a visual identity from which to maintain your outward-facing materials. Even the smallest of nuances count for big points scored when pitching to professionals. From font size and weight to including page numbers.
3) Three’s a Charm
At the end of any given presentation, the audience should be able to recite three core messages. If they can’t, the message has failed to land; the “point” is missing from PowerPoint. A number of factors come into play here:
Was the audience overwhelmed by too much text / content?
Was the audience disengaged with the presentation? Did they stop listening or become distracted?
Was the focus of the presentation too singular?
By repeating the same message over and over, the audience is essentially being bombarded with superfluous information. If your presentation style is effective, you shouldn’t need to repeat yourself. A slide at the end of the presentation to summarise the main points (and the next steps) should suffice in almost all cases. Any more than this and you risk losing your audience’s interest and / or eagerness to participate in a dialogue with you.
If you’re launching a new product, for instance, by the end of your presentation your audience should as a minimum be able to tell you a) what the product is called, b) what the product is, and c) when it is launching. If a launch date isn’t confirmed, then it may be the target demographics, costs or proposed locales that grabs their attention.
In the excitement of delivering a powerful pitch, it can be easy to forget the fourth tip – to follow-up. It can be expected that by the pitch / presentation phase, your audience will have your contact details. It is folly to expect that this is enough.
Include next steps in your presentation that can then be discussed during a Q&A session at the end. Talk timelines, resource, expectations – any details that need to be ironed out at this stage. Most of all, once leaving the room (or hanging up the phone) put the onus on yourself to seal the deal. Send a same-day follow-up email thanking your audience for their time, attaching a PDF version of your presentation for further perusal. Use this opportunity to expand upon any areas that you felt needed clarification and to answer any outstanding questions. Sign off by saying you look forward to catching up soon. Don’t apply pressure.
By following these steps, you’ll demonstrate yourself to be a respectful and approachable professional, whilst seamlessly placing yourself front of mind to an incredibly busy group of individuals. They’re buying into the person as much as the product, after all.
At H!LANDER we combine creative flair with concise copywriting to design stunning pitch decks and presentations for all business types – from corporates to start-ups to SMEs. Get in touch today to see how we can help your business grow.