How to make the perfect pitch deck with 10 slides

How to make the 10 slides you need for the perfect pitch

Okay, so you have managed to get yourself invited to a meeting during which you will get your shot to pitch your business idea to room full of important decision makers. This is the moment you have been waiting for to present your revolutionary product, service or idea, and you really need to make an impression. You know what you want to say, and how you want to say it, and your ideas are well connected. But is your slide deck the best it can be? Below you will find how to produce the 10 slides you need for a perfect pitch.

The Purpose of a Pitch

Before you decide what your slide deck is going to look like, you need to think about what the purpose of your pitch is. It is very rare for investors to make commitments based on a 20-minute presentation by someone they may have never seen before, so as a presenter, instead of going after this, your pitch should go after arranging a second meeting in which you can get into the specifics of your idea. Therefore, you should keep your pitch concise, simple, and clear, and you should not try to cover all the aspects of your proposal or provide too much detail. Your goal should be to generate enough interest in your idea to get another meeting. That is all.

What Should Your Slide Deck Look Like?

If you want your slides to be effective, it is important to keep them very simple. You don’t want your audience examining your slides while they should be listening to your pitch. Your slide deck is your support, not the main feature of your pitch, and it should not be a distraction. You also need to figure out how to talk about your visuals. In other words, you need to decide what you are (and may be more importantly) and what you are not going to talk about when it comes to your slides. The general rule should be, the more slides you need, the less compelling your idea is. In most cases, all you need for an effective and memorable pitch is ten simple slides with mostly keywords and pictures, and you should never need more than fifteen.

  1. The Title Slide

Your title slide should contain the following information:

  • Company name
  • Name and title
  • Address
  • Email
  • Phone number

This slide should be up during the beginning of the presentation, when you introduce yourself, thank your audience for the opportunity to pitch your idea, etc. Generally speaking, detailed information like names, addresses, and numbers, are very difficult to remember, so it is important to visually support them by putting them on the slide.

  • The Problem/ Opportunity

Your second slide should be all about the problem you are solving or the opportunity you are presenting. For example, if your idea is selling a revolutionary type of paint that is environmentally friendly, and that is so strong that it will last for twenty years, you may want to talk about the problem of having the repaint your whole house every five years.

If your idea is about offering an app that will allow  regular people to trade on the stock market, using the same real-time information stockbrokers have access to, you could start your pitch by explaining that up until the present ‘normal people’ don’t have the opportunity to effectively trade on the stock market because the lack of access to up-to-date information. Presenting the problem or opportunity should serve as the ‘hook’ of your presentation; a way to grab your audience’s attention.

  • The Value Proposition

After you have talked about the problem or the opportunity, you need to explain how your idea, product or service solves this problem or how it provides pleasure for your buyers. In short, you should answer the questions: What is in it for the customer if they by my product?’. The answer to this question is your value proposition. You should be able to answer this question in a concise, and clear way.

  • The Underlying Magic

Explaining the ‘underlying magic’ is about making sure that your audience understands what the technology is behind what you are offering. This will help them to assess what makes your product different from what your competitors might be offering. You need to explain what makes your it special. To do this, you can put simple charts, diagrams, or other visuals on your slide, but make sure that you keep them as simple as possible. This means using very little text and using pictures instead of words when possible. If you have a working prototype of your product, this is when you should do a demonstration. Keep in mind that it is always better to show your product than to talk about your product.

  • The Business Model

Explaining your business model is all about making clear how your idea makes money for you and your potential investors. Basically, this means talking about who has ‘the money’ now and how you are going to get it instead. In case of the aforementioned investment app you are going to explain how the app is going to generate income. For example, this could be by  asking money for the app itself, charging the app users for in-app transactions, putting ads inside the app, etc.

  • The Go-to-Market Plan

Presenting your go-to-market plan concerns making clear how you are going to reach your customers. This could be by opening up brick-and-mortar stores, starting a website, making deals with large retail chains, etc.

The go-to-market plan also involves a marketing strategy. In other words, how are you going to make sure that your customers know you exist. Are you going to buy Facebook Ads? Are you planning to reach your customers through influencers, and so on.

  • The Competitive Analysis

A competitive analysis involves providing a complete overview of who your competitors are. What counts here is that it is usually better to have too many than too few, because having a lot of competitors means that there probably is a large demand for what you are offering. Many starting businesses tend to underestimate how much competition they have and paint a picture for their potential investors that is not realistic.

  • The Management Team

Who is in your management team is important for your potential investors to know. Investing in a business is often about trust, so investors would like to know who they will be working with if they decide to invest and what these people do. If there are other investors that are already on-board, this should also be made clear. You may worry that you don’t have the perfect team yet to run your business, but you need to keep in mind that is why you are delivering your pitch.

  • The Financial Projections and Key Metrics

On this slide your need to back up your claims with numbers. You need to explain how much money you are going to need from your investors to continue growing your business. You need to forecast the number of potential customers, how much they are going to spend, what your turn-over projections are, etc. It is important that you present your metrics ‘bottom-up’. This means that you start with the smallest viable customer base to be able to run your business, and then explain how you are going to grow that customer base about three years into the future.

  1. The Current Status, Timeline, and Use of Funds

Finally, you need to explain the development status of your product, service, or idea. Do you have a working prototype? Are you already selling your product? How is the business currently doing?  Next, you need to explain what your future plans for the business are, what you want to achieve, and how you are planning to use the investors’ money you are trying to raise. This should also be your closing remark of your pitch.

Revising Sentence Fragments

How to correct fragmented sentences that were created because the sentence lacks a subject, a verb, or both, or because the sentence does not express a complete thought

As the word ‘fragment’ suggests, a sentence fragment is a ‘part of’ a sentence. In other words, a sentence that is not complete. To be able to talk about sentence fragments it is important to talk about a sentence first.

For a group of words to form a complete sentence, it needs to first of all be a complete thought. This basically means that what is being expressed makes sense. The sentence should have a clear meaning by itself, without relying on other sentences around it to give it meaning.

Secondly, for a group of words to be a sentence, there needs to be a subject. This is the someone or the something that the sentence is about.

The third condition for a group of words to qualify as a sentence is that it needs to have a main verb. The main verb helps to explain what the subject (so the someone or something) is or does.

The following is an example of a complete sentence:

The researchers chose three random samples.

In this sentence ‘The researchers’ is the subject and ‘chose’ is the verb. Also, the sentence expresses a complete thought because it has a clear meaning by itself.

So, let’s move on to the sentence fragment.  In a sentence fragment, important information is missing and therefore it does not express a complete thought. These sentence fragments often occur in informal types of writing, for instance when the writer tries to use a more journalistic style, but in formal writing, fragments should not be used. Now, let’s look at these three examples of fragments:

Because the team made three awkward choices.

A plan with many risks involved.

Potential for making money everywhere.

There are four reasons groups of words are considered fragments.

  • There is a subject missing
  • The main verb is missing
  • They are both missing
  • The writer has created a subordinate clause.

The Subject is Missing

One way in which a sentence fragment can be created when you write a sentence that has no subject, like in this example:

By simply shipping more units can make this business profitable again.

Here the writer mistook the prepositional phrase ‘By simply shipping more units’ for a subject, which created the sentence fragment.  To correct this mistake, the preposition, so ‘By’ could be taken out, making the activity of ‘Simply shipping more units’ the subject of the sentence. Now it is a complete sentence that works.

The Main Verb is Missing

Sometimes a fragment is created because the sentence lacks a main verb, like in the following example:

Affordable products sold everywhere.

Possible revisions, in this case, could be either completing the verb, creating:

Affordable product were sold everywhere.

or turning the fragment into the direct object of the sentence by adding a subject and a verb. Like here:

They saw affordable products sold everywhere.

The Sentence Lacks a Subject and a Verb

Sometimes the subject and the verb are both missing from the sentence, like in this example:

Without a suitable explanation.

In this fragment there is no someone or something, doing or being anything, and it is also not a complete thought.  To revise this fragment, (to turn it into a sentence), a subject and a verb could be added, and the sentence would look something like this:

She left without a suitable explanation.

The Writer has Created a Subordinate Clause

The final reason why a group of words is a sentence fragment is that the writer has created a subordinate clause (also known as a dependent clause, so a clause that needs independent clause to make a sentence).  A subordinate clause is a group of words that does contain a subject and a verb, but that does not express a complete thought because this type of clause needs to be combined with an independent clause to give it meaning. A subordinate clause by itself is a sentence fragment. Here is an example:

Until all the preliminary data has been processed.

To turn this fragment into a sentence it needs to be combined with an independent clause (In this case ‘the project cannot move forward’), and the sentence could look like this:

Until all the preliminary data has been processed, the project cannot move forward.

This is now a sentence that expresses a complete thought.

Subject – Verb Agreement

How to make sure that your subjects agree with your verbs

Subject/ verb agreement means that subjects and verbs must agree with each other in number. In other words, if the subject of a sentence is singular, the verb that goes with it needs to be singular as well, and if the subject is plural, the verb needs to be plural. Even though this seems pretty straightforward there are some situations in which using the right form of the verb could cause problems.

In the sentence, ‘My brother is taking the bus to school,’ for example, ‘brother’ is a singular noun so the singular verb ‘is’ needs to be used. However, in the sentence ‘My brother, as well as most of his friends, is taking the bus to school.’ It is a lot less clear whether a singular or a plural verb needs to be used. The following guidelines will help you make sure that your subjects agree with your verbs. Situation number one”

1.         When the subject is made up of two or more nouns or pronouns connected by            and you need to use a plural verb.

            He and his sisters are on vacation.

2.         When two or more singular nouns or pronouns are connected by or or nor, you          use a singular verb. Like in this example:

      The chairman or the secretary is at the meeting.

3.         When a compound subject contains both a singular and a plural noun or pronoun      joined by or or nor, the verb should agree with the part of the subject that is nearest to the verb.

            The owner or his employees go to the bank every day.

            Or

            The employees or the owner goes to the bank every day.

4.         Number four is about not being misled by phrases that come between the subject and the verb. You just have to make sure that the verb agrees with the subject, not with a noun or pronoun that might be in the phrase.

            One of the men is injured.

            The girl with all the dogs walks down the road.

5.         Number 5. You should use singular verbs with the words: each, each one, either, neither, everyone, everybody, anybody, anyone, nobody, somebody, someone, and no one.

            Each of these books is good.

            Nobody ever calls the emergency number.

6.         Number 6 is about what to do with nouns such as mathematics, civics, euros, measles, and news. Although they also need singular verbs.

            The news comes on at ten o’clock.

            Note: words like euros or, for example, dollars, are a special case. When you are          talking about an amount of money, you need to use a singular verb, but if you are           are referring to the euros or dollars themselves, so the currency, you need to use       a plural verb. So,

            Ten euros for a ticket sounds quite cheap.

            Euros are often used instead of Pounds.

7.         Number 7. Plural verbs are used for nouns like scissors, tweezers, trousers, etc.           

            Those trousers look very cool on you.

8.         Moving on to number 8. When using sentences beginning with there is or there are, make sure the subject follows the verb.

            There is one option

There are many possibilities.

9.         Number 9. Collective nouns, so nouns that are considered singular but are usually made up of multiple members, like team, committee, class, family, etc. take a singular verb when they operate together as a group, like in:

            The committee votes on the proposal.

            If the members of the group represented by the collective noun operate          independently, (so doing different things probably at different times) you should use a plural verb.  Like in:

            The class write their thesis papers this year.

This means that the people in the class write papers on different topics, probably       at different times during the year. They don’t operate in unison towards the same goal.

10.      The last one is number 10. When you use expressions like including, accompanied by, in addition to, or as well, etc., the number of the subject does not change. If the subject is singular, so is the verb.

            The King, accompanied by the Queen, is visiting the Netherlands.

Revising Comma Splices in Writing

A tutorial on how to revise comma splices in your writing

You create a comma splice when you join two independent clauses with a comma but without a conjunction. To be able to understand what that means it is important to understand what an independent clause is and what a conjunction is.

 An independent clause is a clause that has a subject and a verb and that expresses a ‘complete thought’. This means that an independent clause has a meaning on its own and does not need another clause to give it meaning. A simple example of an independent clause would be I sleep until nine, for instance. Here the subject is I, the verb is sleep, and the sentence expresses a complete thought because it is clear what is meant.

Conjunctions are words that link other words, phrases or sentences together, like in this example:

I like ice skating and field hockey, but I hate ice hockey.

Here and and but are the conjunctions that link the words and phrases together. As mentioned before, a comma splice is created when two independent clauses are joint together with a comma but without a conjunction, like, for example and or but.

The following is an example of how a comma splice is created starting with two independent clauses. The first independent clause is:

Spiders are not considered insects.

And the other one is:

They are arachnids.

When you join these two sentences together using just a comma – like in the example – you create a comma splice.

Spiders are not considered insects, they are arachnids.

There are three ways in which you can correct a comma splice. You can:

  1. Add a conjunction
  2. Change the comma into a semicolon
  3. Make separate sentences.

So, let’s take this sentence with a comma splice and rewrite it in these three different ways:

So, we start with:

He is not going to buy a house, he is planning to rent one.

This sentence contains a comma splice.

Adding a Conjunction

If you add a conjunction to the sentence, it would then read like this:

He is not going to buy a house, but he is planning to rent one.

So, the comma is still there, but it is now followed by a conjunction.

Adding a Semi-colon

Instead of using a conjunction, you could also add a semi-colon. The advantage of that is that the sentence would read the same as the originals sentence with the comma splice, the only difference being that it is no grammatically correct.

He is not going to buy a house; he is planning to rent one.

If you decide to use a semi-colon, it is important to make sure there is a close, logical connection between the two independent clauses. In this case the semicolon works because both sentences are about ways get a house.

Two Separate Independent Clauses

Another option is to divide the sentence containing the comma splice into two separate independent clauses. The sentence would then look like this:

He is not going to buy a house. He is planning to rent one.

Even though turning a sentence containing a comma splice into two separate sentences is an acceptable option, you have to keep in mind that good writing often means having to connect ideas. This is very difficult to do, however, if you use to many simple independent clauses, because it often leads to a very ‘choppy’ and simplistic writing style.

Acceptable Uses of a Comma Splice

There are also a few instances in which comma splices are acceptable. The first one is when using question tags, like in:

He is not here, is he?

It is also acceptable to use comma splices in short parallel contradictions, so when both phrases that make up the contradiction have a similar grammatical structure, like in:

I’m not rich, I’m poor.

Finally, comma splices are often used in fiction and poetry for the simple reason that in these types of informal writing the rules are a lot less strict. An example would be:

Using Parallelism in Writing

A tutorial on how to use parallelism in you writing effectively and how to revise faulty parallelism

Using parallelism means using matching words, phrases or clauses or sentences to express equivalent ideas. The reason for using parallelism is that it adds unity, balance and force to your writing.  On the contrary, when your writing lacks parallel structures, your writing style may seem awkward, which, in turn, could obscure the meaning of what you are trying to express. In other words, lack of parallelism could create confusion.

Using Parallelism Effectively

Parallelism emphasizes the relationships between equivalent ideas because it highlights the correspondence between:

  • Items in a series
  • Paired items
  • Elements in lists and outlines

Items in a series

When presenting items in a series, you should present them in parallel form. Like in these examples:

Baby food consumption, toy production, and school construction are likely to decline as the population of the Netherlands grows older.

Three factors influenced his decision to seek new employment: his desire to relocate, his need for greater responsibility, and his dissatisfaction with his current job.

Paired Items

Paired points or ideas should also be presented in parallel form because it emphasizes their equivalence and connects the two ideas. Here are two examples:

Roosevelt represented the United States, and Churchill represented Great Britain.

Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.

Items linked by correlating conjunctions (such as not only/but also, both/and, either/or and neither/nor should also be parallel.

The design team paid close attention not only to color, but also to texture.

Thirdly, parallelism highlights the contrast between paired elements linked by than or as, like here:

Success is as much a matter of hard work as a matter of luck.

Items in a list

You should also  present Items in a list in parallel form, like in this example:

The Irish potato famine had four major causes:

  1. The establishment of the landlord-tenant system
  2. The failure of the potato crop
  3. The inadequate financial support by England
  4. The passage of the corn laws

Revising Faulty parallelism

Faulty parallelism occurs when equivalent ideas in a sentence are not presented in parallel form, like in for instance:

Many people in developing countries suffer because the countries lack sufficient housing to accommodate them, sufficient food to feed them, and their healthcare facilities are inadequate.

After revision, this sentence could look like this:

Many people in developing countries suffer because the countries lack sufficient housing to accommodate them, sufficient food to feed them, and sufficient health-care facilities to serve them.

Faulty parallelism when pairing items can be revised by making sure you use matching elements. This means that you have to pair nouns with nouns, verbs with verbs, and phrases and clauses with similarly constructed phrases and clauses.

The following is a sentence with paired elements that should be revised:

Faulty:

Popular exercises for men and women include spinning, weight lifters, and jogging.

Revised:

Popular exercises for men and women include spinning, weight lifting, andjogging.

Sentences are often clearer and more emphatic if you repeat certain keywords (articles, prepositions, and the to in infinitives, for example) in each element of a pair or series, as illustrated here:

Faulty:

Computerization has helped industry by not allowing labor costs to skyrocket, increasing the speed of production, and improving efficiency.

Revised:

Computerization has helped industry by not allowing labor costs to skyrocket, by increasing the speed of production, and by improving efficiency.

When repeating relative pronouns, the relative pronoun constructions who(m) … and who(m), and which … and which are always paired and always introduce parallel clauses. When you revise, check to be sure a relative pronoun introduces each clause. To illustrate, let’s look at this example:

Faulty:

The Thing, directed by Howard Hawks, and which was released in 1951, featured James Arness as the monster.

Revised:

The Thing, which was directed by Howard Hawks and which was released in 1951, featured James Arness as the monster.