Through our work at Scrypt.Media, we get to see a lot of startup pitch decks. And we get to work on them, too. While every pitch is of course unique, there are a few guidelines to follow, and a few mistakes to be avoided. Here is a summary of the common mistakes we see, along with how to best overcome them.

Structuring your pitch 

Mistake 1: Trying to explain the whole world

We know your business is complicated, and there are a lot of things to share. You have probably spent days and months defining the details of it. The secret to a great startup pitch deck is condensing that information into the basics and making it as clear as possible. An outside perspective can help you tremendously in making your message more precise. This is usually where we come in.

Resolution: Condense and precise your message as much as possible. Get outside help if you can’t do it by yourself

Mistake 2: Content overload

Do you know these slides with so much text that it takes 10 minutes to get through the details, but they are only shown for 10 seconds? We know them too. And we have seen a lot of them. This is usually what happens when you try to put all your useful information into a slide deck. Counterintuitively, your presentation will create a much more professional impression if you manage to find the right (few) words to bring your message across.

Resolution: Slides work best when they have a few key points outlined. No sentences, just words. Bring attention to the things that really matter.

Mistake 3: Visual overload

A startup pitch deck should not only be providing a short summary of your startup, it should do so in a visually appealing way. Defined colour schemes that match with your brand identity, powerful images and a simple appealing layout go a long way in supporting the impression of quality in your pitch. Images and colour also guide the moods and associations of your audience. Along with a precise definition of your brand in words, it is important to build a visual language that conveys the message.

Resolution: A consistent and strong visual presentation will strengthen your message and increase the perception of quality. 

Person standing on top of a mountain, shining a light into the sky

Targeting your pitch deck

Mistake 4: One pitch for all occasions

Preparing a startup pitch deck is a lot of work. So once there is a final version available, it seemingly makes sense to just use it as much as possible. But you need to keep in mind that different audiences are interested in different aspects of your business, and even more importantly – you probably want different things from them as well.

Resolution: Rather than going for a one-size-fits-all approach, targeting and adjusting your deck will tremendously improve your results.

Mistake 5: Using the same pitch deck for presentation and communication

Pitch decks for presentation are not necessarily following the same logic and structure as the ones you would share without explanation, for example as an email attachment. If you simply share a presentation deck, important details might get lost in the process. If you present a communication deck, your audience will be left with too much content to absorb.

Resolution: Create versions of your pitch deck for presentation and for communication via other channels. A deck for communication should include the main points of your talk track without being overloaded.

Mistake 6: Not tailoring your content to the interest of your audience

Are you going to present to investors, business angels, potential users, or a mix of all those groups? Are you presenting at an event with a specific content focus? Different audiences are looking for different information in your pitch, so it is important to adjust. While investors might be very interested in your growth targets, an audience with many students might be more interested to try out your product or work with you in the future. Stay relevant and show the audience that you care by tailoring your content.

Resolution: Create adjusted decks for various audiences based on their interest and your intent.

Mistake 7: Leaving the audience without a clear call to action

You did a great job presenting your startup pitch deck. You are leaving your audience with a vague feeling that this might be an interesting project, and they might want to know more. What should they do next? What are you looking for? Many pitches are missing the opportunity to make these points clear. If you are looking for something specific – say it. Provide guidance at the end of the pitch how the audience can follow up.

Resolution: Provide a clear call to action, say what you are looking for, and tell the audience what they should do next.

Trying to focus on a poster from a moving train

Presentation pitfalls

Mistake 8: Bad timing

You have a 3 minute slot, but your deck has 30 slides and then you are running out of time? You skip through 5 slides because your presentation was meant for 10 minutes but you need to do it in 5? While some people manage to do that in a charming way, it still looks ill-prepared to most audience members. Practice your presentation upfront to get a feeling for the timing, and have separate decks prepared for different time slot lengths.

Resolution: Adjust your presentation to the time you have. Practice is the best way to find out how much time you’ll need, and it also increases the quality of your talk.

Mistake 9: Reading slides

When preparing a pitch deck, it is important to make a clear distinction between what you are going to SAY and what you are going to SHOW. The content of both should not be the same. The presentation is there to complement and underpin your message. Your message and words require equal practice and refinement.

Resolution: Prepare what you will show and say. Both parts should complement each other, but not have the exact same content.

Not making clear what you stand for

Mistake 10: Inconsistency with your overall brand

While you might change your pitch for different audiences, you should never change and adjust your underlying brand message. The message you convey in your pitch also needs to be consistent with your message on website and social channels. Very often, we see startups start with a pitch without a clear initial definition of values and propositions. This will immediately show in your pitch, especially when you target an audience that is used to getting a lot of them, like investors.

Resolution: Check your pitch for consistency with your overall brand. Define your brand basics first if you haven’t done so yet – here is our guide on how to get started.

Summary

A startup pitch deck is often the first introduction and first impression of a startup. You want to make that impression count. The essence to get there is being well prepared. I hope that these tips will help you to avoid common pitfalls and cover the basics. Do you need more guidance or an expert opinion on how to create your pitch? Do you want to refine your pitch and maximize results? We are happy to help – send us a message to have a chat!


Scrypt.Media guides emerging tech projects on their way to change the world. We bring the revolutionary ideas of our customers to life through the refinement of strategy, communication and usability. We help our customers navigate the difficulties of early stage organization, development and funding. In doing so, we help them to focus on the important thing – changing the world.