Business plans and pitch decks seemingly go hand-in-hand. For many startup entrepreneurs, the two are the bread and butter of their companies fundraising tools.
Although they’re frequently grouped together, they’re two separate means of communication with completely different purposes. What they share in common is the fact that they are based upon the same information about a company.
Your business plan supports your pitch deck. A pitch deck shouldn’t have new information that you go out and find. Rather, it’s a highlight reel of your business plan.
The Business Plan
Let’s talk about your business plan for a moment. Most likely, your business plan contains the following major components:
- Executive Summary — the summary of the entire business plan
- Company Overview — an explanation of the problem the company is trying to solve, an overview of the solution to the problem, and the company’s vision & mission statement
- Industry Analysis — a thorough examination of the company’s competitors and the outlook of its respective industry in the future
- Product/Service Description — an in-depth look at the company’s solution to the problem, including technical details and marketing objectives/plan
- Management Summary — an overview of the key players on your team that will make your business possible and lend credibility to your burgeoning idea
- Financial Data — information about costs, revenues, and key metrics can be found in the final section for both reported information, as well as projected numbers in the future
It’s important to remember that every business is different, so every business plan will vary a little bit in the way it is formatted to reflect its unique needs. Don’t worry if a section of your business plan is called something different from the sections listed above. Details like that don’t make or break a business plan. Make sure that regardless of how your plan is formatted, it is an accurate reflection of your company.
Aside from any differences, every plan gets into the nitty-gritty details of your business—whether that is the technical specifications of a piece of software you designed or the supply chain for delivering your product to market. It’s important to remember why a business plan is so detailed—it’s a plan to run a business. You need to know all the information contained inside the plan to operate the business effectively.
Need additional help with your business plan? Check out The Grove, a blog by leading venture capital firm Sequoia Capital built around the premise of successful founders of companies helping new founders of companies.
Advice articles range from writing a business plan to how to price your product and everything in between. Or consider joining a cowering spaces, which are cropping up around the world, and provide entrepreneurs with office space and a chance to organically meet and collaborate with other individuals. Find one (or more) in your local city and consider joining (many offer month-to-month contracts or day-passes if you’d like to try it out).
Coworking spaces host a lot of workshops and events for entrepreneurs about topics to help them succeed. While some events may be limited to the spaces’ tenants, most spaces do have events open to the general public as well. It’s a great place to pick up additional tips, as well as meet other entrepreneurs in a similar position to you.
The Pitch Deck
A pitch deck is not a business plan. As its name implies, you are pitching your idea in the form of a presentation to others. You’re trying to show others what makes your business unique and worthy of an investment, or any other resource you asking for, such as mentorship.
Need an in-depth refresher on pitch decks? Check out our helpful infographic that walks you through the physical assembly of a deck.
The major points of a pitch deck include:
- Market Opportunity
- The Problem
- Revenue Model
- Marketing & Growth Strategy
- The ‘Ask’ (Financial Investment, Assistance, etc.)
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How to Prepare to Make a Pitch Deck
Now it may seem that because a pitch deck and a business plan share some of the same material, you can just go through your business plan and copy/paste all the information into your presentation.
Doing so, however, wouldn’t make for the best presentation. Unlike when you were writing your business plan and looking up a lot of new information, a pitch deck shouldn’t contain new information. All the information you need can be found in your business plan. The challenge is organizing all that information into an easy to understand presentation that simultaneously excites your audience.
Before you begin deciding which information you will include in your presentation, figure out how much time you will have with your audience. Is this an hour long meeting with venture capitalists? Is this a thirty minute meeting? A common misconception is that if you have an hour long meeting, then you should design your presentation to be roughly hour and leave maybe a few minutes for questions at the end.
Rather, if you have an hour long meeting, consider presenting for twenty minutes and leaving the remaining forty minutes for a conversation about any questions your audience may have. This ensures that you spend most of your time addressing the points that matter most to those in the room.
Think of your presentation as a way to earn a conversation with your audience. Your presentation should lead to informal discussion, which is always better than one-way communication because it means that both parties are engaged with each other and truly interested in what is being discussed.
Nervous about meeting with a venture capitalist? Remember, they’re people too, just like you. Follow them on Twitter to stay up to date with what’s relevant and on their minds. Not only should you follow whomever you’ll be meeting with, but here’s a list of other influential VC’s to consider following.
Making the Deck
Once you have an understanding of how much time you have with the audience and thoroughly understand that your pitch deck is not a copy of your business plan word-for-word, you’re ready to begin making your presentation.
To make a coherent, meaningful presentation, think of how you will connect with your audience. Feel free to initially work on just getting the most important information down onto slides, disregarding the order of slides and flow of information. Some points you should cover include:
- Pain – You need to show that there is a problem and how people currently feel about the problem. If your audience doesn’t understand the problem or think there is a dire need for this, then they will not be engaged for the remainder of the presentation
- Solution — Show your solution to the pain of the problem mentioned above in the most concrete terms available, such as a software demonstration or a physical product
- Market Size – Explain any numbers you use. Put the numbers in a meaningful context. Even the best statistics or numbers can only bolster your argument, if your audience understands what they mean.
- Competition – Be honest about the competition. Your audience will find out eventually what the competition is for your idea, so you might as well be the one to tell them and own the discussion about it.
- Team – Highlight your team’s strengths and special talents
- Financials – Keep this simple for people to understand. This meeting will not be your last if you’re successful, so don’t feel like you need to squeeze every possible graph or chart into the presentation.
Once you have all the slides made, you can go back and try to put them in an order that makes the most sense for your presentation.
Struggling to find the best order for your pitch deck slides? If you’re enterprising enough to launch your own venture, you don’t need to follow a cookie cutter list of what topics to cover in what order to succeed. You can create a presentation that follows your idea and story. Remember that every giant company was once a startup and their pitch decks were successful because they touched on all the major points in an order that made sense for them. They didn’t imitate others—rather they did what worked for them. Do what works best for you and your presentation will be much stronger because it will authentically be you.
Once You’re in the Meeting
You’ve made it to the meeting with your pitch deck. You’ve hit all the major points. Now what? Although it may seem counterintuitive, don’t feel that you have to stick to your presentation. If you’re pitching and an investor interrupts you to talk about a specific point, capitalize on this opportunity to answer the question by literally answering the question. It doesn’t matter if you’re going to address that point later in the presentation, just answer the question now instead (feel free to skip ahead to that slide if necessary). If the question transitions to a conversation, then that’s great and go with it.
You know all the information, so you don’t need to follow your deck rigidly. The best presenters are those who know the topic so well, that they can talk about it casually and in any format. The key to getting to such a stage of confidence and ease is practice. Practicing your presentation will enable you to be much more comfortable when the stakes are raised in a meeting.
In the end, you have to trust your judgment. You know your company better than anyone else in the world. After all, it’s yours. Believe in your company and allow the presentation to stem from your enthusiasm to share your vision with others. Don’t get bogged down by things other people tell you “you have to do,” rather do what works for you and your company.