Creating a Winning Pitch Deck: Part 2

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Part one of this series covered off the shared qualities of rock-solid pitch decks, narrative arcs, Aristotelian arguments and the basics of design. But there’s still some things your perfect pitch deck is crying out for. Read on to find out more.

Fine-tuning an audience persona

Hopefully, after reading the first article in this series (which is here if you haven’t seen it yet), you’ll be familiar with the basic ingredients of a pixel perfect pitch deck. But all those tips, tricks and tools won’t help your presentation perform if your audience can’t see themselves in the pitch.

Enter: audience persona mapping. The part of a Discovery and Storytelling Workshop that nobody thinks they need, even though it’s the bit that matters most. This is where we create a fictional version of our ideal audience member, painting as detailed a picture as possible.

What’s the point of personas?

There’s a bunch of overlapping reasons we map personas before we get started writing presentations. Here are a few.

They bring clarity

Mapping out your Hero persona helps you, your team (and, crucially, your Future Present Storyteller) to identify the key characteristics of your Hero. Discover the desires that drive them, the challenges they need to overcome and the values that are holding them accountable.

They drive empathy

As well as conjuring clarity from chaos, mapping out a persona will naturally give you and your Storyteller an extra layer of empathy for your Hero. And the higher the empathy level, the easier it’ll be to stir some tasty emotional resonance into the deck.

They up relatability

The more clearly you define your persona, the more richly relatable and dynamically compelling your Hero is likely to be for anyone in your audience. That relatability is going to drive the kind of attention that could prove invaluable for your pitch.

They propel persuasion

If your Hero feels properly championed by your presentation, they’ll be even more easily convinced by your winning argument and persuasive pitch. On the flipside, if your audience doesn’t feel represented in your deck, they’re extremely likely to tune out your spiel.

Where to start?

If you’re unfamiliar with the ins and outs of creative workshopping, it’s hard to know where to start with persona mapping. Lucky for you, we’re happy to share our wisdom. Use this Miroverse link to get a copy of our Presentation Persona Mapping template. You could also do the exact same thing with pen and paper, if you’re an extra-tactile low-tech sort of ideator.

That’s about all we’ve got to say about crafting persona clarity. Let’s move onto data design.

The double-edged sword of using on-slide pitch deck data

Used well, data can be a handy tool that backs up your pitch and persuades your audience. Used badly, data can end up being a chaotic confusion of dense stats, pointless graphs and ugly charts. We’ve put together a list here of genuinely terrible advice (i.e., the stuff we see all the time on our clients’ pre-FP decks) for you to digest. If you successfully follow none of it, you’ll be on track to nail that pitch.

    1. Dump all your densest data onto a single slide. Bonus points if, whilst presenting, you step outside for toke on your fruity little vape and allow your audience to digest all that info on their own.
    2. Add as many charts and graphs as possible – the more monotonal in colour the better.
    3. Use complex statistical jargon and as many mystery acronyms as possible – it’ll really impress your audience.
    4. (or, IV.) Don’t bother with consistent formatting, it’ll just end up dead boring. All audiences love a puzzle.
    5. Never practice the delivery of a data-heavy slide ahead of time, making it up on the fly will encourage spontaneity.
    6. Don’t worry about the accuracy of your data – good presentations are more about making sure slides look good than anything else.
    7. Always make uneducated assumptions – after all, your mistakes make you relatable.
    8. Include stats on everything you’re interested in – the less relevant the better – your audience should absolutely know the square footage of your first office space in the mid-90s, the time it took you to trudge over the finish line of that 5k fun run and the number of hobnobs you can fit into your face.

So, yeah. Check that you’re always *not* following that advice and you won’t go far wrong.

Here’s the actual advice. If the data…

…doesn’t actively add anything to your deck…

…isn’t easily digestible…

…requires a stats degree to understand (unless your audience is guaranteed to have a stats degree)…

…can’t be easily interpreted and explained by the presenter…

…dump it.

Pretty simple stuff, on the whole. But you’d be surprised how often otherwise intelligent people get it wrong. The more complex side of creating a winning pitch deck comes next.

Handling objections, addressing concerns, overcoming resistance

Creating a really solid pitch deck is about more than just the on-slide stuff – you need to start thinking of your decks more holistically. Deep, we know. Let’s talk practicalities.

Step one is to anticipate any objections that are likely to pop up over the course of your pitch. If you map your persona thoroughly enough, this should just be a little extra exercise for you and your team to work through ahead of the pitch.

Once you’ve identified a list of objections, practice some diplomatic ways to acknowledge and address those concerns. A good, simple tactic to immediately make your audience feel heard and understood is just to repeat their query back to them before responding. This has the added benefit of ensuring everyone in the room heard the q – very handy if you’re doing a pandemic-style hybrid pitch.

The actual answer you give obviously depends on the question and the pitch. Some general advice though is to bring as many queries as possible back to the on-slide facts to back up your words; keep calm and confident rather than defensive or argumentative; and try to reframe objections as opportunities to encourage discussion.

We’ll always encourage you to actively build opportunities into your deck for these objections and queries to be raised by your audience. Because one of the biggest mistakes you can make in a pitch is attempting to hide from contentious points.

Skirting around a challenge will demonstrate to your audience that you’re not equipped to deal with it, which will dent the trust you’ve managed to secure so far. Openly encouraging a dissection of your biggest challenges shows your confidence and capacity to deal with problems and should deepen your audience’s trust.

Closing the deal with proper pitch deck etiquette

The final slide on a pitch deck is deceptively important to a PowerPoint layman. So many otherwise decent presentations tank themselves by finishing up with either a weak, meaningless missive (think “thanks for listening!” or “that’s all we have for today!” or, if you’re really determined to be a walking cliché, “well, that’s all, folks!”) or by not including a closing message at all.

But your final slide is one of the most powerful parts of your pitch. According to the Peak-End Rule, the parts of your pitch most likely to be accurately remembered are the emotional highs, their equivalent lows and whatever happens in the last moments of your presentation.

So ditch the bland sign-off slide and opt for something with a bit more oomph. Identify the ideal action you want your audience to take once the presentation’s finished and tell them how best to do it. For example, if you’ve been pitching for investment partnership into your newest app, you could stick a QR code straight onto the screen to get them to download your flagship programme and encourage them to have a play around. The trick here is to finish on a memorable, actionable and active note.

So there you have it

Eight actionable bits of expert advice to help your next pitch go from failed flop to jackpot. Or you could up your chances even more by getting the pros to do it. Get in touch to find out more.

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