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5 Common Pitch Deck Mistakes Founders Make and Easy Ways to Avoid Them

Updated: Jul 12, 2023

5 Common Pitch Deck Mistakes Founders Make and Easy Ways to Avoid Them. Tips from Floh Creative to Improve Your Presentation and Impress Your Investors

In the role of advisor, I serve as the judge the stream of companies pitching their skills to investors. Serving as both the organizer for these sessions and the sounding board for feedback and recommendations to the C-Suite, it’s quickly apparent where the strengths and weaknesses are, hidden just below the surface of the style and presentation.

First, let's acknowledge that having a new idea is exciting. And entrepreneurs often carry a lot of energy along with them and their pitch deck. But that energy can fade quickly and an innovative idea become clouded when the message is shrouded in uncertain terms and communication that is unclear.

The overall observation comes from issues spanning through multiple pitch decks; and these tendencies can greatly effect a positive outcome by making information necessary to convey an idea and a process, obscure. Although information and data accuracy are important, what is overlooked is the clarity and transparency which the information is presented. Overly styled copy, or communication points buried deep in visual without explanation can make taking in information unnecessarily burdensome to your audience.

Avoid some of the common errors in presenting and you will make the evaluation process easier and more transparent. The ultimate goal is to leave room for engagement and opening up a dialog that can be the start of a fruitful relationship.

Here are a few noteworthy pitfalls, which are easy to avoid, and could be beneficial when self-critiquing with your team before heading into a pitch.

1. Avoid Starting the Pitch Deck with a Question

I've encountered countless startup pitches that commence with a broad, open-ended question. Examples include asking the audience if they've struggled to find the perfect podcast or encountered difficulties in securing dinner reservations.

Initiating a pitch in this manner is counterproductive since it either fails to present a genuine business opportunity or is too narrow for the audience to relate to. Beginning with a question tends to frustrate investors rather than pique their interest, and it's best to avoid this approach.

2. Leave Off the Logo Slides Featuring Obscure Companies

While it's impressive to showcase renowned Fortune 500 or Fortune 50 companies as clients, it's essential to exercise caution. Including logos of small, local companies that are unfamiliar to anyone besides the presenter can generate skepticism instead of admiration.

Investors may question whether these clients were acquired solely through personal connections and networking, which are not scalable customer acquisition strategies. Therefore, it's advisable to refrain from flaunting logos of relatively unknown companies in your pitch deck or on your startup's website.

3. Beware of Unconventional Titles for Your Founding Team

Startups often strive for a cool and edgy image, which sometimes leads to unusual job titles like “Chief Executive Unicorn” or “Head of Team Togetherness.” However, such unconventional titles raise red flags for investors. When founders opt for non-standard titles, concerns arise regarding a lack of consensus on job roles and responsibilities among the team.

This may foreshadow internal conflicts and a lack of accountability to investors when challenges arise. To instill investor confidence, it's recommended to use job titles that are familiar and easily understood, such as COO, CMO, CFO, CTO, and especially CEO.

4. Minimize the Use of Video Demos

While it's acceptable to provide a brief explanation of your product and its functionality during a pitch, devoting three minutes to showcasing a video demo is counterproductive. Investors attend pitches not as potential customers who need to be persuaded by the product's features but rather to assess the viability of investing in the business.

Instead of relying on flashy videos, focus on discussing your customer acquisition strategy and market traction, and the process and structure for creating revenue growth as these factors are more relevant to investors.

5. Avoid Including a “Soft Commitments” Slide

Entrepreneurs are aware that investors prefer not to invest alone. If you have a term sheet or have partially closed a funding round with money already secured, it's important to mention it, as it can enhance investors' interest in your pitch. However, it is crucial not to mislead investors by implying you have commitments for capital that you do not actually possess.

Presenting "soft circles" or "soft commitments" may give the impression that you have investors willing to contribute funds when, in reality, there is no concrete commitment. Using such language not only wastes investors' time but also frustrates them, as it can come across as manipulative. Honesty and transparency are the top things VC’s look for and form the key in investor communications.

By addressing these common issues, entrepreneurs can refine their pitch presentations and create a more compelling case for potential investors. Remember, clarity, credibility, and a focus on relevant aspects are crucial elements of a successful pitch.


Written by Mary Ellen Schrock for Floh Creative.

Mary Ellen is the Chief Disruptor of Floh Creative. A bright, intuitive creative she has a passion for solving complex design and business challenges, and brand storytelling. Mary Ellen’s 20+ years of business strategy and creative problem-solving experience working with Corporate, Fortune 50 and Entertainment giants has created household name and recognizable identities for Coca-Cola, Oprah Winfrey, and Disney. She's been the creative force behind the successful brand launch campaigns for Lotus Cars, Disney - The Lion King Broadway, and Warner Bros. Entertainment.

Floh Creative partners with brands and businesses to build tools and deploy strategies to produce measurable results and grow business.

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