If you attend enough pitch meetings you have been subject to the pain and rigors of a slide presentation. Whether you are presenting, or you are part of the intended audience, these events can become uncomfortable because, all too often, there is an expectation that certain elements must be included (for the worst reason: “because we’ve always done it that way.”)
However, there is a new model emerging in the M&A market that employs logic and empathy for the audience to achieve a positive outcome. The modern pitch book address two key questions: “What does the audience need to know in order to make a decision in my favor? and “How can I deliver that content as painlessly as possible for me and the audience?”
Typically, a firm looking for an investment bank takes seven meetings before selecting a banker. Attend enough of these meetings and you are likely to see all manner of mistakes in pitch decks:
- Confusing a slide deck with a pitch book. A pitch deck should be a visual guide to the story you tell; a pitch book is an organized reference manual to the proposed solicitation. We’ve seen bankers attempt to present the book as a narrative, and frankly, it is akin to selling someone a car by reading them the owner’s manual. Ensure that the content you present reflects its purpose, whether it is a pre-meeting reference or in person persuasion.
- Presenting the “Where’s Waldo” customer logo slide. Almost every sales slide deck includes the pedigree slide, and most are poorly presented. Usually it is a semi-organized assortment of recognizable logos that indicate your firm is capable (or why would so many prestigious firms engage you?) The irony is, if you’ve reached the point of an in-person pitch, your competence is most likely not in question. Instead, the logo slide should focus on what the audience is looking for: the 2-3 relatable logos that indicate that you have experience with similar organizations. It is better to go deep on presenting the similar projects, than overwhelm with a litany of tangential (at best) experiences.
- Not having the right person in the room. This mistake is related to mistake number two. When you are crafting the presentation deck, you want to tell stories that relate to the audience. Even with a mid-size department, you may have a larger collective experience than you might first suspect. The problem occurs when you don’t have those experiences organized. Building an “experience database” could be the most impactful investment your department can make. So even if you can’t have every associate with related experience n the room, you can be sure to share their story if you have a searchable content repository. In fact, many of those experience may have taken place when the associate was with another bank.
- Running through the mandatory slides. Recycling is not always a good thing. Most firms have their “standard deck” that includes 20-30 slides that provide a history of the firm, investment philosophy. No one ever felt cheated by seeing fewer slides than expected. If you find yourself thinking “I just need to get through these background slides before I get to the meat of the presentation” start paring down the slides.
- Too much info…too little slide. This one is another basic: if you find yourself reading the slide to your audience, you have to many words on the slide. It is important to balance visuals with the narrative.
- Not having the end game in mind. Remember why you are in the room. It isn’t to demonstrate your eloquence or design skills, it is to persuade your audience to action. If you find that your deck does not support a cohesive story that draws your audience toward the desired action, it is time to rethink your presentation.
Keep your persuasive goal in mind and make your train of thought easy to follow. Finally, remember, less is more…the deck is a visual guide to your presentation, not an all-encompassing record: less words, fewer fonts, and minor graphic diversity.
Avoid these six pitch deck mistakes will allow you to present a more concise and ultimately more influential story. The best decks are organized, relate your firm’s experience, and don’t require the audience to hunt. A great deck is the result of solid preparation, access to your collective organizational experience, and demonstrates empathy for the audience.
Pitchly is a leading cloud-based content services platform for M&A professionals to organize and activate their intellectual property. Pitchly provides a robust user-friendly database service to record proprietary experience activating this information for knowledge workers to win more clients. Learn more at www.pitchly.net.