We were proud to see our own Leah Williams recently spotlighted in Business Insider! Leah joined Oaklyn in June 2021 as an investor communications consultant and helps us with the important work of crafting persuasive, compelling pitch decks to help our clients tell the story of their businesses to investors and lenders.
In Business Insider, Leah shared five helpful strategies that she’s used in creating pitch decks, a process she says requires a mixture of creative design and business acumen:
1. Make it personal
Entrepreneurs have an opportunity to tell a story that resonates with investors by sharing small personal details, which can demonstrate their commitment to building their company to its current level of success, Leah says. Telling the story of where the idea for a company originated from, for instance, can help an investor understand your motivations and passion for your business.
“You may have a really inspiring story, you may think you have a lot of grit, or it may have come out of something that is just very human,” she says.
2. Less is more
Many decks have a tendency to include many more details than needed, which tends to overwhelm investors. Leah calls it “fire hydrant syndrome.”
While pitch decks can vary in length and the type of information they include, Leah says they should be thought of as an outline that can be expanded upon verbally. Part of her skill is in editing down the material she receives, helping to declutter and clarify entrepreneurs’ thoughts and concepts.
3. Don’t ask for money right away
This rule of designing pitch decks is just simple logic — you need to give investors a reason to care about what you have to offer before you start asking them to put money on the line. Leah suggests waiting until near the end of a deck to start talking about dollar amounts, perhaps after sharing an inspiring vision for the company.
“You want them to catch the vision before they know how much money you need, because
you don’t want them thinking about dollar signs the entire time,” she says. “You want them to get really excited about the idea before they look at how much you need.”
4. The font is a crucial detail
The font is one element of a deck that stands out more than people realize. A good-looking font can add a tone of professionalism that makes a deck stand out. But a bad font can be distracting, or even leave a negative impression with investors.
Williams says she avoids commonly used fonts like Arial and Calibri, and says her favorite fonts include Futura PT and Archer, which convey an image of sophistication and even elegance.
“Having a nice, clean font is basically half the design of your deck,” she says.
5. High-resolution photos don’t have to cost you
To give a pitch deck a pleasing visual look, it’s also important to use high-resolution photos. Although many websites offer hi-res stock images for a fee, Williams says that quality free options are also available.
She suggests Unsplash, which has a library of 3 million-plus free high-resolution stock images. When including personal images, don’t use just any old photo in your iPhone library. If possible, get a good team picture using Portrait mode, which adds a faint blur to the background of photos, resulting in a cleaner image. Try to find an uncluttered background and, of course, make sure that everybody is smiling.
“I’ve seen a couple of photos where they didn’t smile, and they looked really mean,” she says. “You don’t have to look like a dork, but you want to look approachable. You don’t want to look like you’re going to be this really difficult person to work with.”