Starting a Business? Don't Fall Into These Pitch Deck Traps

I spend a lot of time with entrepreneurs who have either raised a seed round and are going for a Series A, or are starting from scratch and need a few hundred thousand to get things rolling. 

While I love their energy and drive, I'm constantly frustrated by the stories they try to tell. It is not that the stories are bad, or don't matter, but it's that the stories are usually for one audience only: The VC.

Here's where I see things going off the rails.

About Where They Are Going In 5 Years, Not What Is The Next Step

Every business it seems is a billion dollar business at some point. Every market is so massive that if the startup captures 1% of 1% they still make millions. And while it might be true, I rarely hear founders talking about the next step they need to take to get there. Don't get me wrong, I love the big picture story and the hutzpah it takes to stake a flag in the ground and ask people to wonder 'what if,' but it's not the only story founders should be focusing on.  

"VC's Don't Get It Because They Don't Understand It"

Hands down one of the most common phrases I hear. My typical response is, 'so what don't they understand,' which usually comes back with 'everything.' Then after a few more questions we're able to narrow it down and start working. The reality is, most times founders forget that they've been thinking about their story and business for hundreds, if not thousands of hours, and their audience most likely has been thinking about it for a few minutes before they pitch. Falling into the trap of 'they don't understand it,' is a valid point, but can also be a copout. If this is happening to you, make sure to ask detailed questions to find out what exactly they don't understand and then work to change that in your pitch.

"Trust Me, It's Going To Work."

This works in the movies. Specifically Die Hard, but for the majority of us, this shouldn't be coming out of our mouths. But it does, and usually it's as an exclamation point after a big sweeping statement was made. Don't get me wrong, if you're a founder who knows how to use comedy this can be gold, but too many times the founder actually means it. Storytelling, especially storytelling during the early stages of business, is about suspending belief and instilling confidence, and while this line can work, it can't be the anchor of your story. If you're going to use it, have the next graph be about what you can control to make sure it works. Use this less as boasting and positioning, and more as self awareness and confidence.

"This Is Hard."

Yes. Yes it is. It's insanely hard actually. And as I mentioned yesterday, it's also a never ending process. Embrace it. Don't fall victim to the trap of never having confidence in your story, but also don't fall into the trap that every audience is the same and it's a one-and-done process. If you're trying to craft your story, start here: Get away from the people you know and hear feedback from those who don't have skin in the game with you. Also, don't ask someone who isn't your target audience their opinion until you've asked your audience. The person at Starbucks might let you buy them a drink and listen to the pitch, but they also might be 100% opposite of who you're trying to sell to. 

Upcoming Workshops

Want to learn more? Check out the workshop I'm doing with Pitch Lab at General Assembly on November 13. We'll be focusing on how comedy can help you be a more engaging storyteller!

* Thanks for reading. I didn't do this in the past, but it's time to just admit it-- I'm dyslexic, can hardly spell my own name at times, and miss basic grammar every once in a while. So, please forgive me if there's a typo. What I do know is how to tell a story, which luckily for me doesn't always require writing.