I have reviewed over 1000 presentation decks.  These are the most common mistakes

During the past six months, I wrote 25 Pitch Deck Teardowns — the popular series of articles in which I review pitch decks in detail, celebrating wins and carefully (and sometimes not so carefully) suggesting improvements. We have seen Decks with 74 slides (yes, really), the decks that are full of typos and bogged down by hideous design (but still work amazingly well), and decks where the founders don’t seem to fully understand what market they are in.

For every deck I reviewed for my TechCrunch series, I saw dozens of other decks. Don’t tell my bosses, but I have a side job as a pitching coach and through that I see a lot of decks. I’m also friends with a bunch of wonderful VCs and accelerators who often send me decks to look at. I have a folder with hundreds and hundreds of pitch tests, ranging from $10,000 angel rounds to multi-billion dollar deals in progress. People also sometimes send me screenshots of slides (I like to think of them as “unsolicited deck shots”. Hmm.)

In any case, I’ve long since lost count, but I’ve probably seen several thousand pitches over the past few years. Suffice it to say: I have opinions for them.

In this post, I want to break down the top 11 (yes, it should have been 11) most common errors I see in performance tests, along with a bunch of examples of how these errors occur.

Oh, and if you want to submit your own deck for a potential pitch deck takedown, you’re in luck: Instructions are here.

Let’s go.

Not knowing your audience

A performance is a story, and stories have an audience. You wouldn’t put a child in front of Arnold Schwarzenegger hacking and hacking his way through different parts of Predator. Likewise, the story you use to sell to your customers is not the same story you need to convey to your prospective investor audience.

You need to understand how VC works; this is non-negotiable. If you don’t, it means you don’t know how to tell your story and you don’t really understand what they’re buying. Decide for yourself!

Examples of decks that do this right:

Examples of decks that get this wrong:

You don’t fully understand the size of your market

It’s painful to read a pitch deck and realize that founders have no idea how to size their own market. At the earliest stage, your company needs to prove exactly two things:

  • Can you build a venture scale business in this market?
  • Is this the right team to build this business?

The way you answer the first question is to say reasonable things about the market you operate in and how you see the size and trajectory of that market. If you fail to do that, guess what – you’re proving you’re not a good founder and probably not the right team to build the business.

Yes, calculating TAM, SAM, and SOM for your market can be really hard and sometimes involves guesswork and guesswork, but that’s okay—you’re not graded on how accurate your numbers are, but on how you view and think about a market. which you are on. If the numbers are “wrong” but you can defend why you thought of them that way, that speaks volumes to your potential investors about your quality as a founder.

Examples of decks that do this right:

Examples of decks that get this wrong:

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