Startups

Learn how to build the perfect pre-meeting pitch deck (+ free template)

Putting together a pitch deck that will get you in the door for that first pitch meeting is a challenge. Here's how to do it.

Putting together a great pre-meeting pitch deck is hard enough. Creating one as a send-ahead, where you won’t be in the room to offer context, can be a whole different beast. But most investors want to see a deck before they agree to meet you. And if you are lucky enough to get a meeting without one, they’re still likely to request your pitch deck so they have context for the meeting.

After analyzing hundreds of pitch decks, DocSend has pulled together insights into what makes a successful send-ahead deck. In this post we’ll touch on three main areas, but for a full outline of what your pitch deck should include, in what order, and real world examples, you can download our free pre-meeting pitch deck outline here. The three sections we’re going to cover are:

  1. Present your problem
  2. Highlight your team
  3. Show your product (without just using screenshots)

Present your problem

The DocSend research shows that only 88 percent of startups included a problem slide in their send-ahead decks. But that belies its importance. Whether you’re trying to entice an investor to meet with you or give them some pre-reading before a scheduled chat, you want the problem you’re trying to solve to be front and center.

The average successful deck only spends one or two slides on the problem. This is because investors will likely spend less than 10 seconds reading it. But if you don’t have a problem that needs to be solved, many won’t get much further in your deck.

Top 10 Pitch Decks Examples

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There are several ways to present your problem. But with only 10 seconds to make your point, you need to use visuals where possible and make sure the problem is clear. For example, if you’re a marketplace, don’t present the problem as a lack of marketplaces. Focus on what your marketplace is actually solving. Is it a lack of options in a given area? Is it that the options are unvetted? Or that while finding an option is easy, the logistics of hiring and paying are difficult? There are many different pain points for any area, so you need to hone in on the big-picture issue that your company will solve.

Shift boiled down a complex set of problems in a simple line: “Buying used cars sucks.” They then highlighted a few common ways people buy used cars and elaborated on why it sucks. They could have focused on part of issue or tried to explain all of the different problems across each different area of buying cars. But they kept it simple so that it would resonate quickly with investors. You don’t even need to spend 10 seconds on this slide to agree it’s a problem worth solving.

Shift pitch deck problem slide

Highlight your team

The only slide that every deck DocSend analyzed included was the team slide. This makes sense, because as an early-stage startup, you may not have revenue, or customers, or even a product. But you have a team. The average deck only spent one slide on their team, but the time investors spent here varied wildly.

For a successful deck the average investor spent just shy of 10 seconds. But for an unsuccessful deck, they spent over a minute. We found many different reasons for this. Some companies had a team with backgrounds that completely differed from the problem they were trying to solve. If your startup relies heavily on machine learning and you have a history degree, you need to use your team page to explain where that expertise is coming from.

Another easy way to highlight the expertise on your team is to make sure each team member has a link to their LinkedIn page. This lets you expand on each team member’s bio without taking up valuable real estate in your pitch deck. It can also be an easy way to alert you if a VC is looking through your deck (if you don’t already use DocSend or something similar for your viewer analytics).

For the DocSend pitch deck, our founders actually used our team page twice. They used it once at the beginning to highlight their relevant backgrounds in similar companies, and again in their product section. They used themselves as document viewers to highlight the in-depth analytics DocSend offers. This gave them another chance to highlight the team and make a good impression.

DocSend pitch deck team page

Show your product (without a bunch of screenshots)

One of the easiest traps to fall into when putting your product into a send-ahead deck is giving a potential investor screenshots of the entire product experience. Just because you’re not there to explain the ins and outs of the product doesn’t mean you have to give them so much detail.

Most companies spent five pages on their product, which may actually be a bit too much. If you look back at your problem slides, you should know exactly what to highlight in your product slides to make the most impact. Don’t deviate from your narrative just because you want to show off all the work you’ve done. It’s more important to show exactly how your product solves the issue you’ve described.

Shift’s problem was that car buying sucks. While they used screenshots, their pitch deck didn’t  take investors on a walkthrough of their entire product experience. Instead, it showed how you can browse for a car and schedule a test drive across multiple devices. You’re probably going to have to use screenshots, but by using them in a clever way, you can make them more engaging than just a regular product walkthrough.

Shift pitch deck product slide

For more examples (including all the ones you’ve seen here) on how to put together your pre-meeting pitch deck, plus tips on what makes each section successful, download our outline. It includes the optimal slide order according to DocSend’s research, examples from multiple businesses, stats on how long investors spent on each section, and founder tips to help you optimize your send-ahead deck.

Pre-Meeting Pitch Deck Outline

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