episode 16: Pitch Decks


  • Join Troy, Nolan and Sandy as they talk all about Pitch decks. Pitch Decks are a specialized sales presentation, and they discuss who uses them, who designs them, what is unique about their content, and how each of us approaches a Pitch Deck project.



Who uses pitch decks?

  • Nolan: This topic is a bit of a continuation of our Agency Work episode. While lots of companies create sales presentations or have to pitch for work in competitive bid situations, pitch decks are a big part of agency work.
  • Sandy: Agencies can also encompass Financial and Sales Decks.
  • Troy: Lots of production companies putting on the larger meetings are another user of pitch decks. I also see a very close association with Sales Decks.


How would you characterize the format of a Pitch Decks?

  • Sandy: I’ve done them in PowerPoint. The clients who are getting pitched will want leave behinds. I develop custom formatted notes area setup for the leave behind.
  • Troy: I see pitch decks projects as 2 phase projects. First, a print or PDF version. Second, meaning the company made it to in person meeting round, a projected presentation.
  • Nolan: I have them all over the place: PowerPoint, Keynote, Prezi, even handing out iPads and had people scroll through the deck on that. A lot of decks get printed, which can be done in PowerPoint, Keynote, or InDesign.


When developing a Pitch Deck, and it is going to be a print piece – either PDF or physical print piece, what is the page size of the PowerPoint file?

  • Nolan: I have done a lot of 11×17 printed pitch decks in the agency world.
  • Sandy: I have done many 11×17 printed versions because it’s more impressive, but I’ve also done many in 16×9.
  • Troy: I think all of our projects that are Pitch Deck specific have been 16×9 aspect ratio and standard letter size pages. The two exceptions are 4×3 aspect ratio for pitches that spec’d specific for iPad viewing, 1 page leave behinds are often the larger 11×17 page size.


With print PDF deck, are animation or transitions even a consideration?

  • Sandy: None if it’s static. But I will include hyperlinks to outside resources or interactivity for navigation.
  • Troy: None if we know it is a static output file.


How many slides do you generally see in Pitch Decks?

  • Troy: Print = 70+, presentation = 30-50.
  • Nolan: 25-50.
  • Sandy: 50+.


What are other design considerations specific to Pitch Decks?

  • Sandy: Use the Agency branding or the client branding?
  • Troy: Page numbers – should they be used or not? And same thing, is the visual styling presenting company – end client – or event theming?
  • Nolan: I make a case for Pitches be visually identifiable as from a specific agency.


What is the flow of the typical Pitch Deck? What impact have you had on that flow / story?

  • Nolan: Pitches follow a formula. The biggest mistake I see is when one of the items is the background of the company and talking about yourself too much.
  • Sandy: The typical Pitch Deck follows an outline from the client, and usually it focuses on the “me, me, me” info. I work with my clients to figure out a way to incorporate that story but not derail the pitch message.
  • Troy: I also spend time going over the Pitch message and if it should be compartmentalized into a typical story-line or divided into topics, each with their own story-line.


How do you work in PDF content that needs to be in the Pitch?

  • Troy: The big issue is generally Pitch Decks are in a landscape aspect ratio and PDF files are data using portrait letter size pages.
  • Nolan: For past Pitch projects, we created virtual flash drives or physical flash drives with supplementary material, research, video as well as the Pitch Deck. So I avoided the situation by providing all in a few options to access.
  • Troy: If the PDF has content needed in deck, then sometimes we recreate to fit the slide layout sizing. If it is just referenced as supplemental content I often grab an image of the first page (I like SnagIt for this) and add a next to the image on the slide with the name of the PDF file.


For project timelines, which has a great timeline and needs a greater timeline: a CEO speaker support presentation or a Pitch Deck project?

  • Nolan: Pitch Decks almost always have ridiculously short timelines.
  • Sandy: A CEO speaker support presentation has more project time, but in general the Pitch Decks I have worked on have not had horribly tight timelines – maybe it because I turned down the bad timeline ones.
  • Troy: Pitch presentations have more – more conference calls, more departments, more people to interact with, but less turnaround time.


What about font sizes on the print PDF pitch decks?

  • Nolan: Small 10-11 pt because it’s a print document.
  • Sandy: Smaller sizes – 12 – 14 pt for body copy.
  • Troy: The stand alone print piece has a lot more content on each page, so smaller fonts in the 10-12 pt range, and more attention to professional typesetting.


What about Investor Decks or Sales Decks, do they represent a significant use case to consider?

  • Nolan: Both of these are one of the situations where an effective presentation can mean the difference between getting or not getting millions of dollars and your business taking off or getting shelved. Guy Kawasaki says an investor deck should be 10 slides and I completely agree.
  • Sandy: I really don’t like doing the start up investor presentations, usually it is a no-money issue.
  • Troy: I would differentiate Pitch Decks from Sales or Investor Decks in that a pitch is a 1X meeting. A Sales Deck can be used over and over by many people in a company. Investor Decks may be used a few times, but they almost always have an additional parameter of having a time limit for the presentation portion – so the need for a very condensed and structured message. We work with companies on all three.


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