Man Presenting in front of team

Designing the Perfect Pitch Deck

Congratulations! You’ve done it. You’ve created the perfect solution/product/design that you are convinced will solve the world’s most elusive problems. Now, you only have one step left: convincing everyone else. That’s where the pitch deck comes in.

Generally speaking, a pitch deck is a series of slides designed to accompany your “pitch” in persuading an audience to buy into your idea.  Given that you’ve already spent a considerable amount of time working on your concept, you might not be interested in putting as much effort into the deck. After all, it’s just a frame for your work, isn’t it? The utter magnificence of your idea will speak for itself right? Wrong. Your deck isn’t just a frame for your work, it IS your work. The lack of effort you make in crafting your deck could reflect poorly in the audience’s opinion of both you AND your idea.  Is your deck too long? Boring. Too short? Inconsequential. Too busy? Confusing. Too bland? Lame.

Pitch decks can make or break your career. Unfortunately, even the most luminous minds can fail when it comes to conveying their brilliance to others. Take, for example, the duo of doctors who presented “Rolodoc,” the social media for doctors, on Shark Tank. While the idea itself had merit, the two docs bombed their pitch so hard Mark Cuban actually got up to shake their hand! Thankfully, that doesn’t have to happen to you. 

The Students in Furman’s Master of Arts in Strategic Design program use pitch decks during semesterly design critiques. Our design critiques are held in collaboration with the MAD School of Ideas in Atlanta, GA and include a panel of some of the top designers in the world. Below, you’ll find the tips we give our students when preparing a deck for their presentation.

Tips for Creating the Perfect Pitch Deck


1) Know your audience

You created your product to meet the needs/wants of an audience, so approach your presentation the same way.  Knowing who you will be showing your deck to and what they are looking for will inform not only what you decide to include in your pitch deck, but how you present it.

2) What’s the “Big Idea?”

Every story has a vision. It is what gives your presentation meaning beyond the slides. It answers the question “So what?” Whether you are presenting one project or several, don’t divert from the main theme behind your work. The audience needs to see that you know what you are talking about.

3) Write a Script

Writing helps you communicate your thoughts in a cohesive way. Knowing what you want to say, in turn helps you figure how how to present your thoughts visually. Remember that the slides don’t have to tell the whole story, they are simply illustrating what you are saying. Practice and memorize the script.

4) Choose a Unified Theme

Unify the visual theme of the presentation across all slides by using a consistent style and format to help each slide tie into the next.  Remember that even though whitespace is often the designer’s ally, it may turn against you when presenting on projector screens. Using too much white can be blinding in contrast with darker colors. 

5) Make Your Work the Star

Simplify, simplify, simplify. Keep the focus on your work by using neutral or complementary colors and design elements that let your work stand out. Minimize distractions from your message as much as possible.

6) Focus on Your Key Points

Stick to what matters and keep your points moving by making a statement, planting the seed, and moving on. Don’t say or bring anything into the conversation which doesn’t forward the point.  You might be excited about the details of your work, but following rabbit trails is not helpful.

7) Keep It Short and Sweet

Since you have a very limited amount of time to get everything across, only include what matters. Consider how this might impact what you need to include or toss out. If you have 35 images, consider cutting to 25 to keep viewers from getting lost in the shuffle. Only include what is impactful and leave the audience wanting more. Details can be shared later in the Q&A.

8) Convey Information Effectively Through Visuals

Use relevant images, charts and infographics to illustrate your words instead of text. If you designed the visuals, don’t forget to include copyright. The deck is the audience’s window into your brain. You’ve already done the hard work for them, so don’t overwhelm them with the details in large text blocks. 

9) Tell an Engaging Story

Yes, you are trying to educate your audience with information about your product/design, but the way you make it stick is to think like an entertainer. The slideshow itself is only half the battle, the other is how you demonstrate your presentation skills. Be professional and show that you can handle the pressure. Often, you are selling yourself along with the product. Embrace the “WOW” factor and be memorable. Never let it be said: “This could have been an email.”

10) Conclude Effectively

Make sure everything you say or present ties back to the big idea.  If you opened up your presentation with a good question, resolve it with an excellent answer and drop the mic. (maybe not literally) Include a Q&A to satisfy the people who will be left wanting to know more.

11) Review and Revise as Necessary

Make sure your sepllnig si corrcet– in your work, in your deck, or in your app. Time may pass in between your presentations, so be sure to update your deck with the times. Don’t present a deck that is outdated or ineffective