Pitch deck size & format

Back in the old days, entrepreneurs did crazy things like creating well-thought out, detailed business plans for prospective investors to review. In our TL;DR world written business plans have gone the way of the dodo bird. Most entrepreneurs create just one deck and use it for all audiences, which is a disservice to all as the deck is typically too general for savvy investors and too complex for angels.

I would create two pitch decks – a short deck that is 10 – 12 slides maximum and one that is much more detailed – perhaps 20 – 30 slides. Always send the short deck first. And when you pitch to angels and tire kickers, the short deck is all most will ever need. If you get too into the weeds with your deck, angels will pass on the deal because they don’t understand it.  Your goal with your initial pitch isn’t to get them to understand all the intricacies of your business in 30 minutes but rather leave them with the impression that you fully understand all the intricacies of your business. So, adhere to the KISS principle with angels – Keep It Simple Stupid.

A small percentage of your prospects will want to see more information, so tell all prospects a longer pitch deck is also available upon request. As Albert Einstein said, “if you can’t explain it, you don’t know it well enough yet.”  Creating the long deck will not only be beneficial to your savvy investors, but it will also help you better crystallize strategy and tactics.

The longer deck takes the place of the old school business plan. The people who will want to see more information, which will be limited to 10% or less of all prospects, will be those folks who have considerable experience analyzing and investing in deals – such as very active angel investors (e.g., someone who has done 10+ investments), angel funds, accelerators and incubators, and institutional investors.

You may also get a few novice angels requesting the long deck, which normally comes from subject matter experts (SMEs) who know something about your offering or industry. If the SMEs are in a closely-knit angel network in your town, they may influence others investment decisions regarding your deal. Make sure you give SMEs the attention they need. Some SMEs may be good mentors, advisors, and/or board members as well, so keep that in mind.

After creating your decks, practice your pitch with members of your team. Then pitch people who won’t be investing and get their feedback. Friends and family are fine as they will be candid with you whereas angels won’t – most angels will politely decline to invest to avoid offending (e.g. “great company but I don’t have the liquidity to invest now”). Also, the questions your friends and family ask will point you to the area(s) where you need to apply more KISSes. Don’t blow off their questions as naivete – most angel investors will get tripped up by the same complexities in your pitch as your Uncle Bob.

What should you put in the pitch decks? Here is one of the best articles I’ve ever read regarding pitch decks.  It’s an ideal article to help you craft your short deck. For your long deck, just expand on the topics in the short deck. Also, one trick I’ve seen people use with their long decks is to include an “Appendix” section. There you can shove in some wonky technical slides, detailed financial projections, or anything else you think only a select few but important potential investors would like to see. Most investors will feel like they don’t have to review and understand everything in the Appendix, but the content is there in case others want it. Kind of like having dessert on the menu!

One final point on introductory calls with potential investors – email them your short deck but frame up the choices for the introductory call so you and they know what to expect. In general, for meetings with just one or two prospects, tell them you have four typical formats that investors prefer and let them decide which one for your one-on-one meeting:


Best for

Pitch via short pitch deck Most angels
Pitch via long pitch deck Subject matter experts / professional investors
Product demo Subject matter experts / anyone if a simple product
General chat and Q&A Time starved folks / angels following investors already in your deal

Be sure to tell your prospects how much time each option will take. Also, offering to do calls, Zooms, or in-person meetings on nights or weekends as well is an excellent way to convey to your prospects that you work hard on your business while simultaneously affording you perhaps more focus from prospects who have divided attention during the business day.

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