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How to make your pitch more cohesive.
A framework for connecting your slides
This is a post where I’m going to tackle the problem of pitch cohesion and introduce a framework for fixing it. Pitch cohesion is a fancy, but short, way to say “making sure the slides in your pitch deck work together.”
Startups are already good at having the right slides, in the right order, and filled with good news. Check!
But very little has been written about how to connect the concepts in a pitch together. Here’s what happens when you don’t do it:
Your competition slide doesn’t mention what you said was your totally unique solution.
Your billion-dollar market is not the same as the target customer in your Problem slide.
You mention AI as your secret sauce but no one on your team has any experience in AI.
Inconsistencies in your story make it easy for VCs to poke holes in your pitch. They raise questions that a cohesive pitch should already answer.
They also make for bad stories.
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Why I made this
I’m always looking for ways to give entrepreneurs tools to self-assess. There’s too much subjective and random pitch feedback out there. If I find myself giving the same feedback over and over again I always look for the reason why.
This framework is focused on improving the connectedness of slides.
So instead of a VC pointing out some inconsistency in your deck, and you being completely surprised, you can build a coherent story where all your slides support each other.
I hope this will also be useful to mentors or people giving pitch feedback.
Where two slides connect
I created a matrix with slide titles as rows and columns.
In the example below, I’ve highlighted where Problem and Market intersect:
The box is highlighted because it’s very important that your market connects to your problem, i.e. who has the problem.
Many are guilty of not doing this. But there should obviously be a strong connection between the problem you solve and the market you target.
Where multiple slides connect
Let’s keep going with the example. In the next diagram I consider what other slides, besides Problem, should be influencing my Market slide:
Looking down (or up, it doesn’t matter) in the Market column, I see another highlighted box: Product. It means anyone hearing about your market is thinking about how it relates to the product you just showed. So you should think about it too.
And the connection goes both ways. When you show your product I want to know who you can sell it to. When you talk about the market I’m thinking back to the product to see if I believe it fits.
When you look at your Market slide you should check that it addresses the target customer from your Problem slide. Then check that the market you define is actually the market that’s relevant for your product.
How it works
Put together, the framework looks like this
When you're building a slide you should consider what other slides/concepts are strongly connected, like in the Problem-Market example.
It works whether you start with the Problem slide and look ahead at future slides it affects. Or if you’ve already created your slides and you want to check their connectedness with previous slides.
The full framework
Here is the full framework. I used a standard 11-slide pitch deck but you can adapt based on the slides you actually use.
From one perspective, every slide connects to every other slide. But I’ve highlighted only the most important connections, in my opinion. The questions I raised are what I think are the most important to address. But there are many more.
Feel free to adapt and send me what works for you.
Slide order does matter in this framework because earlier slides, like Problem/Solution/Product, set the stage for later slides.
That’s one of the reasons I put the Team slide towards the end of the deck. It’s stronger to say “here’s the team that can do all the things you just heard about” versus “here’s a fantastic team, let us tell you what they can do.”
Speaking of Team, it’s a good example of a slide that can be improved if you properly connect it.
Instead of seeing it as a standalone slide look at what is highlighted in the framework: Problem, Solution, and Go To Market. Here’s why it matters:
Problem-Team - one of the most important things you can do when talking about your team is explaining why you care so much about this problem. It’s usually overlooked but gives crucial insight to the investor about your level of commitment.
Solution-Team - if you are pitching a deep tech solution you must highlight the deep technical expertise of your team. If you’re disrupting the real estate market, someone on your team needs to have real estate industry experience. That’s what to focus on vs a full LinkedIn bio.
GTM-Team - not everyone will agree that GTM and Team are strongly connected. I think they are because going to market is usually the biggest area of expense and risk. Who on your team has done it before?
Summary and next steps
I’ve been using this framework whenever I want to explain why a story is not hanging together.
It’s more important to understand the strong connections between slides first. Then you can dig deeper to explore all the questions you might want to answer.
This post introduces the concept and how it works. In my follow-up I’ll be evaluating a pitch decks to test how cohesive they are.