The other day I was asked to provide input on a pitch deck prepared by a respected consulting firm. The idea was the result of a consulting project, the results of which for document in a hefty, detailed, and structured document that everyone agrees was great for reading background material, but not really right for presenting/pitching. The team took the first step by cutting down the number slides (not changing them) in an executive summary presentation.

My advice for consultants who want to pitch: start from scratch and design a completely new presentation specifically aimed at selling, pitching, fundraising and leave the big data Bible as back up.

What goes usually wrong in executive summary decks that are created by chopping slides out of a master pack? Some examples.
  • The team has probably been working for months on the project and as a result, they see the discussion of the problem as totally trivial and cut down a lot on the charts that adress the issue, most of them probably generated early on in the project, or even during the project definition phase. The consultants forget that to the outsider who hears about the issues for the first time, it is not that trivial. On the contrary, it is often easier to pitch the problem, than to pitch the solution.
  • The problem section usually involves data, and consulting data charts are loaded with facts and figures and tables. Most consultants actually violate one of the cardinal rules of one message per slide. Go back to your drawing board and pick one statistic/trend that is really crucial to sell your problem and make a super clean/clear data chart that just shows that, nothing else
  • As we get to the solution the consultant often forget to describe what it actually is. We show histories of how the initiative has been used in other parts of the world, who is involved, but hey: what is it that you actually want to do? To the consultant it is obvious, to the audience not.
  • Describing the initiative or its impact can be done in dry text bullets with low emotional appeal. But why not use pictures? Show the project in action. Profile the people that benefited from it in big page filling images. Create human stories. People relate to this much better than dry data. Yes, I want to help this girl in the picture!
  • Consultants are always shy, and hesitant to take a strong position. (Yes, you could take option B but it has these disadvantages and it depends on this scenario C panning out that way). As a result, it is actually unclear what is expected from the audience: contribute this amount of money to do X, Y, and Z. Get over your shyness, and spell it out the call of action bluntly.
In short, make your deck more emotional, to the point, and put your own credibility on the line by selling the idea wholeheartedly.