The 3/3/3 Rule of Pitch Decks

The 3/3/3 Rule of Pitch DecksAfter watching hundreds of pitch decks and listening to hundreds of elevator pitches in the past 3 years this is what I’ve discovered and confirmed over and over again: when creating a pitch deck for a pitch competition, a demo or at a meetup like the Co-Founders Wanted Austin Meetup where you only have a few minutes – spending 3 minutes, with 3 slides, and 3 pictures/videos is what I recommend.

Years ago (in December 2005 to be exact) Guy Kawasaki wrote an article called the 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint which while still relevant today it doesn’t really help the super early-stage startups when it comes to creating a short useful pitch deck. Being the organizer of The Co-Founders Wanted Austin Meetup has giving me an opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t when it comes to creating a pitch deck to capture the attention of many in just 3 minutes. I call it, the 3/3/3 Rule of Pitch Decks. I did not use the term PowerPoint as Guy did in his blog post because these days, you have many options to build your pitch deck in addition to PowerPoint.

Here is the description of the 3/3/3 Rule of Pitch Decks which goal is to inform the audience about the problem and the pain, how do you think you can solve it and who you are… in just a few minutes:

  • 3 slides. Three is the perfect number of slides because it gives you the ability to concentrate only on the 3 main points you want to make which are, the problem, the solution and your contact information. Remember that this pitch deck is just to tell people what your experiment is all about:
  1. The pain you are trying to solve. One slide, one title and picture.
  2. How are you going to solve it. One slide, one title and one picture or short video.
  3. The team and what are you currently looking for (i.e. funding, team members, co-founders, etc).

Do not spend time talking about financials, business plan, competitors,etc… the fact is that you probably don’t have the answers to many of these questions yet and if you do (very unlikely), this information should be in the “other” slides that you’ll be presenting when looking for funding or when someone asks for it.

  • 3 minutes. As mentioned above, concentrate only on the 3 points above and make sure you can tell us what they are, one minute per topic. Sure you could spent an hour talking about the problem, the solution or even about yourself and your team but having the ability to tell people about all these things in 3 minutes is very valuable as it forces you to really think of a real problem, a real solution and to keep it short and sweet when talking about you and your team:
  1. Start with one sentence that describes the problem you are solving, give an example.
  2. Describe with one sentence how are you going to solve the problem, give an example.
  3. Tell us who the team is (name and titles are sufficient) and tell the audience if you are looking for something in particular: money, talent, partner or a co-founder.
  • 3 things to include. You have 3 slides and you have 3 minutes, please make sure you include at least 3 photos, or videos or a mix of both but not more than 3 total. Why? the less text you have in your slides the better. Have you heard the phrase pictures are worth a thousand words? it is true, and a video is worth a lot of pictures… you get the idea.

Hope the information above is useful for you, the idea is to extract all the unnecessary information from your slides and to force you to use nothing more than a title, a picture and/or a video. If you do this, you’ll be ahead of many other entrepreneurs doing 3 minute pitches at meetups, demos, etc… and your audience will be much more captive, try it and see.

If you have any other tips or disagree with any of the points made above please tell us in the comment’s section below, this is by not means the perfect guide, the best thing you can do is experiment, try, tweak and then repeat the cycle as many times as necessary.

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  1. In the startup world, it is all about efficiency and getting to the point. This is the reason why you do not have to be concerned with formality of your collateral. You have to ask yourself which message you want to communicate and how to do this in the most effective way. And most important, how to keep your audience’s attention. The best way to learn this is to listen to other people’s pitches and see what resonates and what sucks.

  2. I might go for 5 slides, with the first one being company name, and the last one being the same as the first but with contact info (URL, twitter etc).
    Simple hack as often those slides will stay on the screen for longer.

    The other thing, is i would not spend a whole minute on the problem, more like 30-40 seconds. That way after, explaining your solution, you can mention the business model.

    With team, far too many people do a laundry list, which is boring! Much better to tell what is interesting & unique about this team.


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