Best Practices for Pitchbooks: A Compendium
In 2017, while delivering a lecture at a real estate conference, I first conceived of a series on best practices for creating pitchbooks. Even though I was relatively inexperienced at the time, the principles I proposed remain as relevant today as they did when I first introduced them. Through my work, I’ve observed how these principles can enhance the effectiveness of client pitchbooks, improving both their appeal and impact.
Best Practices for Pitchbooks in Private Equity
These principles are not a one-size-fits-all solution. However, they serve as a valuable set of guidelines that can significantly improve the quality of most pitchbooks.
From my experience, the measures suggested here are the low-hanging fruit that can make the most difference to a pitchbook and are a great starting point for any firm or fund looking to enhance their pitch.
Principle 1: Treat the Presentation as a Novella
As an English literature major, I’ve always found literary terms and concepts useful in shaping effective communication strategies. A novella is a short novel, longer than a short story but shorter than a full-length novel. Good examples are John Steinbeck’s ‘The Red Pony’ or Ernest Hemingway’s ‘The Old Man and the Sea’.
Like a good novella, a pitchbook should have a coherent flow with a clearly defined sequence, an opening hook, a plot or thesis, and a conclusion or resolution. It’s not about bombarding the reader with statistics and bullet points. Rather, it’s about framing the pitch as a compelling narrative.
The ‘inciting incident’ in this narrative is often the identification of a market opportunity, the ‘plot’ involves the strategies to capitalize on this opportunity, and the ‘ending’ invites the audience to participate in the opportunity. Providing a narrative structure to the pitchbook lends it vitality and compels the audience to turn the page.
Principle 2: Brevity is the Soul of Wit
The second principle I propose is encapsulated in the phrase, ‘Brevity is the soul of wit.’ Inspired by Hemingway’s prose, which is economical yet powerful, this principle encourages reducing word count without losing substance and meaning.
The best private equity pitchbooks supplement a live discussion, and thus we want them not to compete for the audience’s attention by oversaturing with dense copy. Content should avoid platitudes and focus on the unique attributes of the firm or fund.
Zeroing in on the most pivotal aspects of your differentiators and the opportunity they present will render the pitchbook more manageable and digestible for the audience.
Principle 3: Treat Pitchbook Slide Titles as Headlines
The third principle suggests treating slide titles as headlines that grab the audience’s attention and draw their focus to the key thesis of each slide. Headlines should be bold, memorable, and specific to the fund or manager.
Ideally, if you were to line up just the headlines from each slide, you would still have a coherent story of the fund’s value proposition and key differentiators.
Principle 4: Mix and Match Slide Types
A pitchbook should be a medley of diverse slide types to keep the reader’s attention. Like a well-structured magazine, varying the content from bullet points to data-backed exhibits to image-heavy slides can provide a sense of novelty and prevent reader fatigue.
This principle, however, is not about avoiding words altogether. Instead, it’s about creating a balance and avoiding repetition.
How to break up content in an private equity pitchbook
Breaking up content into different sections or “chapters” can be an excellent way to achieve this.
Divider slides or “chapter headers” can be used to create a distinct and aesthetic transition between sections, which can be further accentuated with relevant images, such as pictures of portfolio investments.
Case studies can be effectively interspersed throughout the presentation to corroborate the points being made, rather than being lumped together at the end.
Principle 5: Ensure Visuals are Optimized for the Data They Present
Visuals are potent tools in pitchbooks for investment managers to convey key information without the use of excessive text.
However, these should be carefully crafted to ensure the visuals are clear, concise, and complement the text.
The data should be represented in a manner that is easily discernible. Further, it’s important to ensure the type of visual used (bar chart, pie chart, etc.) is appropriate for the data being presented. Afterall, overloading a pitchbook with too many exhibits can be counterproductive.
Ultimately, the goal is to present the most impactful and relevant data using optimal design elements.
Principle 6: Pay Keen Attention to Aesthetics to Capture and Maintain Interest
The aesthetic appeal of an investor presentation can make a significant difference in capturing and maintaining audience interest.
While PowerPoint may not be a designer’s medium, with professional help, it is possible to create an elegant, creative, and polished design that allows a manager to truly differentiate themselves.
Investing in professional design services can give your presentation a unique and individualized character. This helps it stand out in a sea of standard templates and ensures brand continuity with other touchpoints, too.
These principles are not a comprehensive solution. However, they offer useful guidelines for structuring compelling pitchbooks for private equity firms and other investment managers. By keeping the narrative engaging, the content brief, and the visuals varied, your pitchbooks can stand out and make a powerful impression on your audience.For more detailed guidance and support on crafting investment private equity pitchbooks tailored to your firm’s unique needs and audience, contact Darien Group today.
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