11 words and phrases to cut from your VC pitch deck

You have just 170 seconds. Weeks or even months of working on your pitch deck could come down to the 170 seconds (on average) that investors spend looking at it.

“Investors see a lot of pitches,” VC and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman noted. “In a single year, the classic general partner in a venture firm is exposed to around 5,000 pitches … and ends up doing between zero and two deals.”

With all that pressure to make an impact quickly, founders spend an incredible amount of time on the design of their slides. Less consideration, however, is usually spent on the words on the slide. That’s a mistake, especially when you only have 170 seconds.

When not used intentionally, the words in your deck can be distracting or downright off-putting. We used what we know about language and healthy communication from the millions of documents we’ve processed at Writer to come up with 11 words and phrases to remove from your VC pitch deck:

Negative associations

1. “runway”

Pitching VCs is a balancing act: You want to position your idea in the best light, but also show that you’ve thought things through. However, volunteering certain types of information can have the opposite effect. Don’t write: I’m seeking $X in funding to provide Y months of runway. You certainly need to show how you’re going to use the funding you’re asking for, but you don’t want to frame things in terms of runway in a pitch deck. The word is associated with a looming cash-out date, which can put an investor in a negative state of mind.

This HappySignal slide is a solid example of keeping your messaging positive and using uplifting language.

2. “exit strategy”

Don’t write: Our exit strategy is… Yes, thinking through your business means knowing how you’ll handle worst-case and best-case scenarios. But putting exit strategy in your deck can only get investors thinking about the inherent risks. You want them focused on the opportunity. You need to know what to say when the topic comes up — just don’t volunteer the information on a slide.

Clichés

3. “just X percent”

A pitch deck is a tool to show VCs why your idea merits investment. Using clichés can work against that goal. Don’t write: If we could capture X percent of the market… It’s not only a cliché, it’s wishful thinking — not a plan. Keep the text on your slides grounded in relevant facts and figures. Other clichés to cut include: the Amazon of X, imagine a future, and moving Y to blockchain.

Absolutes

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