Creating an Epic Pitch Deck: The 6 Key Elements of Design

For those of you who haven’t heard, the Extreme Tech Challenge is hosting a series of free webinars through our partners at Super Summit called XTC Academy. We explore different topics to help you better your submission, and your business. These interactive webinars give you a chance to access some of the top professionals in their respective fields that are experts in helping grow business and know the startup world inside and out. Keep an eye on our Twitter for announcements on upcoming XTC Academy sessions @ExTechChallenge.

On Wednesday we held a webinar with Powerpoint ninja Ljana Vimont, owner of boutique design agency Stinson. Stinson makes premium decks for some of the world’s largest Fortune 500s, as well as small startups located all over the globe with the aim of helping communicate their products, brands, and ideas more effectively. Ljana took the time to share the formula to a perfect deck and walked us through the 6 key elements of design to help you become a powerpoint ninja too.

stinson_6 key elements


1. Photography

Photography is an ideal way to convey emotions and create a connection to audiences. Leverage high resolution, high quality images when possible and ensure they fit within the brand guidelines that you’ve set out. Photos can make an incredible impact and depict exactly what you’re trying to say with an image, and make your deck look much more modern and exciting.

If you’re thinking, “I’m bootstrapping, I don’t have money to hire a professional photographer” – fear not. There are incredible sources online that feature stock images at unbelievable prices. Stinson’s favorite is Dollar Photo Club – where, you guessed it… images are a dollar a piece! Ljana advises taking your time when browsing for images. You won’t find the perfect one in seconds. Plan to spend at least 30 minutes browsing for the perfect visual depiction so you can leverage it to tell your story.



 2. Illustration

Stinson suggests that concepts presented on slides should, as often as possible, be presented in a visual manner. They create custom illustrations for each client for as much content as they can in order to simply communication and enhance the experience of the target audience.  Luckily, with all of the tools online to solve many of life’s problems… there is a solution for making your own illustrations. You don’t have to hire an artist, a designer or use a corny powerpoint ClipArt image to make your point – (avoid the latter like the plague!)

Icons are an impressive, clean and modern way to illustrate your point, and top reco is Noun Project. Noun Project allows you to search through a vast library of stock icons and customize them to your brand – so you can easily manipulate the colors, sizing, and distortion of the icon in PhotoShop or Illustrator. Use the icons to clearly indicate each point so the viewer gets a visual cue to what you are talking about. Minimize your text, and talk to the icon – or just keep it clean with a summarizing point underneath for decks that are emailed.



3. Infographics

“Infographics should not be left out of presentations” says Ljana, Stinson’s owner. They are a powerful ally as they communicate your information in a way that resonates with your audience.  Stinson creates custom infographics for every presentation that they work on.

Infographics are all the rage now on blogs, in news articles, and of course in presentations and decks. They are an incredible way to visually depict an entire story so you can have less text heavy slides and more clarity. Stinson recommends using Pinterest for inspiration when thinking about your infographic creation – and if you’re on a tight budget and can’t get a graphic designer to create one for you, use sites like Pik To Chart to illustrate your point.  If you have a few extra bitcoins lying around, check out our friends at Right Source Social who made us the epic infographic pictured here.Infographics



4. Charts

Using charts and graphs can be a powerful alternative to simple text or raw data. You should always be looking for ways to turn your data into visuals that transform your information and how it is perceived. Think about your audience. Are they really going to have the time or the interest to mine through all of the data on your screen? Collect it and display it in a crisp, clean manner to make them Ooo and Aah at your incredible results, and more importantly, think about it. “Don’t just put a random chart in there. Think it through and tell a story” suggests Ljana.

Stinson uses all kinds of different graphs and charts to demonstrate results, and sometimes even uses animation to make a serious impact showing growth. Ljana’s favorite chart to use right now is the Donut Chart. Simple, sleek and modern – the donut is a great way to present both quantitative and qualitative data.



5. Typography

It is the golden rule of marketing to protect your brand and demonstrate a clear brand identity which means you probably have an official font, or at least a go-to that fits your brand. With that in mind, make sure you still have fun with the font you have experimenting with different sizing and boldness. Stay away from messiness like shadowing and make sure to use colors that match and are pleasing to the eye. Your font should pop on the background and be very clear and legible.

One of the most important things to remember when creating your deck is to be careful of how it will be received or displayed, meaning: Mac or PC. There are fonts that exist on both that do not exist on the other – and that cool font you downloaded from DaFont (our fave), is probably not on your VC’s computer already. So always either export to PDF (especially if you’re going the cool font route) or stick to a standard font found everywhere, like Arial. Ljana’s go-to font is Century Gothic because it is modern and clean and works everywhere.  She also recommends never going smaller than a size 13. No one should have to squint to read your deck.

Oh, and last but not least? Serifs are so 2001. Sans serif will completely modernize your deck.



6. Simplification

K.I.S.S. Keep it simple startups!

Simplification of main concepts and ideas is key to any great presentation. Creating simple yet resonant visuals that stick in your audiences’ mind helps communicate your message with maximum impact. This is not your annual report or even a press release. It’s tough to be concise, but that’s your mission every time a deck is involved. Summarize your thoughts and get right to the point – especially with Sir Richard Branson. He is famous for scoffing at powerpoints usually because there is just WAY too much information involved. The other key elements listed above will help you to achieve a simply, clean deck that cuts out a lot of unnecessary wording and clutter.



Last words?

“Don’t leave it until the last minute… or it will show. Anyone can create an amazing powerpoint presentation if take the time, and spend the effort making it flawless.” – Ljana.

Ljana was full of amazing tips and tricks for powerpoints and is an incredible resource for anyone able to make the investment. As vested supporters of the Extreme Tech Challenge, Stinson has graciously offered a break on pricing for your 10 slide pitch deck and can deliver before the deadline if you contact right away. As bootstrapped budgets are a reality for all of us, Ljana has made an exception to the normal rule of whole presentations only – and is willing to work with participants on piece meal projects for your XTC pitch such as: individual slides, graphics, and infographics. For pricing and information contact them right away so you can get your projects in before September 30th.

Check out Stinson’s site to view their impressive portfolio. This is what they can do for you:


Do you have any powerpoint tips you’d like to share? Tweet us @ExTechChallenge

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