Creating a Pitch Deck: Simplify Your Message

01 Jul 2016

Jake Fisher

Jake Fisher is the founding partner at Venture Formations. Jake serves as a startup advisor helping entrepreneurs through the funding process.

Can you fully explain your company in one sentence? If you can’t, you might want to think long and hard about either simplifying your message or your business model before attempting to create a pitch deck.

A vision slide is easily my favorite slide in a pitch deck; I also believe it is a crucial element to any pitch deck. A vision slide will help the audience fully understand what a company does and why they are great in a matter of seconds. More often than not, when I am critiquing a pitch deck, I will get through slide four or five and still have no idea what the company does. The vision slide, in the simplest terms, provides a frame of reference for interpreting the data that is to come.

The XYZ statement

As the base of the vision slide, you need an XYZ statement: we help X accomplish Y through Z. This statement may seem straightforward and sound easy to complete, but almost every time I have an entrepreneur write one, it turns into a run-on sentence that is far too long. When you’re at a family reunion and old aunt Kathy asks what you do, I’d be willing to bet you have pulled out the cop-out line of, “I work for an Internet company” or, “I’m a computer engineer.” If you can’t explain what your business does to old aunt Kathy in one sentence, then you need to simplify your message or business model.

Let’s take a look at an example XYZ statement:

“We help entrepreneurs easily hire advisors through our IOS app.”

This statement should be located on slide two of your pitch deck. Your audience learned the name of your company and maybe a catchy company slogan on slide one. As catchy as your slogan may be, it often doesn’t really explain what you do. Consider the following slogans:

  • Coke: “Taste the Feeling”
  • McDonald’s: “I’m lovin’ it”
  • Nike: “Just do it”

These slogans make for great marketing, but they don’t explain to investors what you do. This is why a XYZ statement is crucial; it lets the investor immediately understand who the customer is, what you are doing for them and how you are doing it.


Also on StartupNation.com: The Anatomy of a Pitch Deck


Creating your XYZ statement

Here is the breakdown of your XYZ statement:

X: Your customer

When thinking about your target market and target customer, what are the characteristics used to describe them? Are there multiple types of target customers? After you have answered those questions, sum up your answer into a couple of words.

Y: The benefit you provide to the customer

What benefit does your customer receive from your good or service? Why are they reaching for their credit card and clicking “buy now?” Maybe your service saves the user time completing a task or makes a complicated task simple to complete. Your product or service could simply provide the benefit of making the customer feel good.

Z: How you provide the benefit

This is the execution of your product or service. For example: we help X accomplish Y through an iPhone app, or we help X accomplish Y through customized client software.

Any industry, good or service can apply what they do in this statement. By doing so, you are setting the stage for your presentation and giving the audience a frame of reference for the information they are about to receive.

Applying the concept

Let’s apply this concept to a company everyone knows, UBER. The company’s slogan is, “Everyone’s Private Driver.” This is a great slogan, and actually comes very close to an XYZ statement, but let’s apply the XYZ concept and see what we get.

Who is UBER’s customer?

They have decided that everyone is their customer, so lets stick with that.

What benefit does UBER provide?

They give everyone access to a private driver.

How does UBER provide this benefit?

Tap the app, get a ride.

The UBER XYZ statement:

We give everyone access to a private driver by tapping the app and getting a ride.

Through this statement, any investor, even if they don’t have a background in tech or residential transportation, can now better understand the stats and data that are to come in the rest of the pitch.

Even old aunt Kathy can now grasp what you do for a living if you worked at UBER.

Before you go out and start creating your pitch deck, make sure you are able to clearly communicate the basics of your company.

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