Solid foundations

Great investor presentations all have a good story behind them – but they also have solid foundations, says Richard Rivlin.

We see way too many investor presentations that forget the basics: good structure; direct, impactful messaging; and a visual approach that allows the audience to understand the story easily. These basics are easily forgotten as executives become carried away with the ‘excitement’ of their story.

We’ve identified five key building blocks that will ensure your investor presentation rests on solid foundations:

1. Start with the mini story – the James Bond opening

  • Akin to a chess match; a sporting fixture or good novel, there are a number of smart ways to open an investment narrative.
  • We encourage you to tell the most striking features of the story in the initial five slides. Hear yourself telling a potential investor they can share the deck with their colleagues and get the essence of the story in the first few slides.
  • Some describe it as the elevator pitch. We prefer comparing it to the opening of a James Bond film. You are immediately drawn into the story and are absorbed by the characters, the setting and are keen to see what happens next.
  • Those first five slides, when delivered well, set the tone for the ongoing relationship between you and the investor.

2. If you are promising growth, highlight the drivers of the top line; If you are promising income, showcase cash generation

  • There are many different types of investors – institutions; hedge funds; family offices; endowments and their advisors and wealth managers.
  • As a rule, they would love all of their choices to blend the characteristics of the best growth and income companies.
  • So, focus. Commit to highlighting how you are going to deliver a return for them.
  • Emphasise how the top line will grow if you want a growth valuation and explain how you will generate excess cash which can be returned in dividends and buy-backs if you are an income play.
  • Repetition is no bad thing. Emphasise your key point at least five times in the deck.

3. We taste with our eyes, so design is critical

  • Get your slides designed in a compelling and coherent fashion. But don’t overdo it. Use someone who knows what they are doing with investor decks.
  • Smart, intelligent, thoughtful design that distinguishes your approach and why you are the smart pick in your space will pay back, time and time again.
  • How often have you read an article in The Economist or WSJ and been impressed by the graphic that gets to the root of the point? Simple, beautiful, communicative design. That is the benchmark for infographics delivered in an engaging and attractive way.
  • Short films that bring the operations of the business to life can also really drive the message home.

4. We decide with our ears, so conviction and confidence of delivery is vital

  • Good slides need to be delivered well, with calm confidence. Practising the delivery of the presentation is integral to the process.
  • One exercise we do is to get clients to close their eyes and listen to their colleagues deliver the pitch. They know straight away when they hear confident and compelling content. They also know when hesitation and nervousness creeps.

5. Delivering the deck is like a first date. How you handle the discussion and Q&A is akin to dates two and three…

  • Bad slides and presentations can be somewhat saved by how you handle the
    Q&A discussion. But you shouldn’t be in that position.
  • Good slides and presentations followed by bad Q&A discussions go nowhere.
  • Practice for the Q&A is common sense. You should feel confident in how you use the Appendix to have back up slides to help you amplify the message.

If you’d like some help structuring a key presentation, then get in touch.

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Richard Rivlin


I am fascinated by the art and science behind how to get effective responses to the work our clients do. And I’m as ambitious for our future as I was when we set sail on 11th March 2002.

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