Pitch tips from the founder of Canva

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I consider Carmine Gallo as one of the foremost experts on presentations and pitching. He has written several books, including my favorite, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, and often writes articles for the business press about presentations. Four Remarkably Simple Pitch Tips From An Entrepreneur Who Turned Her Idea Into a $2.5B ‘Unicorn’ is a typical Gallo article in which he elucidates tips from Melanie Perkins, co-founder and CEO of Canva, a provider of online design tools. Here are her four presentation tips:

  1. Share your origin story. This is one of my favorites tips. I advise my mentees to start their presentations with the story of how and more importantly, why, they started their company. Story telling is one of the oldest and best communications techniques. The origin story is a great way to introduce the problems you are solving. While teaching design at university Perkins observed how difficult tools like Adobe Photoshop or InDesign – the students were completely overwhelmed.

 “They were struggling just to learn the very basics. There were so many buttons and it would take months to learn…I wanted to make design ridiculously simple.”

  1. Use feedback to refine your pitch. Melanie Perkins was rejected hundreds of times. But rather than give up, she and her partners used each rejection as an opportunity to improve their pitch or their strategy. Your pitch has to help investors understand the market and the gap you are planning to fill.
  2. Make each slide as simple as possible. Again this is advice I give virtually every founder, as virtually every founder crams two or more messages onto each slide.  I’ve found the reason that they do this is that they are afraid they will leave out an important point. Well, putting two or more important points on one slide insures the audience won’t remember either!

Perkins recommends that each slide contain just one point—one key message. Trying to include more than one message per slide results in confusion, and confusing messages are easy to ignore.

4. Show it in pictures. Steve Jobs was a master of pitches and he followed this rule religiously.  I’ve been on a one-man crusade against bullet point presentations. But let’s face it, creating graphics in PowerPoint is hard; it’s so much easier to create a slide full of bullet points – violating principle three. This was one problem the founders of Canva set out to solve by creating a drag-and-drop tool to make it easy to add and edit photos while staying in Canva.

When Perkins and her co-founders learned that former Apple Macintosh Evangelist Guy Kawasaki was using Canva they arranged to meet with him. Within a few weeks, he had signed on Canva’s Chief Evangelist. I knew Guy slightly as he was a consultant to the Silicon Valley Bank when SVB was an investor and strategic partner of Throughline. And I’m a big fan of his book Startup 2.0.

Canva’s presentations must be pretty good as the company just announced a new round of funding, valuing the company at $2.5 billion!


Author: Mentorphile

Mentor, coach, and advisor to entrepreneurs, small businesses, and non-profit organizations. General manager with significant experience in both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Focus on media and information. On founding team of four venture-backed companies. Currently Chairman of Popsleuth, Inc., maker of the Endorfyn app for keeping fans updated on new stuff from their favorite artists.

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