Almost every scientific presentation ends with a picture of the lab members. Some presenters go further and show pictures of other collaborators, donors, etc. Presenters seem to think this indicates a generosity of spirit.

Such slides accomplish little. The pictures are only visible for a short time and the audience is not paying attention. Even if the lab member is in the audience, they remain anonymous. They may get a fleeting moment of pride, but nothing more.

Instead, the speaker should ask the contributing lab members to stand up. This will allow the audience to see who contributed and it may lead to audience members engaging them; a valuable experience for postdocs and graduate students.

And by the way, there is nothing more frustrating than hearing a PI conclude a talk by saying that a certain post-doc did most of the work. WHY THEN ISN'T THAT POSTDOC GIVING THE TALK? The PI's should teach that postdoc to develop and deliver the talk. The PI's role is to train the postdoc; not to hog all the glory while treating trainees like human pipettes!

A typical initial venture capital pitch should be 10 minutes and should not go over. VCs generally have little patience and typically review many pitches.

The following elements should be included in the pitch (this list is adapted from the Southern California Biomedical Council (

1) A opening that describes the problem and the potential solution

2) A description of the technology/product, how it improves the situation, how it is different from other approaches.

3) The business strategy and competitive landscape. How will your product penetrate the market and begin to make money?

4) The team of engineers, scientists, and business people involved

5) What's been accomplished to date

6) The next milestone and the resources needed to get there.

I would also add one slide that shows representative data demonstrating that you have done preliminary engineering or scientific work.

Keep in mind that the purpose of the "pitch" is to get in the front door. You can't "prove" your solution "works" in this pitch. Moreover, the VCs tend to be business people who will bring in consulting scientists and engineers to evaluate your product, should your 10 minute pitch be successful.

I would give the same advice as for a presentation to an academic audience, or in fact for any audience. "Script out" what you want to say prior to making slides and include only slides that tell that story.

The bottom line: one slide to show you ran a lot of numbers and one slide demonstrating an interesting, realistic, and more qualitative financial insight.

An initial pitch to a potential venture funder is typically 10 minutes and includes a financial projection. Since the finances are only one part of such a pitch, there is very little time to discuss any detail. A second problem is that the numbers are often unrealistic. Many pitches are for early stage developments and there is really little basis for making any sort of financial projections.

So what can you realistically and honestly do? First you can demonstrate that you've taken this seriously by showing one slide with a lot of financial data, but tell the audience that they shouldn't try to read the data, you are only showing it to "prove" you've ran the numbers for many cases. Don't try to explain financial trends with some sore of "spread sheet like" slide. Just use it to assert you due diligence, nothing more, and move off it quickly.

You can then show a second slide that proves you are being realistic and tamps down the obvious exaggerations that often go into these pitches. By exaggeration I mean the typical assumption that a new product will achieve massive market penetration. Most new products typically help a subset of patients in a subcategory of a particular disease (e.g. moderately high blood sugar as opposed to all diabetics). You might show a simple slide that shows how the financial numbers vary depending on which subsets it can penetrate. You might show a slide that discusses how the numbers vary depending on the price of the product, etc.. The key thing is to have one slide that shows you have insight into how the finances behave and you are being realistic.

Remember, you can't "prove" anything about finances in such a short presentation, so you have two goals: show you've taken finance seriously and demonstrate some insight that shows you are realistic and smart.