I posted a really non-technical thing a few days ago about a walking or pitch deck for myself on LinkedIn, and I got flooded with personal messages about it (both LinkedIn and email). I thought I’d break down what I think makes a good deck, how to build one, and some examples of other great decks that can help you hone yours.
- What is a personal pitch deck or a walking deck?
- Organizational Structure
- Other tips
What is a personal pitch deck or a walking deck?
But first, we should probably talk about what this even is. Think of a walking or personal pitch deck like a resume, only more personal and relatable. It’s really about telling your story in a way that a resume by itself can’t. Resumes are just facts and figures–a list of data points and accomplishments. It’s like the asking someone to evaluate the taste of a food by looking at a nutrition label. Sure, it tells you what nutrients are in there, but it doesn’t do anything to convey the flavor.
That’s a resume: a nutrition label for your career.
A deck is a taste test of what it’s like to interact with you–frequently with pictures, art, quotes, or other personal items that define more of the who of who you are. It helps your team and prospective hiring managers get to know you. One of my early managers at Microsoft really reinforced the idea of building and maintaining a personal brand, and a pitch deck is the perfect way to highlight it.
So, let’s break down how I built my personal deck.
The salient data points I’m trying to convey in my pitch deck include things that are important to me, some of my jobs along the way, personal and career highlights, core values, and references. We’ll go into how I incorporate them, as well as ideas for other things to include.
This one’s pretty basic–it’s really setting the stage for what the presentation is going to look like. In my case, I highlight both professional and personal attributes in a way that telegraphs to the reader what kind of a ride they’re in for.
Hint: the ride is a little bit casual and involves pizza.
In the personal background section, I talk mainly about my family. They’re literally the most important thing to me, so anyone who gets to know me will instantly get to know about my kids. And maybe some fun facts.
Some of these pieces will get highlighted later, so pay attention.
This is where I start to transition away from personal things to more professional things. I start off with some early jobs that aren’t really connected to my current career, but show a steady progression towards it.
Many of us have shared, relatable experiences in our first jobs, so I don’t provide a whole lot of detail here. I personally find it beneficial to use some of these early jobs to establish a connection with the audience.
Moving on, I start talking about my career-related experiences, and will finally land on my current role.
I attempt to intertwine experiences, responsibilities, and accomplishments in these slides.
A core values slide (as well as core strengths slide, if you elect to use it) is a great place to discuss the things that make you tick.
I use my core values slide to highlight the importance of family, my personal work ethic, and how they drive my approach to prioritization. I also link some of my past and current jobs with how I view interpersonal relationships.
Quotes, testimonials, or personal endorsements
This “brag page” is a fantastic way to highlight things that others have to say about you. It’s a good way to highlight items from your LinkedIn recommendations or other feedback you’ve received.
I chose to highlight two past work relationships and two current work relationships.
Call to action
Finally, the call-to-action page is a great place to put any wrap-up and contact information.
Depending on the goal of your deck, you may want to highlight additional external content (such as blogs, portfolios, articles, or other publications) as well.
Other Slide Ideas
You’ve seen the slides I chose. Here are some other great ideas you can incorporate into your deck, depending on your role, career aspirations, or previous work experience.
Similar to core values, core strengths might be things like communication, timeliness, follow-through, or other traits. For me, I’d probably showcase that I make a really good Detroit-style pizza sauce.
This is especially important for designers (graphic or UX designers), artists, and programmers. A few screenshots of your creative ability really shows your skills off better than words alone.
Well-known projects you’ve worked on
If you’ve been a part of really big projects or things that are well-known, don’t be afraid to highlight them.
Information about some of your customers or market
Who are your primary customers? What industries have you served or worked in? This can be used to highlight depth or breadth of experience. Obviously, don’t put anything that would violate privacy or confidentiality–if you’re advertising yourself this way to potential employers, it’s a not a good look.
What makes you stand out from the rest of the pack?
There are a few other things I like to keep in mind when revisiting my pitch deck from time to time:
- Build a story. Make an effort to connect the dots between things like core values, strengths, career highlights, or quotes and testimonials. It helps people see that what you say is important to you actually is important to you.
- Keep it moving. Most of us love talking about ourselves. It’s tempting to add a billion details and things you find interesting or exciting about yourself. Evaluate them–are they things where you “had to be there” for it to be cool? Is it interesting to just an audience of one? Just pick a handful of (hopefully diverse) tidbits.
- Keep it short, but also don’t leave out important areas. Like the previous point, you’re doing this as a quick get-to-know you. Filling up pages with text that’s been cut-and-pasted from your resume doesn’t really add anything new or interesting. There’s two ways to look at this–in either a total page count sort of way (anything less than four pages is too short; more than a dozen pages is too much) if you’ve got content/word-heavy slides or in a more time-conscious way, where you want the reader to be able to consume everything you’ve got in 2-3 minutes (so, maybe you do 20 slides that have about 8-10 seconds of content each).
- Style it judiciously. Just like anything written, a pitch deck isn’t an exercise where you try to use every font on your computer. Typically, the best strategy is to pick one or two easy-to-read fonts and just go with them.
- Try to steer clear of animation and video. Depending on who is viewing it, their platform may not be able to render it things like transitions, animations, or videos correctly. It may get printed out. It may get exported as a PDF. The last thing you want is a massive build slide that appears all together on the reader’s screen or a piece of paper.
- Publish it as a non-editable file (like a PDF). Don’t distribute a Word document or a PowerPoint presentation. If you followed the previous tip, this will be pretty easy to ensure a solid result. Pro tip: If you have access to a service like LinkedIn Sales Navigator, you can upload your deck and post it as a Smart Link, potentially giving you the ability to see who viewed it. If you want to see how a Smart Link looks, check out my pitch deck as a Smart Link here: https://www.linkedin.com/smart-links/AQESV8roTl7ftw.
- Be technical in the details–check (and check again) for grammar, syntax, or spelling issues. This is part of your personal brand–and you don’t want your personal brand to be “doesn’t know how to use built-in tools to put together a good presentation.”
- Keep it fresh. Just like you update your resume periodically, you’ll want to do the same for your pitch deck.
- Finally, don’t be afraid to let your personality show. Hiring is as much (or even more) about personality and culture fit as it is about existing knowledge and skills. Anyone can learn a skill or technology or process, but not everyone can adapt to a team culture. A good pitch deck will help people visualize how you’d fit in with their team.
I’ve found a few good examples floating around and posted links to them below. If you happen to find more that you think can help out others (or want to share you own), let me know in the comments and I’ll be sure to link to them!