Man and woman watching presentation

The 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint Presentations

posted by Bob Mills

Former Apple-brand-evangelist-turned-venture-capitalist Guy Kawasaki has listened to hundreds of entrepreneurs pitch their ideas, hoping to get funding for their business ventures. Most of these pitches are “crap” (his words): “60 slides about patent pending”, “first mover advantage” and “all we have to do get 1% of the people in China to buy it.” After years of listening to pitches like these, he’s made it his mission to promote the 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint.

It’s quite simple: a PowerPoint presentation should have 10 slides, last no more than 20 minutes, and contain no font smaller than 30 points.

Ten slides, he argues, is the optimal number because no normal person can understand and retain more than 10 concepts in the course of a business meeting. How you select those 10 slides is up to you, but typically they will identify the problem, present your solution, talk about how to achieve it, who will do it, the timeline and a summary.

Twenty minutes is the amount of time it should take. Never mind that you have an hour for the presentation. Get it done in 20 minutes and you’ll have an extra 40 for discussion.

Thirty points for the font. How many times have you looked at slides filled with paragraphs and bullet points of 10 point text? It’s as much text as anyone could fit on the screen. To add insult to injury, the presenter proceeds to read the text! Of course, the audience figures this out and begins to read it too, putting them out of synch with the presenter.

Like most of you, I’ve done many presentations – business pitches, reports to clients, speeches to fellow communicators and classroom lectures – and I’ll admit I’ve broken every one of these rules. The 30 point rule I can abide by – it just makes sense to use a visual medium like PowerPoint to present visual images. Ten slides? That’s a challenge, so if it slips to 15 I don’t care. Twenty minutes – that’s the hardest one, but it’s a great tip. Always leave them asking for more and you’ll have lots to talk about when the discussion begins.

Additional Resources

Fix Your Presentations: 21 Quick Tips
How to Give a Killer Presentation
The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs


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