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Presentation Expert Tip: The 10-Minute Rule

August 8, 2014 / Blog, Experts, Presentation Science, Rick Enrico Blog, Tips & Tricks 10-minute rule, Carmine Gallo, presentation expert, presentation tips

Attention spans are getting shorter and shorter these days. While most of the bored audience members won’t literally leave their seats to walk out of the room, they can easily check their phones under the table. What would a presentation expert do to get the show back on track? Brand communication expert Carmine Gallo says it’s as simple as re-engaging your audience every 10 minutes.

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During presentations, audiences mentally tune out because they’re not given chances to fully digest what they’re learning. Gallo suggests creating soft breaks in your presentation after every 10 minutes. Give the audience a bit of a mental break with something fun and engaging.

To put this presentation expert tip into practice, consider these things to reel in your audience back:


Show off what you can do before anyone’s attention starts wander off. Yours might be the best product in a specific market, but the audience won’t care if you’ve already lost their attention. Do your demo during the main part of the presentation. This will make it more relevant and impressive.

michael pollan - demonstration
Michael Pollan drives home his point with a demonstration.

Demonstrations also work for other types of presentations, not just pitches. Michael Pollan’s presentation at Pop!Tech is a great example. His goal was to make people more critical of their food choices. In order to drive home his point, he used a few props to demonstrate just how much crude oil goes into making a double cheeseburger. View his presentation here.


As Carmine Gallo puts it, today’s world is a “multimedia environment.” Powerful visuals dominate our lives, from the videos we watch on YouTube to the billboards we come across during our commute. But for some reason, few presenters think of incorporating this multimedia frenzy to their PowerPoint presentations.

Adding videos to your slide is an easy way to create soft breaks. Make use of testimonials, expert interviews, or your company’s ad campaigns to give your slides an engaging dimension. You can also make use of videos to tell your company story.

Just think of Tokyo’s pitch to host the 2020 Olympics. The team made use of several videos to enhance their presentation. The videos they chose gave their pitch a more human element, as well. The entire presentation had four different videos showcasing Japan’s young athletes.

Audience Participation

Another way to incorporate soft breaks into your presentation is by encouraging audience participation. Sometimes, presenters tend to focus too much on their slides that they forget about the people they’re addressing. Step away from your deck once in a while to pose a question or ask for opinions. As we’ve mentioned earlier, it’s all about being creative. Come up with questions that will make your audience pause and think.

In her TEDx talk, linguist Anne Curzan discussed how new words make it to the dictionary. Her topic was already interesting in itself, but she made it more engaging by involving the audience. Not only were her questions relevant to the points she made, they also made the audience laugh.

Other speakers

There are some things you can’t do on your own. From time to time, that includes presentations. For presentations that are particularly long, try to get the other people in your team involved. That way, your audience can hear from a set of different voices and perspectives.

Craig Federighi - other speakers
Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering, talks about the new iOS 8.

Take a look at Apple’s product launches. Both Steve Jobs and Tim Cook would easily hand off the mic to other players in their team, giving the audience a chance to learn more about the new products from those who played an active role in developing it. Here’s a quick clip of Tim Cook and Craig Federighi introducing iOS 8.


Activities might not work for all presentations, but they’re perfect for seminars and workshops. Break up your training sessions into small, 10-minute segments by incorporating some creative activities. Try to come up with things they can do that will also test their comprehension.

This is good for you in two ways. Not only will you keep your audience from getting bored, you can also test the effectively of your presentation and adjust accordingly.

These are just some suggestions presentation expert Carmine Gallo enumerates to help you with the 10-minute rule. All of these tips serve as a way to re-engage your audience with elements that some presentations lack.

The most important thing you need to remember is that people tend to drift off quite easily. If you want your presentation to succeed, you have to work hard to keep everyone’s attention on you.

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Featured Image: Alan Cleaver via Flickr