Slidegenius, Inc.

Guy Kawasaki’s 10-20-30 Rule of Presentation: Is It Still Relevant?

PowerPoint is a superb presentation tool, which, when used properly, can be an effective visual aid for professional speakers. However, at the hands of inexperienced presenters who have no eye for design, it can pave the way for jarring and unattractive slides. Sad to say, the world of business is teeming with mediocre pitch decks that just don’t do justice to the ability of PowerPoint as a great design tool. Luckily, there are people like Canva Chief Evangelist Guy Kawasaki, who can show the noobs how it should be done.

Kawasaki advocated the 10-20-30 Rule of PowerPoint, which banks on the idea that a presentation “should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points.” Although Kawasaki originally meant it to be for entrepreneurs and startup business owners, this principle applies to all types of presentations. By following this guide, you can avoid basic design mistakes and ultimately stand out from the vast sea of lackluster presentations.

Why the 10-20-30 Rule Is Still Relevant Today

Kawasaki’s 10-20-30 Rule is now more than a decade old—which, we can all agree, is a long time for any virtual rule to last, what with the constant and almost abrupt changes that technology makes. Although PowerPoint is still the most recognizable presentation design software in recent history, it’s no longer the only one in the book. A number of competitors have emerged, and they all have something relevant to offer. Apart from that, the way people use PowerPoint has also changed over time. What was invaluable ten years ago may not be as important today.

Now, this begs the question, “Does the 10-20-30 Rule still apply?” The answer to this is short and clear: YES. Here’s why.

1. Presenters still cram several ideas into one pitch deck

You’d think a lot would have changed in a decade. Well, in the case of slide design, nothing much has improved. Don’t get this wrong—agencies specializing in presentation design have emerged over the years, and they have indeed elevated the landscape. It’s the individual presenters who have not fully maximized the use of PowerPoint that still make the same mistakes. Despite professionals strongly advising against it, some presenters still cram multiple ideas into one pitch deck. They don’t even bother to filter out the unnecessary stuff and keep only the crucial points.

When Kawasaki first proposed the 10-20-30 Rule, he also suggested ten topics for the ten slides: the problem, the solution, the business model, the underlying technology, sales and marketing, the competition, the team, projections and milestones, status and timeline, and summary and call to action.

So, instead of filling each slide with unnecessary text, why not try to identify your salient points first and then make an outline based on them? Use as little text as possible to avoid overwhelming your audience with a barrage of ideas. If a slide isn’t necessary, do away with it. Remember, you are the star of your presentation, not the pitch deck or anything else. Make sure that all focus remains on you.

Are You Looking for a Pitch Deck?
View Our Amazing Pitch Deck Examples!

2. People’s attention span is getting shorter

We’re in the age of social media, where the best content is short and fast, and people appreciate things that don’t take much of their time. Attention spans have become relatively shorter, to the point that people are growing more impatient and expectant—a combination that is hard to satisfy. This is why when delivering a presentation, you should always be considerate of your audience’s time and level of interest. Even if you’re given an hour to present, prepare for a speech that doesn’t last longer than twenty minutes. You can use the extra time for setting up your equipment or holding a Q&A session.

“But I have something extremely important to say!” you may argue. Well, that doesn’t give you any reason to go beyond the suggested time frame. Look at the universally-renowned TED talks for example. Speakers are expected to deliver their speeches in eighteen minutes or less, and that doesn’t stop them from communicating brilliant ideas that are worth sharing. If you have an imposed time constraint, you’ll be forced to edit your speech meticulously until it’s down to the bare necessities. Trim down all the unnecessary stuff so that you can put the essentials in the spotlight.

3. Readability is a crucial factor that’s still being sidelined

The number one rule of presentations is simple: The audience is the boss. Wherever you are in the presentation process, you should always put the audience at the forefront of your mind. For instance, what the people at the front row sees should be seen clearly by those in the back row as well. Optimize the font size of your text to accommodate all of your viewers. When you see people squinting at your slide, take the hint that something’s not right.

Another reason why the thirty-point-font rule should still be reinforced today is that it encourages you to limit the number of words you can put in each slide. As much as possible, don’t overload your slides with information. Remember that your goal is not to bombard your audience with ideas but to present them a few that can change their lives for the better.

Is the 10-20-30 Rule Absolute?

Kawasaki didn’t mean for the 10-20-30 Rule to be followed religiously by all business presenters. Instead, he set it as a guideline for people who want to improve their pitch decks, and consequently, their presentations. The fact remains that each situation is unique, so there’s no hard-and-fast rule that applies to all.

Instead of asking how many slides you should have, ask how many you need. Also, instead of going with the twenty-minute rule, why not apply the one-third rule, which suggests that the length of your speech should be one-third of the time you’re given? That is, after all, the original idea that Kawasaki proposed. Lastly, you can bend the thirty-point-font rule without breaking it. It’s only the minimum font size recommended, so you can go higher as the number of words you use per slide decreases. Ultimately, you should consider the needs of your audience instead of mindlessly jumping on the bandwagon. What works for one may not always work for you.

Twelve years later and Kawasaki’s 10-20-30 rule is still as effective as ever. If every presenter applies these three timeless guidelines, the landscape of presentation design will be infinitely better.

Resources:

Dlugan, Andrew. “The 10-20-30 Rule: Guy Kawasaki on PowerPoint.” Six Minutes. June 10, 2010. sixminutes.dlugan.com/10-20-30-rule-guy-kawasaki-powerpoint

Jonson, Laura. “The 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint: Does It Still Work?” SlideShare. January 13, 2016. blog.slideshare.net/2016/01/13/the-102030-rule-of-powerpoint-does-it-still-work

Kawasaki, Guy. “The 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint.” Guy Kawasaki. December 30, 2005. guykawasaki.com/the_102030_rule

“Follow the 10-20-30 Rule for a Perfect PowerPoint Presentation.” Presentation Load. October 17, 2013. blog.presentationload.com/follow-10-20-30-rule-perfect-powerpoint-presentation

Apply the 10/20/30 Rule to Your PowerPoint Presentations Now

Guy Kawasaki is a successful venture capitalist who has been writing books about the trade since 1987.

A few years back, he wrote a short blog advocating a simple rule for PowerPoint & pitch deck presentations. He called it the 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint.

According to the 10/20/30 rule:

…a PowerPoint presentation should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points.

Kawasaki came up with this quick presentation style due to his line of business, citing how he’d often listen to dozens of pitches in a short period of time.

However, even if you’re not in the venture capital business, the 10/20/30 rule can still be applicable to your goals.

Given people’s increasingly shortening attention spans, keeping your presentation compact can save all of you time while still getting the meat of your message across.

Here we expound on each of Kawasaki’s points. But first, the 10/20/30 Rule in his own words:

Rule #1: 10 Slides

Kawasaki pointed out that it’s challenging to comprehend more than ten concepts in a meeting.

Most people assume that you need to be highly detailed in order to be impressive, but this isn’t always the case.

The 10/20/30 rule also suggests that you use the ten slides to tackle all the topics important to your audience. For a venture capitalist, these topics are the following:

  1. Problem
  2. Your solution
  3. Business model
  4. Underlying magic/technology
  5. Marketing and sales
  6. Competition
  7. Team
  8. Projections and milestones
  9. Status and timeline
  10. Summary and call to action

Use this list as a guide when you’re trying to condense your presentations into neat, salient points.

Depending on the type of presentation you’re giving, you can tweak these to fit your purpose, but try to keep your slides to a minimum, with a visible flow like the one above.

Rule #2: 20 Minutes

You should be done with your ten-slide presentation in twenty minutes.

Kawasaki would often allot an hour to hear an entrepreneurial pitch, but most of the time gets lost in other things. (For instance, your laptop might take a while to sync with the projector.)

Emergencies might also pull your audience away from the meeting. It’s best to keep your presentation short so that you’ll also have time to address questions and other concerns.

Rule #3: 30-pt Font Size

Kawasaki observed that the only reason people used smaller font sizes is to be able to cram huge chunks of text into a slide.

In doing so, your audience may perceive that you’re not familiar with the material and that you’re using the PowerPoint as a teleprompter.

The 10/20/30 rule forces you to use a larger font, so you can cut back on unnecessary details. Remember: you’re the one who has to do the talking, not your PowerPoint presentation.

10 slides in 20 minutes using a font no smaller than 30 points. Easy enough, right?

Are You Looking for a custom-designed PowerPoint Pitch Deck? Schedule a FREE presentation consultation now!

Featured Image: Lostium Project via Flickr

Win First Impressions with Great PowerPoint Presentations

First impressions impact business partnerships in positive and negative ways, possibly even torpedoing a promising opportunity.

Make amazing first impressions consistent with great PowerPoint presentations.

SlideGenius Blog Module One

Get hundreds of PowerPoint slides for free.

Sign up for your free account today.

Sign Up now

Even the best speakers can only do so much. To give audiences a clearer picture, you need a deck that reflects your talent, passion, and dedication.

Consistently seal the deal by making winning pitches with these tips:

Plan Ahead

To determine what should and shouldn’t be in your slides, ask yourself:

What do you want to say?
How do you want to say it?
Why should your audience care about your offer?

Knowing your objectives focuses your presentation, letting you know exactly what you want to say, how you want to say it, and why your audience should care.

Planning ahead and determining your objectives give you a better idea of your presentation’s flow, letting you set a unifying story to engage your audience. These lead to more benefits in the long run.

Keep It Short

The best PowerPoint presentations keep it short but straightforward.

Don’t turn your deck into mere bullet points of your speech. Nothing tunes out an audience more than a presenter reading straight from his projected slides.

Renowned Silicon Valley marketing specialist Guy Kawasaki is a proponent of the 10/20/30 rule. He believes that effective presentations need only ten slides.

While this isn’t a strict rule, it’s a good guide to keep your deck lean and mean. According to him, these are the most important parts to discuss in your deck:

  1. Problem
  2. Solution
  3. Business Model
  4. Underlying Magic/Technology
  5. Marketing and Sales
  6. Competition
  7. Team
  8. Projections and Milestones
  9. Status and Timeline
  10. Summary and Call-to-Action

There are many variations for winning slide combinations, but this quick guide is a reasonable place to start making your own winning deck.

Show, Don’t Tell

Investment PowerPoint slides

Pictures speak a thousand words, but so can other multimedia elements. Videos and simple animations are ideal for keeping your audiences interested because people think visually, with images being processed 60,000 times faster than text.

Why waste a hundred words spread across two slides for something that can be explained by one image, graph, chart, or video?

Imbue Your Deck with Passion

Potential clients won’t believe a halfhearted presentation. Put passion into your deck by giving it a powerful central story.

People relate better to a narrative they can personally connect with. Research your audience beforehand and figure out a story that help them understand you better.

Portray your competitors or central problem as a villain, and yourself and your product as the protagonist. Structure your presentation as a narrative with an exposition, a climax, and a conclusion. Bring much needed life into a presentation by using storytelling elements to hook your listeners in.

Conclusion

When introducing your brand, audiences aren’t only judging you, but your whole presentation, too.

Be your personal best when facing the crowd. As a representative of a bigger picture, you can’t deny the importance of having a professional-looking deck to back you up.

If you need to make a winning first impression now, contact our slide geniuses for consistently great PowerPoint Presentations that seal the deal. Contact us now for a free quote!

SlideGenius Blog Module One

Download free PowerPoint templates now.

Get professionally designed PowerPoint slides weekly.

Sign Up Now

References

Craft Your Corporate Presentations into a Great Story.” SlideGenius, Inc. May 15, 2015. Accessed June 22, 2015.
Why Every SEO Strategy Needs Infographics.” WMG. 2014. Accessed June 22, 2015.
The 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint.” Guy Kawasaki. 2005. Accessed June 22, 2015.

You’re Doing It Wrong: PowerPoint Rules You Should Be Following

For years now, people have been relying on PowerPoint to communicate ideas, sell products, facilitate meetings, and conferences. Many presenters, however, still fall short and end up with lousy, poorly designed slides that do nothing but torture their audience. Thankfully, there are experts in the field who have set the rules or standards for others to follow.

SlideGenius Blog Module One

Get hundreds of PowerPoint slides for free.

Sign up for your free account today.

Sign Up now

After a quick search, we found two sets of the most popular PowerPoint rules that many people subscribe to. Both may not be all-encompassing but they are excellent guidelines, nonetheless.

Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint

Guy Kawasaki is a venture capitalist, among other things. If we’re going to talk about quality and importance of simplicity in presentation design, he’s the go-to, well, Guy. He practically listens to hundreds of pitches all the time, making him knowledgeable of what works and doesn’t. For him, a PowerPoint presentation should:

  • Feature 10 slides or less
  • Last no more than 20 minutes
  • Contain font not smaller than 30pt

This rule is applicable to pitches and office meetings. And because most people cannot absorb more than 10 concepts in a single meeting, it is best that you limit your presentation to 10 slides. The 20-minute duration should give you enough time to host a Q and A discussion afterwards. A 30-point typeface will make information on a slide large enough to be readable without making it look too crowded.

Seth Godin’s Five Rules for Creating Amazing Presentations

Seth Godin is a man of many interests and as a public speaker, he’s no stranger to PowerPoint presentations. He even wrote an e-book about it.

If you want to create an amazing presentation, here are the points we have taken from the book:

  1. Use no more than six words on every slide (If you include too much text, the audience will simply read the slides ahead of you).
  2. Do not use cheesy images and look for professional stock photos instead.
  3. Avoid fancy transitions such as dissolves, spins, etc, as these can be distracting, making you seem less professional.
  4. Use sound effects, but not the built-in types. You may want to rip from CDs or use the “Proust effect.”
  5. Do not provide print collateral at the start of the meeting. You want your audience to focus on the presentation, not read ahead of you.

Great presentations can trigger the right emotions, inspire change, and move people. These two sets of rules can raise the level of your next presentation from boring to life-changing. You don’t need to choose between the two, though. Applying both of them is sure to produce excellent results. But whatever you do, here’s another rule for you to remember. This one’s from presentation expert Nancy Duarte:

Never deliver a presentation you would not want to sit through.

Now, if there’s One PowerPoint Rule to rule them all, that would be it.

SlideGenius Blog Module One

Download free PowerPoint templates now.

Get professionally designed PowerPoint slides weekly.

Sign Up Now