Guy Kawasaki’s 10-20-30 Presentation Rule

Back in August, I attended the 2009 Toronto Information Overload Awareness Day event.  During that event, I was introduced to the Pecha Kucha presentation technique.  The Pecha Kucha format, in a nutshell, consists of 20 slides lasting 20 seconds each.

Recently, I came across Guy Kawasaki‘s 10-20-30 presentation rule, which I found to be very complimentary to both Pecha Kucha and the Ignite presentation formats.  Guy Kawasaki is currently a managing director of Garage Technology Ventures,   However, Guy is best known for his role in evangelizing the Macintosh brand for Apple.  He is also co-founder of Alltop, an emerging online magazine rack recently announcing their third version.

My Thoughts Enclosed…Rb

10-20-30 Presentation Rule

Per Guy Kawasaki, there should be only ten (10) slides in your presentation.  As a venture capitalist himself, Guy is fully aware of their initial short attention span during a pitch.  As such, the presentation should only last (20) minutes.  Additionally, you need to ensure enough brevity in your presentation to offset any technical setup issues, schedule conflicts, and Murphy’s Law.  Finally, your smallest font should be thirty (30) point.  He formulates that you should take the age of the oldest member of your audience and divide by two to equate your minimum font size (e.g. 60/2 = 30).

Having recently turned forty (the 10-20-30-40 rule?), I can relate to the fact that your target audience is no longer capable of reading 12 point at a distance.  Knowing your target audience and catering to their pain points is a tenet of Business 101.  This should apply in your presentation layout as it would in your actual business plan.

These rules force you to know your presentation before actually presenting it.  Only the core of your text should be on your slides.  If you are simply reading the presented material verbatim, your audience is capable of reading faster than you speak and will be reading ahead as opposed to actually listening.

The 10-20-30 Presentation Rule in summation:

  • 10 Slides
  • 20 Minutes
  • 30 Point Minimum Font Size

Textual Transcript

Guy Kawasaki’s textual transcript of his 10-20-30 Presentation Rule can be found here with the main points quoted below.

Ten slides. Ten is the optimal number of slides in a PowerPoint presentation because a normal human being cannot comprehend more than ten concepts in a meeting—and venture capitalists are very normal. (The only difference between you and venture capitalist is that he is getting paid to gamble with someone else’s money). If you must use more than ten slides to explain your business, you probably don’t have a business. The ten topics that a venture capitalist cares about are:

  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

Twenty minutes. You should give your ten slides in twenty minutes. Sure, you have an hour time slot, but you’re using a Windows laptop, so it will take forty minutes to make it work with the projector. Even if setup goes perfectly, people will arrive late and have to leave early. In a perfect world, you give your pitch in twenty minutes, and you have forty minutes left for discussion.

Thirty-point font. The majority of the presentations that I see have text in a ten point font. As much text as possible is jammed into the slide, and then the presenter reads it. However, as soon as the audience figures out that you’re reading the text, it reads ahead of you because it can read faster than you can speak. The result is that you and the audience are out of synch.

Creating An Effective Scientific Poster Presentation

The University of Minnesota posted a nice tutorial on effective scientific poster presentation.   Specifically they have a section on creating legible text.  I believe these guidelines go well with Guy’s 30 point text rule.  They recommend limiting the fonts to either Times New Roman or Arial.  The use of black text of a light background is still ideal for reading purposes.   The use of colour should be used for highlighting text and not competing with it.  White space is still highly recommended and sticking to larger font sizes achieves this goal.  Paragraphs should only be used for outlining logic.  Whereas, short lists (4 items) should be commonly used for outlining content.

Image: University of Minnesota


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