Breathtaking 20 Minute Presentations: Write, Design & Deliver 

20 Minute Presentations can change the world, not exaggerating. You have your big idea, the game changing message. All you have to do now is convince and win over your audience. It’s crucial for your presentation to be air tight. You need to REALLY grasp your audience. You cannot afford a single member zoning out when you convey this revolutionary idea. You CANNOT enlist yourself with the crappy presenters of the world. What would you then do? 

Read along to learn how to write, design and deliver breath-taking 20 minute presentations!

How many words/slides makes a 20 Minute Presentation?

A 20 Minute Presentation makes up approximately 2,600 words. In order to keep your content clean and concise, you can estimate up to 10 slides including the title slide. This means each slide gets 2 minutes devoted to it, which is more than enough to make a point. You can play around with the number of slides as long as you finish your presentation within the time constraints.

Writing 20 Minute Presentations

Writing a presentation is an art. You can’t just read it, you need to communicate it. You aren’t just presenting information, you’re crafting an experience. And the best way to provide your audience with an experience is to tell a story. You know what they say: facts bore but stories sell. The most impactful presentations are in fact stories. Before you actually start writing your idea, let’s look at a few guidelines you need to keep in mind in the prewriting stage.

Simplify Your Goal

At this stage, I assume you already have your big idea in mind. Even if it’s not too organised, you vaguely know what you’re trying to convey. All you have to do is define your goal. The best way to do it is to simplify your idea into one sentence.

Albert Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” Simplification of your big idea is one way you can know whether you have understood the concept. When you’re clear about the goal or the agenda of your presentation, it takes a smoother flow. 

For example, let’s say your vague revolutionary idea is to create sleeves for dresses that can be detached. One plain black dress can have a variety of four sleeves that can be attached to it. Whether it’s a dinner party or a business meeting; one black dress can strike a different vibe to match any occasion. These sleeves could be puffy, netted, long sleeves and even beaded accessories to your shoulders. Your company can also branch out into manufacturing broaches to accessorise your dress. 

If I were to boil this entire idea down to one sentence, my goal would be to produce detachable accessories for your garments so that one piece of clothing can serve many looks and suit multiple occasions. Likewise, what is your goal? What are you trying to sell? What is the bare minimum form of message that you want to communicate through this presentation?

standing ovation

Defining your Success

The defining factor of success in your presentation is what you want your outcome to be. Tailoring your presentation has a different formula depending on what your goal outcome is. Do you want to motivate your audience? Do you want to pitch your idea to investors? Do you want to prove yourself right? When you have decided the metrics of your success, you can start by weaving together a tapestry of content that will help you hit the goal.

In the previous example, your definition of success is that you convinced your investors that your idea has potential in the market. You have foreseen the concept of detachable clothing as the next big thing of the fashion industry. You have gotten shark investors on board and it is time to put this groundbreaking idea into effect. Learn how to Prepare for a TED-Style Talk with us!

Knowing your Audience

You cannot communicate with your audience if you don’t know who your audience is. Knowing your audience doesn’t mean knowing them inside-out personally. Just keep in mind what kind of things as a group of people would they find interesting. 

For example, World War 2 is a rather heavy topic to explain. It carried on for years with multiple causes, events and consequences. A YouTube Channel called Oversimplified decided to break it down into a very simple humorous story for its audience. 

The creator understood their audience. World Wars are essential chapters in all our history books. They’re gruesome, complicated, and theoretical. But everybody is expected to know what they are because they have majorly contributed to the shape of their current reality. The creator therefore decided to narrate it in layman’s language (the goal). The presentation reached a wide audience and the understanding was made easier with the excellent humorous storytelling (the success). It has so far received 72 million views making it appealing and helpful for a significant fraction of the world’s population.

The Narrative

Nobody wants to hear a long academic paper being read out without any gripping element. Nobody is interested in the complexity of your presentation. Simplifying your presentation doesn’t only mean presenting cold, hard facts. It means tapping into the emotional bucket and focusing only on your goal. 

Everybody loves a good story. Whether it is how you defeated all odds of a poverty-stricken childhood and emerged a superstar, or how you came up with a company called Apple. Allow your presentation to connect with your audience emotionally. Flatter them, humour them, inspire them and stimulate them mentally. Check out our guide on how you can become a better storyteller!

Ruthless Editing 

“Our life is frittered away by detail.

Simplify, simplify, simplify!”  

-Sir Henry David Thoreau

Think about your audience. Think about all the information that they have to grasp. You can’t use “The architecture has been ignited with flames” when you mean “The building is on fire.” It’s a writer’s power to write intelligent literature. But it’s also a writer’s responsibility to make it understandable for their readers. 

The written word is not the same as the spoken word. While converting your writing into a presentation, you need to be a ruthless editor. Here’s the rule book of a ruthless editor:

  1. Your goal is clarity, simplicity and elegance.
  2. Use short sentences.
  3. Get rid of normatives.
  4. Never use “emolument” when you mean “tip”
  5. No passive voice.
  6. Don’t lose the essence of your story. 
  7. Scrap all unnecessary words and phrases.
  8. Building a narrative and beating around the bush are two very different things.
  9. Prepare a bare minimum account. The bare minimum account is the information that you absolutely cannot afford to cut out under any circumstances.
  10.  Use bullets whenever you can.
  11. Share a handout with further details if you need to.
  12. One liners are your best friends.
  13. Base your content on visuals. A single picture speaks a thousand words. 
  14. Write conversational lines. Interact with your audience.
  15. Segregate your information using “Hell yes!” or “No.” Do you need it? If the answer is “Maybe” or a hesitant yes, then remove it. You’re either absolutely sure or you’re not. 

The Rule of Thumb

The most unfortunate conference incidents would be when the first speaker talks for 30 long minutes but the second speaker can only speak for 2 minutes because the time is up. As a speaker, never ever ever let that happen. It is your responsibility to wrap up your presentation within the given time.

20 minute presentations are 9-10 pagels long. A pagel is one side of a paper. This is a regular letter sized paper with regular margins and double spacing. It adds up to around 2600 words. 

When you write your presentation, try not exceeding 2000 words just in case you need time for a question-answer round. The corporate world also has a popular 10-20-30 rule. It’s not hard and fast to apply it. The creative freedom is all yours! However, if you’re looking for a guideline: here you go.

The 10-20-30 Rule 

The 10-20-30 Rule means: 10 Presentation Slides that run for 20 minutes and have font size no less than 30 points. According to this calculation, you can have 2 minutes to each slide. 

Guy Kawasaki introduced and proved this formula as most effective for an average presenter. The logic behind this is that an average audience cannot gauge more than 10 slides worth of ideas and information in one go. Limiting yourself to 10 slides will also motivate you to keep your information compact. When your font size can’t be less than 30, you have to pick and choose your words wisely too. A brief explanation of these ideas will then add up to 20 minutes.  

Drawing an idea inside a box with instructions is easier than having a blank space staring at you. Some artists may find solace in being in control of their structure. But there’s nothing wrong with borrowing Kawasaki’s structure. 

Organising the Content

After you have filtered out all your content, it’s time to organise. You can organise it in so many ways! The best organisation comes from adding visual elements. You must remember: show, don’t tell. Let’s look at some examples of organising chunks of content. 

Example 1

Raw Information: From the area’s lowest point on the Karakash River at about 14,000 feet (4,300 m) to the glaciated peaks up to 22,500 feet (6,900 m) above sea level, Aksai Chin is a desolate, largely uninhabited area. It covers an area of about 37,244 square kilometres (14,380 sq mi).

Organised Information:

ideal presentation slide


The organised information in the above example is much more systematic than the first paragraph. You can employ so many such tools to present chunks of data methodically. You can use:

  1. Charts
  2. Graphs 
  3. Tables
  4. Lists
  5. Mind Maps
  6. Images
  7. Boxes
  8. Media

Anything that suits your content best. Remember, the content on your presentation slides is merely a reference piece. Your audience is there to listen to you. If they wanted to read the powerpoint presentation, you could have just emailed it to them. 

Designing 20 Minute Presentations

The modern day presentations take away the burden of vividly descriptive words to communicate. They have equipped you, or rather blessed you with the feature of visual storytelling. You can now only tell but also show your big idea. The new powerful visual storytelling tool has impacted the way you can write your presentation. You have so many possibilities now! 

The human eye is always attracted to aesthetically pleasing visuals. Despite this inbuilt urge to look for patterns, alignment, symmetry and beauty, very few can actually produce it. It is a TASK for a non-designer to make sure their presentations are visually engaging. While you can hire a professional to help you with design, here are some basic rules of designing presentations.

20 minute presentations

Why your Presentations Look Crappy 

Your Theme

Microsoft’s PowerPoint Presentation and MacBook’s KeyNote templates are overrated. There you go, I said it. Every newbie will pick out the default, pre-made themes and call it a day. Which is perhaps why their presentations look boring. They have not put in the effort!

What makes a theme? Even when you notice the pre-cooked themes for you, the one thing they have in common is their similarity. Each theme has a common colour palette, font family and elements. This means, you can design your OWN theme too! 

Don’t worry if you feel you lack the aesthetic sense to pick it all out on your own. Here’s a step by step tutorial on how to design your theme. 

Colour Palette

You can look for colour palettes on websites like Color Hunt or Coolors. You will find a variety of colour palettes. Browse through them with leisure and decide on one. Picking the all-time-favourites will never go wrong.  


Now that you have a colour palette, pick out fonts. While typography is a whole subject on its own, Canva provides an insight on How to Put the Best Fonts Together. You can skim through and understand as much as you can.  It’s essential to not use more than 2 fonts in your presentation. Trust me, the more is not the merrier this time.


Elements refer to objects or highlights to your presentation slides. Elements are a highly design-centred concept but generic ones won’t go wrong. You can have binding elements like:

  1. Writing all your titles in a white box with a black borders.
  2. Adding labels and stickers at the bottom.
  3. Writing page numbers in a star.
  4. Doodle PNG’s. 
  5. Colourful bands at the bottom.
  6. Same borders on all slides.

There are so many possibilities! Go through Pinterest to find ideas. You can even ditch the element part and just play around with colours. If you’re not in the mood of designing from scratch, you can pick templates from

colour palettes

Your Information

You are not giving a document. You are giving a presentation. Do not, I repeat: DO NOT vomit every single bit of your information on your slides. You can ramble all you want while speaking, but the reading material should be bare minimum. 

Your audience cannot multitask. They will either listen to you or read your slides. If there’s an entire Wikipedia page copy pasted on your presentation, the audience will definitely roll their eyes and fall asleep. They won’t even bother listening to you. Remember, what you choose to put on the slides also determines whether you have hooked your audience into listening. 

If your slides contain three vague yet understandable pointers, the audience can quickly skim over it and then wait for you to elaborate. You have then also caught their interest. On the other hand, if you put everything you’re going to speak on your slides, the audience will just help themselves and ignore you completely. 

Tips and Tricks

  1. Keep One Main Point Per Slide: For example, you’re enlisting the properties of your new automobile. Write your first exotic feature on one slide, then elaborate it in speech. After that move to the next slide to your next feature. Do not use bullets here to write down all your features on the same slide. You will take away the mystery of it. 
  1. Be Same Page With the Audience: As an add on to the previous point, you need to keep the audience on the same page as you. This will let you have command over them. If you have too much content on one page, one portion of the audience will be lingering on the third point and another on the fourth. Whereas, you will still be explaining the first point. This is going to be chaotic and gateways to miscommunication. 
  1. Terms and Conditions Sheet: Remember, you’re not dealing with paralegals who will read the fine text. Even if you are, there’s plenty of important fine print to read for them. Do not make your slides look like a terms and conditions sheet. Be generous with your font size, consider the last possible row. PPT’s are like highway hoardings, and you can’t have small fonts and illegible text on the highway hoardings can you?
20 minute visual presentations

Your Visuals

Presentations are multimedia tools. You need not just add text. They are your opportunities to communicate visually. Your visuals begin with a jaw-dropping opening slide. The title of your presentation is what grabs 70% of the audience’s interest. It sets the “first impression” and communicates a lot more than you think. Learn how to Design Strong Opening Slides for your Presentation!


Good images in your presentations take away 50% of the “boring.” Your audience only has to look, saving them a lot of hard work. They add on to your aesthetics too. Although good images are seldom free of cost. Be generous, the photographer has worked hard to make your presentations stunning. You can buy royalty free images on or

A good collection of visuals absolutely does not include Microsoft clipart or cheesy corporate stock photos. Avoid using the cliche corporate art style of exaggerated bubbly features and plain solid colours. If you want to connect with your audience, give your presentation a little bit of personality. Your images and visuals hold the power to make your presentations astronomically engaging. Even funny for that matter!

White Space

Maximalism in Powerpoint Presentation is more often than not, a very bad idea. It connects to the point of not adding a disgusting amount of text on your slides. Embrace white space and empty brackets. Even not filling up the entire slide can convey a message. 

For example, imagine a presentation slide with a single Apple in the centre and nothing around it. No text, no context, no subtitle- nothing. Wouldn’t it pique your interest? You can be as cryptic as you can with your presentations as long as you’re answering your questions one way or another. To answer your question, that slide would be a funny way to introduce the audience to your presentation “How Apple got its name.”

Jesseedee and Scott Hoag on explain the principles of design in a very demonstrative fashion. If you want more tips on Designing a Presentation, Mistakes While Designing a Presentation and Slide Design Made Easy, be sure to check their work out! 

Delivering 20 Minute Presentations

ALRIGHT THEN, you have completed the pre-production and production stage of your presentation. Your presentation has been cleverly written. You have also put in long hours to make it look fancy and appealing. It’s now time to tie it all together by crafting a standing ovation worthy performance!

If you were to follow the 10-20-30 rule, each slide could be given a total of 2 minutes. This would never imply speaking so fast, nobody understands a thing you’re saying.

Start your presentation with an introduction. Introduce yourself and your topic. After that you slowly address all the points you had planned in a way that’s connected naturally. It’s one big monologue that sounds like a thought process. The smoother the flow of your content, the better are your engagement chances. You can check out our Ultimate Guide to Opening Remarks. 

Rehearsing for a speech can be stressful. The following are a few DO’s and DON’Ts for preparing for your great presentation. 

Make it sound friendly and conversational.Read out cold and theoretical facts.
Set cues in your presentation (in case you forget!)Memorise your speech or carry reading material.
Speak at an understandable pace.Cross the time limit (please!)

Rehearsing Your 20 Minute Presentations

You can read our blog post about 13 Tips for Rehearsing a Presentation for a clearer insight into delivery of your presentation.

In short, you can go over the following steps:

  1. Take presentation notes.
  2. Understand and accustom yourself to the material.
  3. Rehearse with your slides alongside.
  4. Time your presentation.
  5. Read your material and pointers out loud.
  6. Rehearse in front of the mirror.
  7. Record yourself speaking.
  8. Tape yourself on your phone camera. 
  9. Present before a single person and take their recommendations. 
  10. Present before a group of people.
  11. Rehearse presentation without your PPT. 
  12. Go to the location where you’ll be presenting.
  13. Give yourself a PEP talk!

In conclusion,

A 20 minute presentation needs days and days of writing, designing and rehearsal. The more you present, the better you get at presenting. Remember, everything is a learnable skill. Channelise all that you have got into making your 20 minute presentation as revolutionary as possible. Good luck and more power to you!

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