Picture depicting the 10-20-30 rule of PowerPoint presentation.

The 10-20-30 PowerPoint Rule Explained For Beginners

I once attended a presentation that went on and on with no signs of ending. With every next slide, I was hoping it would be the last. The only thought in my head was, “When will this get over?”

Why do you think this was my reaction? Let me tell you why I wanted to get out of there as fast as I could.

The presentation I was attending had a million slides which in the start was helpful and informative to read but with each passing slide, it became increasingly difficult to concentrate with chunks of information on the screen.

The speaker also kept talking not keeping in mind that there is a time limit to presentations. Hence, this presentation overall lacked time management and organization skills.

Therefore, to avoid such situations use the 10-20-30 PowerPoint rule when creating your presentations.

Origin of the 10-20-30 rule

The first thought that comes to mind after hearing about the 10-20-30 rule is, where did such a rule come from?

This rule was founded by an American marketing specialist and author Guy Kawasaki.

In one of his speeches, he mentioned this rule for presentations. He claimed that he didn’t want to sit for 60 slide long presentations and this lead him to the 10-20-30 rule.

What is the 10-20-30 rule?

This rule is applied to make your presentations brief, intelligible and engaging. It can be considered as the golden rule for creating and presenting a presentation.

The 10-20-30 rule states that a presentation should be of 10 slides, not cross the time limit of 20 minutes and use a font size of 30.

Let’s break it down and have a detailed look at what it means.

10 slides

This picture portrays PowerPoint slides and how many slides should the presenter use in his presentation.

Why 10 slides and not 15 or 20? 10 is a minimum number for your slides. It’s not more and not less. You can add more than 10 slides but keep in mind that it should balance out everything equivalently.

Adding meaningless slides to make your presentation prolonged, spoils the essence of your presentation.While creating your presentation refrain from adding unwanted information in your slides. Create an outline and framework.

This will give you a vague idea of how to go about your presentation. Guy Kawasaki, like mentioned above the founder of the 10-20-30 rule has provided a readymade outline to make things easy for us.

Number of the slidesContent of the slides
1.Title
2.Problem/Opportunity
3.Value Proposition
4.Underlying Magic
5.Business Model
6.Go-to-Market Plan
7.Competitive Analysis
8.Management Team
9.Financial Projections and Key Metrics
10.Current Status, Accomplishments to Date, Timeline, and Use of Funds

This table is more relatable to people who give business presentations. You can of course change the content according to your preference.

This table gives you a rough idea of how you can organize your slides. The material inside can change according to the type of your presentation.

It’s not compulsory to follow this format only but make sure not to cramp too much information in one slide. The point of all this is to make sure that the number of your slides are limited and they don’t exceed a certain limit.

20 minutes

In this picture the presenter is talking, using the 20 min factor from 10-20-30 rule.

In today’s fast-paced world even 20 minutes is too long. Nobody wants to sit for an hour-long presentation when it can be covered in far less time.

If the presentation exceeds more than 45 minutes the audience starts to get fidgety. Let’s take an example of studying. It is scientifically proven that the brain can only concentrate for 45 minutes straight before it needs a break.

Hence, when students study for exams they are told to take breaks in between to refresh their mind.

If you are unsure about how to divide these 20 minutes here is what you can do. You can allot specific time to the overall presentation. For instance, have a look at the table below.

No.of things to coverContentTime
1.Introduction4 minutes
2. Body (Main discussion, pointers)11 minutes
3.Conclusion3 minutes
4.Questions if any2 minutes

Technically you can get done early leaving the rest of the time to answer any doubts or questions if any. The minimum time for questions is 2 minutes.

To know in detail how to structure your speech follow this article, ‘The Ultimate Guide to Structuring a Speech’. This article will guide you through the process of structuring the ultimate speech for your presentation.

30 font size

What if I provide you with two pictures one with a font that looks like ants and one with a font that you can read even from far away, what would you choose? Isn’t the answer quite obvious?

This picture depicts the problem of font size faced by the audience during some presentations.

Similarly, while presenting when your font looks like tiny ants in a line the audience prefers not to read what is written.

The content in your slides is the core of what your discussion will be about. Put into simple words these are the bullets from which the audience gets an idea of what you will talk about and that’s one of the reasons the font and font size should be apparent.

And when the audience can’t read they will rely entirely on what you say. So, at this point if you make any mistakes or miss out on anything that’s where the trouble starts. This puts a negative marking on your credibility.

It’s not a compulsion to use font 30 only, but Guy Kawasaki implies that 30 should be the minimum font size so that the readers who are present in the hall can read your presentation without trouble.

One of the reasons he suggests font 30 should be used is because the larger the font size fewer words can be fit into a slide and unnecessary information gets cut out.

In such situations, you can use the 5×5, 6×6 and 7×7 rules. These rules can be used while you prepare your presentations to ensure that there is no extra information and even if there is, these rules will get rid of it.

What is the 5×5 rule?

The 5×5 rule proposes that the presenter use no more than 5 words in a sentence and 5 sentences in each slide.

This rule helps keep the slides precise. It makes sure the content is not exaggerated and is to the point. The benefit of this rule is that the audience can easily take down notes because of the shortened statements.

What is the 6×6 rule?

The 6×6 rule emphasizes that the presentation should at the most consist of 6 words per line and 6 lines per slide.

The purpose of this rule is that short bullet points are easy to read and it may convey the crux of your message accurately in a short period.

What is the 7×7 rule?

The 7×7 rule suggests that the presentation slide should be inclusive of no more than 7 words in each sentence and of 7 sentences/bullets in each slide.

Why? It reduces repetition and wordiness. Captures the attention of the audience instantly as compared to long slides with too much information.

Note- Keep in mind that these rules can be used while preparing for your presentation though it’s not an obligation or necessity.

At times these rules may not be relevant and you may need to add more information according to the theme of your presentation. The objective of these rules is to remind the reader not to add excessive information in a slide.

How to make your slides concise whilst not missing out on relevant information

Follow these steps to ensure that your presentation is to the point and at the same time you do not leave out essential and meaningful information. These points will give you an insight into how to organize your slides

1. Construct an outline of your presentation

The first step before you start making your presentation is to structure your presentation step by step and create an outline.

The outline will help you remember the format of your speech and make you familiar with your material. One benefit of being familiar with your content is that you will know what to put in your slides and cut out the extra.

2. Gather and organize your pointers/arguments

Often presenters face a very common problem that is they keep adding points because they think everything is important. Try not to do that.

You must distinguish between what is important and what is not. Prioritize your points or arguments in a legitimate order.

Eliminate points from the slide that you think you can remember or will easily touch upon during the presentation. Keep those points that you tend to forget or are difficult to remember.

3. Add bullets in place of full sentences

Making use of bullets is suggested by most public speakers. Adding bullets in place of long paragraphs in the slide can help the audience focus on both, the presentation and the presenter/speaker.

The purpose of adding bullets is that they are easy to read, short and make the presentation look crisp and concise.

4. Add images, graphs and tables

Graphics are more appealing when compared to words. Also, they grab the audience’s attention. Therefore, try to add more tables, graphs, pie diagrams, charts and pictures.

It’s a misconception that pie diagrams and graphs are used only for statistical data. No, it can be used to depict information also. For instance, I have made use of a pie diagram to depict the division of 20 minutes in the 10-20-30 rule. Scroll up to see the diagram.

5. Edit until you are satisfied

Editing is an essential part of this process. To make your presentation slides concise you need to edit relentlessly.

One thing that you can do is that when you sit for the final edit you can add the long points in your notes which are right below the slide.

These notes will only be visible to you. You can refer to these notes on the day of your final presentation. Check out this article ‘13 Tips for Rehearsing a Presentation’  where we have mentioned notes used in power-point slides.

6. Time your presentation

Presenters frequently make the mistake of not timing their presentation. Time is a very important element in public speaking. The presenter must know the value of time.

If the presenter, in such a position, does not implement time restriction it gives out a wrong message to the audience. So, before you start rehearsing, time your presentation and keep in mind not to exceed the time limit.

While rehearsing you will also know how much time you are exceeding and you can practice accordingly.

Conclusion

This rule can be used when you begin with the journey of your presentation. You can create and format your presentation using the 10-20-30 rule. This rule will make your presentation 10 times more appealing.

Short, crisp and interesting, this is how the audience will perceive your presentation. The extra material is taken out with the help of this rule and only the essential points are utilized.

Hrideep Barot is the founder and chief writer at Frantically Speaking, a portal to help people learn everything about public speaking. The purpose of franticallyspeaking.com is to showcase the lessons that he has learned (and still learning) from his numerous stage experiences and mentors over all these years.