What is the 10/20/30 Rule for Presentations and How to use it?

Last updated on November 28th, 2022

When you’re a presenter, there is one thing that you never want your audience to experience: death by PowerPoint. You know that feeling when your head hurts, your eyes are tired, and you’re bored to your wit’s end because somebody rambles on for over an hour with a poorly designed presentation? That is death by PowerPoint, and it’s an all too common phenomenon everywhere, from academia to business.  

Some rulebooks and guidelines try to transform how we prepare our presentations and make them more engaging to prevent death by PowerPoint. But one that has got a lot of traction is the 10/20/30 rule by Guy Kawasaki. It’s straightforward and a handy rule of thumb always to follow to keep your presentations punchy and impactful. In this article, we explain what the 10/20/30 rule is and how you can apply the 10/20/30 rule to help format your presentations.

What is the 10/20/30 Rule? 

The 10/20/30 rule is a simple yet powerful guideline to follow when preparing your visual PowerPoint presentations. This comes from the mind of Guy Kawasaki, an entrepreneur, venture capitalist and currently the Chief Evangelist at Canva. 

The rule goes as follows: 

  • There should be no more than 10 slides.
  • The presentation should last no more than 20 minutes.
  • There should be no text smaller than 30 points

Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 rule was designed with the business pitch in mind, but it can be applied to all kinds of presentations. From business presentations to plenary sessions, you can keep the 10/20/30 in mind to help you format your presentations. 

Let’s dissect each component of the 10/20/30 rule.  

The 10 Slides

When asked about how many slides for a 20-minute presentation, Kawasaki says that there should be no more than 10 slides. This is because the human mind can only fully comprehend 10 different points in one sitting, considering you have one distinct point for each slide. 

This is perhaps the most challenging part of the 10/20/30 rule to follow, but it’s also the most important. Limiting yourself to such a small number of slides challenges you to include only the most necessary information in your presentation so that every slide counts. 

How many slides for a 10-minute presentation? 30-minute presentation?

Under the 10/20/30 rule, the 10-slides-in-20-minutes guideline gives you around 2 minutes per slide. You can use this to estimate how many slides you need if you have a shorter or longer presentation time. 

Therefore, if you have a short 10-minute presentation, it is recommended to keep everything within 5 slides. For a 30-minute presentation, you can have up to 15 slides. 

Tips to lessen your number of slides 

  1. Opt for visuals and graphics over text. 

As the popular saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Instead of blocky text, fill your slides with visual elements like photos, graphs, and charts.    

  1. Have a strong and informative script. 

Your slides’ main purpose is to make an impact and complement what you’re saying. If you can do away with a few details and info, go ahead and remove them from your slides and include them in your script instead. 

  1. Edit, edit, edit. 

With presentations, it is often true that less is more. Keep trimming and editing until your slides are lean and only include the meatiest parts, without any fluff included. 

The 20 Minutes 

There’s a reason why most TED Talks fall under 20 minutes. This is because 20 minutes is how long you can expect your audience to fully pay attention. When your presentations go beyond this limit, your audience will inevitably get tired and bored as time goes on. 

Of course, there will be instances where you’re given more than 20 minutes for your presentation. For example, if you were assigned 1 hour of presentation time, Kawasaki suggests that you should still allot only 20 minutes for going through your slides and spend the rest of the 40 minutes on other activities, like an open Q&A forum. Not only do you prevent your audience from getting bored, but you also get to interact and build rapport with them through a Q&A.

Tips to keep your presentation under 20 minutes 

  1. Divide your presentation into sections.

It is helpful to look at your presentation as separate sections, such as intro, main body, and conclusion. If you’re planning to present in under 20 minutes, you can then divide the time for each section depending on how much time you think it requires. 

  1. Time yourself.

You will never know how long your presentation will take until you actually present it. When practicing, time yourself to see whether you fit the duration, and adjust accordingly. 

The 30-point Font 

Following the 10/20/30 rule, Kawasaki recommends that all of the text on your visual slides must have a font size of 30 points or higher. No more blocks of text too small that your audience needs to strain their eyes to properly see. Instead, go for short phrases in big letters that even the people at the very back of the room can receive the message.  

Aside from readability, the 30-point-font rule is a valuable guideline to follow because of the following reasons:

  1. It means more impactful, more digestible text. 

Because of the big font size, you can only include short phrases or sentences in your slides. Compared with unreadable blocks of text, these sentences make more of a punch because they are only used sparingly. 

  1. It forces you to not simply read the slide.

With the big font requirement, you will no longer be tempted to just write everything you want to say on the slide and read it aloud. It challenges you to know your material by heart so you don’t rely on your slides. 

While it is a simple yet fantastic guideline, remember that the 10/20/30 rule is simply a guide, and you don’t need to strictly follow each of its components during every presentation. It will still depend on you and your message and how you want to convey that message to your audience. 

When used properly, the 10/20/30 rule ensures that you get to convey your message and keep your audience’s attention at the same time. 

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