To Connect with Audiences, Follow the 10/20/30 Rule

Guy Kawasaki is a technology guru and venture capitalist who listens to a lot of presentations from entrepreneurs seeking money for start-up ventures.  The overwhelming majority of the presentations he hears are, as he says, “crap.” 


And so he demands that all presentations at his business Garage Technology Ventures follow what he calls the “10/20/30 rule”.  It’s a rule that should be embraced by anyone that wants to connect with audiences.


The rule states that all presentations should be limited to 10 slides, 20 minutes, and have no words on the slides smaller than 30-point type.  I love the rule because it keeps you out of the weeds by forcing you to keep your message focused on key issues.


Limit Your Presentation to 10 slides. Too many of us create presentations by opening up PowerPoint, picking a template, and typing. Before long, we have a “presentation” with 40 slides.


I was coaching an attorney once as he prepared to speak at a bar event.  He arrived at our practice session with 60 slides for a 45-minute presentation.  Flipping through, I noted that every slide was loaded with bullet points.


“Let me ask you a question,” I said. “Would you want to listen to this presentation?”


“Well . . . , ” he muttered, seeming startled. “I guess not.”


His presentation was packed with too much information.  Limiting your message to 10 slides forces you to answer the question “What do I really want to say?”


PowerPoint has no template for that question.


Speak for no more than 20 minutes.  When Kawasaki listens to a pitch for start-up capital, he allocates an hour.  Limiting the pitch to 20 minutes allows for 40 minutes of Q&A. As Kawasaki knows, all presentations improve with lots of Q&A.


Last weekend, I went fishing in Tampa with a guide named Rick. He told me that one way he markets his business is by giving presentations on how to catch fish in the Gulf of Mexico.


“I usually speak for about fifteen minutes and then take questions,” he said. “I’ve found that people have a lot more fun at my presentations when they get to ask questions.”


That’s a nice lesson in hooking an audience from a professional fisherman.


No Slides with Words Smaller than 30-Point Type.  For many people, this seems impossible. You can’t get more than five or six words on a line with 30-point type.


But all businesses should mandate this rule. Smaller type  is so hard to read that it becomes distracting.


To me, corporate America tolerates tiny type on slides in the same way that mill town residents tolerate the stench that fills their community.  It’s so prevalent that everyone just gets used to it and no one even notices anymore.


But your slides will be far more effective if you minimize your bullets and keep your type size big.


And if you follow the 10/20/30 rule, your presentations will be a breath of a fresh air.

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