The 10/20/30 Rule in Making Presentations

Over the years, I have made dozens and dozens of presentations to raise money; sell a product or service; or an idea. Investors and business managers listen to dozens of entrepreneurs and salespersons pitching their company or product. Most of these pitches are crap: sixty slides about a “patent-pending,” “first-mover advantage,” “superior features and benefits,” or “all we have to do is get 1% of the world’s population to buy one…” You get the picture.

I have found that when making a presentation, you need to be brief but succinctly provide enough information to make an impression. My guideline is the 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint. It’s pretty simple: a PowerPoint presentation should have ten slides, can be delivered in twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points. This rule is applicable for any presentation to reach an agreement: for example, raising capital, making a sale, forming a partnership, etc.

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 – investors and business managers are very normal. If you must use more than ten slides to explain your business or product, you probably haven’t figured out the value proposition yourself. When making an investor presentation, your audience cares about these ten topics:

  • Problem
  • Your solution
  • Business model
  • Underlying magic/technology
  • Marketing and sales
  • Competition
  • Team
  • Projections and milestones, status, and timeline
  • Summary and call to action

If you are making a sales presentation, there are also ten key topics:

  • Who you are and why they should do business with you?
  • Position the company that is backing you
  • Explore the problem or opportunity
  • Confirmation
  • Your solution
  • Describe product features/benefits/technology
  • Position the product or service as the solution
  • Position the price as a value proposition
  • Lock up the logistics (schedules and delivery)
  • Lockdown the sale with a call to action.

You should be able to give your ten slides in twenty minutes. Sure, you have an hour time slot, but you’re using your laptop with their projector, so it will take forty minutes to make it work with the projector. Even if setup goes perfectly, people will arrive late and must leave early, or the group ahead of you runs late, and your audience will take its lunch break on time (with apologies, of course). You give your pitch in twenty minutes in a perfect world, and you have forty minutes left for discussion.

Most presentations I have seen have text in a ten-point font. Presenters jam as much text as possible into the slide, and then they read 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 sync.

The reason people use small font is twofold: first, they don’t know their material well enough; and second, they think that more text is more convincing — total nonsense.

I force myself to use no font smaller than thirty points. It will make your presentation better because it requires you to find the most salient points and know how to explain them well. If “thirty point” is too restrictive, there is an algorithm: find out the age of the oldest person in your audience and divide it by two. That’s you’re optimal font size.

So please observe the 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint for more effective presentations


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