Despite how many PowerPoint presentations I’ve given in my life, I’ve always struggled with understanding the best practices for creating them. I know they need to look nice, but figuring out how to make them aesthetically pleasing and informative is tough.
I’m sure my experience isn’t unique, as finding the correct balance between content, design, and timing can be difficult. Marketers know this more than anyone, as success in the role is often marked by being able to create engaging campaigns that tell a story and inspire audiences to take a specific action, like purchasing a product.
However, PowerPoint presentations are different from advertisements. Understanding how to leverage your marketing knowledge when creating PowerPoints can be tricky. Still, there are various resources for marketers to use when creating presentations, one of which is the 10/20/30 rule.
The 10/20/30 rule of PowerPoint is a straightforward concept: no PowerPoint presentation should be more than ten slides, longer than 20 minutes, and use fonts smaller than 30 point size.
Coined by Guy Kawasaki, the rule is a tool for marketers to create excellent PowerPoint presentations. Each element of the formula helps marketers find a balance between design and conceptual explanations, so you can capture audience attention, emphasize your points, and enhance readability.
Guy Kawasaki, one of the early Apple employees, championed the concept of a ‘brand evangelist’ to describe his position. He spent most of his time working to generate a follower base for Macintosh, the family of Apple computers. Today he works as a brand evangelist for Canva, an online graphic design tool.
Given that he’s had significant experience giving presentations to captivate audiences, he’s figured out that the 10/20/30 is a successful formula to follow. Kawasaki’s book, Art of The Start, is where he first introduced the concept and described how it works.
Let’s cover each part of the rule in more detail.
Kawasaki believes that it’s challenging for audiences to comprehend more than ten concepts during a presentation. Given this, marketers should aim to create PowerPoints with no more than ten slides, i.e., ten ideas you’ll explain. Using fewer slides and focusing on the critical elements helps your audience grasp the concepts you’re sharing with them.
In practice, this means creating slides that are specific and straight to the point. For example, say you’re presenting on the success of your recent campaign. Your marketing strategy was likely extensive, and you took a series of different actions to obtain your end result. Instead of outlining every aspect of your campaign, you would use your slides to outline its main elements of your strategy. This could look like individual slides for summarizing the problem you hoped to solve, your goals, the steps you took to reach your goals, and post-campaign analytics data that summarizes your accomplishments.
It’s important to note that there shouldn’t be overwhelming amounts of text on your slides. You want them to be concise. Your audience should get most of the information from the words you’re speaking; your slides should be more supplemental than explanatory.
After you’ve spent time coming up with your ten key points, you’ll need to present them in 20 minutes. Knowing that you’ll only have 20 minutes also makes it easier to plan and structure your talk, as you’ll know how much time to dedicate to each slide, so you address all relevant points.
Kawasaki acknowledges that presentation time slots can often be longer, but finishing at the 20-minute mark leaves time for valuable discussion and Q&A. Saving time in your presentation also leaves space for technical difficulties.
If you’ve been in the audience during a presentation, you probably know that slides with small font can be challenging to read and take your attention away from the speaker.
Kawasaki’s final rule is that no font within your presentation should be smaller than 30 point size. If you’ve already followed the previous rules, then you should be able to display your key points on your slides in a large enough font that users can read. Since your key points are short and focused, there won’t be a lot of text for your audience to read, and they’ll spend more time listening to you speak.
Given that the average recommended font size for accessibility is 16, using a 30-point font ensures that all members of your audience can read and interact with your slides.
The 10/20/30 rule of PowerPoint is meant to help marketers create powerful presentations.
Each element of the rule works in tandem with the other: limiting yourself to 10 slides requires you to select the most salient points to present to your audience. A 20-minute timeline helps you ensure that you’re contextualizing those slides as you speak, without delving into unnecessary information. Using a 30-point font can act as a final check for your presentation, as it emphasizes the importance of only displaying key points on your slides, rather than huge blocks of text. Font size then circles back around to the ten slides, as you’ll craft sentences from your key points that will fit on your slides in 30-point font.
Being mindful of slide count, text size, and presentation length ensures that your audiences are captivated by your words as you explain the value behind your work.