Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint

This is a partial reprint of Guy Kawasaki's 2005 blog posting by the same title. 
I repeat Guy's guideline so regularly to the tech-preneurs I mentor that I decided to direct them here rather than to a Google search page. Guy's experience in this space is matchless, his insight has served me well. The main point here is not to detail how to pitch investors (there is another post for that): it is how to communicate effectively in any field.  The essence is: keep it short, simple, legible and avoid distracting you audience (once you lose them you never get them back).  You'll be more compelling and convincing.

 and here is Guy...

As a venture capitalist, I have to listen to hundreds of entrepreneurs pitch their companies. Most of these pitches are crap: sixty slides about a “patent pending,” “first mover advantage,” “all we have to do is get 1% of the people in China to buy our product” startup. These pitches are so lousy that I’m losing my hearing, there’s a constant ringing in my ear, and every once in while the world starts spinning.
To prevent an epidemic of Ménière’s in the venture capital community, I am evangelizing the 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint. It’s quite simple: a PowerPoint presentation should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points. While I’m in the venture capital business, this rule is applicable for any presentation to reach agreement: for example, raising capital, making a sale, forming a partnership, etc.

•Ten slides. 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—and venture capitalists are very normal. (The only difference between you and venture capitalist is that he is getting paid to gamble with someone else’s money). If you must use more than ten slides to explain your business, you probably don’t have a business. The ten topics that a venture capitalist cares about are:

1.Problem

2.Your solution

3.Business model

4.Underlying magic/technology

5.Marketing and sales

6.Competition

7.Team

8.Projections and milestones

9.Status and timeline

10.Summary and call to action

•Twenty minutes. You should give your ten slides in twenty minutes. Sure, you have an hour time slot, but you’re using a Windows laptop, so it will take forty minutes to make it work with the projector. Even if setup goes perfectly, people will arrive late and have to leave early. In a perfect world, you give your pitch in twenty minutes, and you have forty minutes left for discussion.

•Thirty-point font. The majority of the presentations that I see have text in a ten point font. As much text as possible is jammed into the slide, and then the presenter reads 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 synch.

The reason people use a small font is twofold: first, that they don’t know their material well enough; second, they think that more text is more convincing. Total bozosity. Force yourself to use no font smaller than thirty points. I guarantee it will make your presentations better because it requires you to find the most salient points and to know how to explain them well. If “thirty points,” is too dogmatic, then I offer you an algorithm: find out the age of the oldest person in your audience and divide it by two. That’s your optimal font size.

So please observe the 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint. If nothing else, the next time someone in your audience complains of hearing loss, ringing, or vertigo, you’ll know what caused the problem.

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