Why You Shouldn't Bother with The 10-20-30 Rule

Silicon Valley venture capitalist and author Guy Kawasaki recommends that slideshow presenters use the 10-20-30 rule to make their presentations concise and engaging. When Kawasaki first started promoting this rule in the early 2000s, it made sense. But is it relevant for every situation? And is it still widely applicable today? Twenty years have passed, and there are plenty of reasons why you shouldn't bother with the 10-20-30 rule.

The 10-20-30 Rule

Let’s begin by having a closer look at the rule and the reasoning behind it. The “rule” is this: 10 slides, 20 minutes, no fonts smaller than 30 points.

10 Slides

Normal human beings (yes, that includes venture capitalists) cannot retain more than 10 concepts in one meeting. Oftentimes, 10 slides are to cover the main points of a proposal, including a problem, solution, etc.

20 Minutes

Kawasaki recommends a 20-minute presentation cap for three reasons. First, it allows time to remedy possible technical problems like making your laptop work with the projector. Second, this accommodates guests who can’t dedicate a full hour to the meeting. Third, a 20-minute presentation leaves a full 40 minutes for questions and discussion. 

No Fonts Smaller Than 30 Points

Live presentations with too much text are said to be disengaging because the audience skips ahead to read the text instead of listening to the presenter. Using text sparingly forces the presenter to be well prepared and have a sound understanding of their material.

Why You Shouldn't Bother with The 10-20-30 Rule Today

The idea of simplifying presentations is a good one, especially for start-ups that are notorious for packing too much content into introductory pitches. However, applying this as a blanket guideline to all presentations doesn't make sense, especially since it has been nearly 20 years since Kawasaki introduced the idea.

Here are three reasons why you shouldn't bother with the 10-20-30 rule, and why it's less relevant today.

  1. In theory, the guideline will ensure your presentation highlights important points in an organized manner. However, in reality, it often means sacrificing useful information for the sake of brevity. For example: what if your pitch needs to explain complicated information architecture? Or discusses a complex subject like blockchain technology or a complicated new medical process? You will likely need to provide more than 10 slides for the audience to understand the details. If you must keep it to 10 slides, make sure you have the details in an appendix.
  2. A lot has changed in the design world since the early 2000s. 30-point type is no longer necessary and can look amateurish on today's high-resolution monitors. Also, many presentations are now delivered via online video conferencing platforms, which reduces the need for large type.
  3. Many presentations are sent as PDFs, done over zoom, never done live, etc. which means the amount of information included should vary from situation to situation. 

What Should You Use Instead of the 10-20-30 Rule?

There are many alternative guidelines for presentations that make sense in today's digital environment. For example, the 7x7 rule is gaining a following. (No more than seven lines of text or bullet points per slide, and no more than seven words per line.)

The best rule, though, is to not worry about following one rule. Spend more time tailoring the presentation to its intended audience, venue and purpose rather than worrying about general suggestions. Just be sure that it is cohesive, organized, and readable.

How Can a PowerPoint Presentation Designer Help Your Presentation?

To avoid dull and uninspiring slides, be innovative. A PowerPoint presentation designer will help you create an informative, engaging slide deck with high-quality graphics to grab and keep your audience's attention from start to finish. Hiring a professional designer means that you won’t have to worry about any of the design elements that usually stress you out. You are guaranteed an impressive-looking presentation! 

At Kristian Olson Art & Design, I specialize in helping companies like yours deliver their ideas with clarity and impact. For more information, contact me today to get started on your next presentation.

More Good Stuff:

View All >>
Say Hello!

Ask questions. Get a quote. You know what to do.