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PowerPoint Tips  - Simple Rules for Better PowerPoint Presentations

Powerpoint tips  -, simple rules for better powerpoint presentations, powerpoint tips simple rules for better powerpoint presentations.

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PowerPoint Tips: Simple Rules for Better PowerPoint Presentations

Lesson 17: simple rules for better powerpoint presentations.


Simple rules for better PowerPoint presentations

Have you ever given a PowerPoint presentation and noticed that something about it just seemed a little … off? If you’re unfamiliar with basic PowerPoint design principles, it can be difficult to create a slide show that presents your information in the best light. Poorly designed presentations can leave an audience feeling confused, bored, and even irritated. Review these tips to make your next presentation more engaging.

Don't read your presentation straight from the slides

If your audience can both read and hear, it’s a waste of time for you to simply read your slides aloud. Your audience will zone out and stop listening to what you’re saying, which means they won’t hear any extra information you include. Instead of typing out your entire presentation, include only main ideas, keywords, and talking points in your slide show text. Engage your audience by sharing the details out loud.

Follow the 5/5/5 rule

To keep your audience from feeling overwhelmed, you should keep the text on each slide short and to the point. Some experts suggest using the 5/5/5 rule : no more than five words per line of text, five lines of text per slide, or five text-heavy slides in a row.

slide with too much text versus a slide with just enough text

Don't forget your audience

Who will be watching your presentation? The same goofy effects and funny clip art that would entertain a classroom full of middle-school students might make you look unprofessional in front of business colleagues and clients. Humor can lighten up a presentation, but if you use it inappropriately your audience might think you don’t know what you’re doing. Know your audience, and tailor your presentation to their tastes and expectations.

Choose readable colors and fonts

Your text should be easy to read and pleasant to look at. Large, simple fonts and theme colors are always your best bet. The best fonts and colors can vary depending on your presentation setting. Presenting in a large room? Make your text larger than usual so people in the back can read it. Presenting with the lights on? Dark text on a light background is your best bet for visibility.

Screenshot of Microsoft PowerPoint

Don't overload your presentation with animations

As anyone who’s sat through a presentation while every letter of every paragraph zoomed across the screen can tell you, being inundated with complicated animations and exciting slide transitions can become irritating. Before including effects like this in your presentation, ask yourself: Would this moment in the presentation be equally strong without an added effect? Does it unnecessarily delay information? If the answer to either question is yes—or even maybe—leave out the effect.

Use animations sparingly to enhance your presentation

Don’t take the last tip to mean you should avoid animations and other effects entirely. When used sparingly, subtle effects and animations can add to your presentation. For example, having bullet points appear as you address them rather than before can help keep your audience’s attention.

Keep these tips in mind the next time you create a presentation—your audience will thank you. For more detailed information on creating a PowerPoint presentation, visit our Office tutorials .



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General Guidelines for Powerpoint Presentations

To maximize your effectiveness, consider the following suggestions when designing your slides. 

Suggestion 1: Keep it Simple

A popular rule of thumb is no more than 5 (+ /- 2) points on a slide. A more useful rule of thumb may be no more than 1 idea per slide. A good slide guides the viewer towards the essence of an idea, rather than listing of the idea's attributes.

Suggestion 2: Less is More (More or less)

Try not to clutter a slide with too much text, graphics, or color. Research from Wharton School of Business suggests no more than 4 colors per slide and a minimum spacing of 1/2 inch between items. Rules like this (of course) are made to be broken, but it is a good general principle. Don't put anything you are going to say on a slide - the audience is likely to be bored. Be extremely cautious about incorporating animations or sound effects. Virginia Tech provides standard professionally designed slide templates that can help your slides be more engaging but not overwhelming. See  www.unirel.vt.edu  to download standard slide templates - your PID and password will be required to download.

Suggestion 3: Make it BIG

Use a minimum 18 point font size. This allows people to see from the back of the room and limits you to approximately 7 line of text (which helps you to meet the guideline in suggestion 1).

Suggestion 4: Pictures can be worth a thousand words

It is a good idea to sometimes emphasize your points with the use of a graphic object. Pictures can provide the appropriate context for an idea. They are more visually stimulating and more easily remembered. Don't use art for its own sake - try to tie the picture into the idea you are presenting. Pictures should add to the idea being presented rather than distracting.  If you use pictures developed by someone other than yourself, be sure to cite the source for the picture somewhere in the slide and provide full source information in the notes section of your slide.

Suggestion 5: Watch your Color Combinations

Some background and foreground color combinations are difficult to read. For example, green writing on a yellow background or blue writing on a red background are difficult to make out. Stick to the standard combinations: black on white background, white on a blue background, yellow on black background. Be VERY careful about using Hokie colors as background or text for your slides.

Suggestion 6: Test your Slides

Run through the whole slide show to check for consistency of formats/colors/effects. Also, try your presentation out on the equipment you will be using for your presentation, in the room where you will present. You will get a better idea how things will look and can make appropriate changes. Try to test at the same time of day to be sure room lighting doesn’t wash out your slides.

Suggestion 7: Pace your Delivery

A good rule of thumb for total number of slides is to have no more than one slide per minute of presentation time. Thus, for your pre-defense, you should try to limit your total number of slides to no more than fifteen. If your findings are more extensive than this, don’t try to present all of them. Instead, focus on typical findings, or highlight unusual or unexpected results.

Suggestion 8: Don’t Limit Yourself to Slides

Look for opportunities to introduce props, demonstrations, or other materials as part of your presentation while staying within your time limit. Remember that using multiple modes to deliver your information can engage your audience and further emphasize your points, but be careful not to distract attention away from your message.

Suggestion 9: Practice!

Take the time to go over your slides with a third party (preferably your advisor) before you submit them. This can help catch typos, identify extraneous content and potential pitfalls, and fill any gaps in your train of logic. You may also want to practice delivering your slides to a group of friends or peers who are also presenting. This will help you become more comfortable with your material and identify potential “hiccup” points in your delivery that you need to address.

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5 PowerPoint Rules of Thumb


Is there anything worse than sitting in the audience during a presentation, as the speaker reads word-for-word from a series of PowerPoint slides? Does he really not understand that you can read the slides for yourself? Why not just print out a set of slides for everyone in the audience and let you all continue on with your day?

Using PowerPoint slides can actually be a wonderful enhancement to your presentation, but only if you know how to use them properly. Here are some basic rules to consider in order to keep your audience engaged.

Rule #1: Think before you act

Before deciding to use PowerPoint slides as a visual aid, ask yourself a few basic questions: Will these slides be a helpful tool in organizing my ideas? Are there visual images and graphics that would help me communicate my key points? Would this specific audience be receptive to a visual presentation? If you cannot answer "yes" to all of these questions, then you should consider alternate ways to present your information.

Rule #2: Avoid text-heavy slides

Keep the content of each slide short and sweet. Use bullet points rather than paragraphs. Highlight only the key concepts; you can (and should) elaborate on the fine points during your talk.

Rule #3: Use simple colors and fonts

Extreme color choices and fancy fonts can be distracting and make it difficult for the audience to focus on your key points. Choose a simple background color and make sure that any text and graphics show up clearly against that background. And think twice before using a red font or ALL CAPS, which can often signal warning or danger in a reader's mind.

Rule #4: Be consistent

Keep the design of each slide consistent throughout the presentation. Background colors, fonts, and the number and size of images should not vary wildly from one slide to the next. The slides as a whole—particularly if you are printing them out and distributing them—should feel like one cohesive unit.

Rule #5: Don't rely on the slides

Like death and taxes, technological difficulties are a certainty of modern life. You need to know your material cold, so you'll be prepared in the event that you cannot show your slides during the presentation due to power failures, faulty computer programs, or other technological gremlins. Remember that your spoken words should be the "meat" of the presentation; the slides are just optional enhancements, and you should be able to carry on without them.

By keeping these rules in mind, you can create and deliver PowerPoint presentations that are memorable... in a good way.

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Ten simple rules for effective presentation slides

Kristen m. naegle.

Biomedical Engineering and the Center for Public Health Genomics, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, United States of America


The “presentation slide” is the building block of all academic presentations, whether they are journal clubs, thesis committee meetings, short conference talks, or hour-long seminars. A slide is a single page projected on a screen, usually built on the premise of a title, body, and figures or tables and includes both what is shown and what is spoken about that slide. Multiple slides are strung together to tell the larger story of the presentation. While there have been excellent 10 simple rules on giving entire presentations [ 1 , 2 ], there was an absence in the fine details of how to design a slide for optimal effect—such as the design elements that allow slides to convey meaningful information, to keep the audience engaged and informed, and to deliver the information intended and in the time frame allowed. As all research presentations seek to teach, effective slide design borrows from the same principles as effective teaching, including the consideration of cognitive processing your audience is relying on to organize, process, and retain information. This is written for anyone who needs to prepare slides from any length scale and for most purposes of conveying research to broad audiences. The rules are broken into 3 primary areas. Rules 1 to 5 are about optimizing the scope of each slide. Rules 6 to 8 are about principles around designing elements of the slide. Rules 9 to 10 are about preparing for your presentation, with the slides as the central focus of that preparation.

Rule 1: Include only one idea per slide

Each slide should have one central objective to deliver—the main idea or question [ 3 – 5 ]. Often, this means breaking complex ideas down into manageable pieces (see Fig 1 , where “background” information has been split into 2 key concepts). In another example, if you are presenting a complex computational approach in a large flow diagram, introduce it in smaller units, building it up until you finish with the entire diagram. The progressive buildup of complex information means that audiences are prepared to understand the whole picture, once you have dedicated time to each of the parts. You can accomplish the buildup of components in several ways—for example, using presentation software to cover/uncover information. Personally, I choose to create separate slides for each piece of information content I introduce—where the final slide has the entire diagram, and I use cropping or a cover on duplicated slides that come before to hide what I’m not yet ready to include. I use this method in order to ensure that each slide in my deck truly presents one specific idea (the new content) and the amount of the new information on that slide can be described in 1 minute (Rule 2), but it comes with the trade-off—a change to the format of one of the slides in the series often means changes to all slides.

An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is pcbi.1009554.g001.jpg

Top left: A background slide that describes the background material on a project from my lab. The slide was created using a PowerPoint Design Template, which had to be modified to increase default text sizes for this figure (i.e., the default text sizes are even worse than shown here). Bottom row: The 2 new slides that break up the content into 2 explicit ideas about the background, using a central graphic. In the first slide, the graphic is an explicit example of the SH2 domain of PI3-kinase interacting with a phosphorylation site (Y754) on the PDGFR to describe the important details of what an SH2 domain and phosphotyrosine ligand are and how they interact. I use that same graphic in the second slide to generalize all binding events and include redundant text to drive home the central message (a lot of possible interactions might occur in the human proteome, more than we can currently measure). Top right highlights which rules were used to move from the original slide to the new slide. Specific changes as highlighted by Rule 7 include increasing contrast by changing the background color, increasing font size, changing to sans serif fonts, and removing all capital text and underlining (using bold to draw attention). PDGFR, platelet-derived growth factor receptor.

Rule 2: Spend only 1 minute per slide

When you present your slide in the talk, it should take 1 minute or less to discuss. This rule is really helpful for planning purposes—a 20-minute presentation should have somewhere around 20 slides. Also, frequently giving your audience new information to feast on helps keep them engaged. During practice, if you find yourself spending more than a minute on a slide, there’s too much for that one slide—it’s time to break up the content into multiple slides or even remove information that is not wholly central to the story you are trying to tell. Reduce, reduce, reduce, until you get to a single message, clearly described, which takes less than 1 minute to present.

Rule 3: Make use of your heading

When each slide conveys only one message, use the heading of that slide to write exactly the message you are trying to deliver. Instead of titling the slide “Results,” try “CTNND1 is central to metastasis” or “False-positive rates are highly sample specific.” Use this landmark signpost to ensure that all the content on that slide is related exactly to the heading and only the heading. Think of the slide heading as the introductory or concluding sentence of a paragraph and the slide content the rest of the paragraph that supports the main point of the paragraph. An audience member should be able to follow along with you in the “paragraph” and come to the same conclusion sentence as your header at the end of the slide.

Rule 4: Include only essential points

While you are speaking, audience members’ eyes and minds will be wandering over your slide. If you have a comment, detail, or figure on a slide, have a plan to explicitly identify and talk about it. If you don’t think it’s important enough to spend time on, then don’t have it on your slide. This is especially important when faculty are present. I often tell students that thesis committee members are like cats: If you put a shiny bauble in front of them, they’ll go after it. Be sure to only put the shiny baubles on slides that you want them to focus on. Putting together a thesis meeting for only faculty is really an exercise in herding cats (if you have cats, you know this is no easy feat). Clear and concise slide design will go a long way in helping you corral those easily distracted faculty members.

Rule 5: Give credit, where credit is due

An exception to Rule 4 is to include proper citations or references to work on your slide. When adding citations, names of other researchers, or other types of credit, use a consistent style and method for adding this information to your slides. Your audience will then be able to easily partition this information from the other content. A common mistake people make is to think “I’ll add that reference later,” but I highly recommend you put the proper reference on the slide at the time you make it, before you forget where it came from. Finally, in certain kinds of presentations, credits can make it clear who did the work. For the faculty members heading labs, it is an effective way to connect your audience with the personnel in the lab who did the work, which is a great career booster for that person. For graduate students, it is an effective way to delineate your contribution to the work, especially in meetings where the goal is to establish your credentials for meeting the rigors of a PhD checkpoint.

Rule 6: Use graphics effectively

As a rule, you should almost never have slides that only contain text. Build your slides around good visualizations. It is a visual presentation after all, and as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. However, on the flip side, don’t muddy the point of the slide by putting too many complex graphics on a single slide. A multipanel figure that you might include in a manuscript should often be broken into 1 panel per slide (see Rule 1 ). One way to ensure that you use the graphics effectively is to make a point to introduce the figure and its elements to the audience verbally, especially for data figures. For example, you might say the following: “This graph here shows the measured false-positive rate for an experiment and each point is a replicate of the experiment, the graph demonstrates …” If you have put too much on one slide to present in 1 minute (see Rule 2 ), then the complexity or number of the visualizations is too much for just one slide.

Rule 7: Design to avoid cognitive overload

The type of slide elements, the number of them, and how you present them all impact the ability for the audience to intake, organize, and remember the content. For example, a frequent mistake in slide design is to include full sentences, but reading and verbal processing use the same cognitive channels—therefore, an audience member can either read the slide, listen to you, or do some part of both (each poorly), as a result of cognitive overload [ 4 ]. The visual channel is separate, allowing images/videos to be processed with auditory information without cognitive overload [ 6 ] (Rule 6). As presentations are an exercise in listening, and not reading, do what you can to optimize the ability of the audience to listen. Use words sparingly as “guide posts” to you and the audience about major points of the slide. In fact, you can add short text fragments, redundant with the verbal component of the presentation, which has been shown to improve retention [ 7 ] (see Fig 1 for an example of redundant text that avoids cognitive overload). Be careful in the selection of a slide template to minimize accidentally adding elements that the audience must process, but are unimportant. David JP Phillips argues (and effectively demonstrates in his TEDx talk [ 5 ]) that the human brain can easily interpret 6 elements and more than that requires a 500% increase in human cognition load—so keep the total number of elements on the slide to 6 or less. Finally, in addition to the use of short text, white space, and the effective use of graphics/images, you can improve ease of cognitive processing further by considering color choices and font type and size. Here are a few suggestions for improving the experience for your audience, highlighting the importance of these elements for some specific groups:

Rule 8: Design the slide so that a distracted person gets the main takeaway

It is very difficult to stay focused on a presentation, especially if it is long or if it is part of a longer series of talks at a conference. Audience members may get distracted by an important email, or they may start dreaming of lunch. So, it’s important to look at your slide and ask “If they heard nothing I said, will they understand the key concept of this slide?” The other rules are set up to help with this, including clarity of the single point of the slide (Rule 1), titling it with a major conclusion (Rule 3), and the use of figures (Rule 6) and short text redundant to your verbal description (Rule 7). However, with each slide, step back and ask whether its main conclusion is conveyed, even if someone didn’t hear your accompanying dialog. Importantly, ask if the information on the slide is at the right level of abstraction. For example, do you have too many details about the experiment, which hides the conclusion of the experiment (i.e., breaking Rule 1)? If you are worried about not having enough details, keep a slide at the end of your slide deck (after your conclusions and acknowledgments) with the more detailed information that you can refer to during a question and answer period.

Rule 9: Iteratively improve slide design through practice

Well-designed slides that follow the first 8 rules are intended to help you deliver the message you intend and in the amount of time you intend to deliver it in. The best way to ensure that you nailed slide design for your presentation is to practice, typically a lot. The most important aspects of practicing a new presentation, with an eye toward slide design, are the following 2 key points: (1) practice to ensure that you hit, each time through, the most important points (for example, the text guide posts you left yourself and the title of the slide); and (2) practice to ensure that as you conclude the end of one slide, it leads directly to the next slide. Slide transitions, what you say as you end one slide and begin the next, are important to keeping the flow of the “story.” Practice is when I discover that the order of my presentation is poor or that I left myself too few guideposts to remember what was coming next. Additionally, during practice, the most frequent things I have to improve relate to Rule 2 (the slide takes too long to present, usually because I broke Rule 1, and I’m delivering too much information for one slide), Rule 4 (I have a nonessential detail on the slide), and Rule 5 (I forgot to give a key reference). The very best type of practice is in front of an audience (for example, your lab or peers), where, with fresh perspectives, they can help you identify places for improving slide content, design, and connections across the entirety of your talk.

Rule 10: Design to mitigate the impact of technical disasters

The real presentation almost never goes as we planned in our heads or during our practice. Maybe the speaker before you went over time and now you need to adjust. Maybe the computer the organizer is having you use won’t show your video. Maybe your internet is poor on the day you are giving a virtual presentation at a conference. Technical problems are routinely part of the practice of sharing your work through presentations. Hence, you can design your slides to limit the impact certain kinds of technical disasters create and also prepare alternate approaches. Here are just a few examples of the preparation you can do that will take you a long way toward avoiding a complete fiasco:


These rules are just a start in creating more engaging presentations that increase audience retention of your material. However, there are wonderful resources on continuing on the journey of becoming an amazing public speaker, which includes understanding the psychology and neuroscience behind human perception and learning. For example, as highlighted in Rule 7, David JP Phillips has a wonderful TEDx talk on the subject [ 5 ], and “PowerPoint presentation flaws and failures: A psychological analysis,” by Kosslyn and colleagues is deeply detailed about a number of aspects of human cognition and presentation style [ 4 ]. There are many books on the topic, including the popular “Presentation Zen” by Garr Reynolds [ 11 ]. Finally, although briefly touched on here, the visualization of data is an entire topic of its own that is worth perfecting for both written and oral presentations of work, with fantastic resources like Edward Tufte’s “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information” [ 12 ] or the article “Visualization of Biomedical Data” by O’Donoghue and colleagues [ 13 ].


I would like to thank the countless presenters, colleagues, students, and mentors from which I have learned a great deal from on effective presentations. Also, a thank you to the wonderful resources published by organizations on how to increase inclusivity. A special thanks to Dr. Jason Papin and Dr. Michael Guertin on early feedback of this editorial.

Funding Statement

The author received no specific funding for this work.

What Is The 10/20/30 Rule For Presentations And Why It's Important For Your Team

What Is The 10/20/30 Rule For Presentations And Why It's Important For Your Team

Presentations are an integral part of team workflow. From internal communications and reporting, to client-facing proposals and pitches, presentations keep everyone on the same page. Or in this case, on the same slide.

While collaboration is great, having too many cooks in the kitchen can make things messy. In regards to presentations, it’s important to have brand guidelines and rules in place to ensure all company decks are consistent and professional. In Beautiful.ai, our Team plan helps team members collaborate with content management and branding control settings in place so that less design-savvy departments can’t make a mess of a deck. But still, your team might need additional rules to help them achieve the most effective (and efficient) deck possible.

One of our favorite standards to follow is Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 presentation rule . Not sure what we’re talking about? Let us elaborate. 

What is the 10/20/30 rule for presentations?

The ever-popular 10/20/30 rule was coined by Guy Kawasaki, a Silicon-Valley based author, speaker, entrepreneur, and evangelist. Kawasaki suffers from Ménière’s disease which results in occasional hearing loss, tinnitus (a constant ringing sound), and vertigo— something that he suspects can be triggered by boring presentations (among other medically-proven things). While he may have been kidding about presentations affecting his Ménière’s, it did inspire him to put an end to snooze-worthy pitches once and for all. As a venture capitalist, he’s no stranger to entrepreneurship, pitches, and everything in between. We’d be willing to bet that he’s heard his fair share of pitches that have fallen on deaf ears (almost literally, in his case). 

To save the venture capital community from death-by-PowerPoint, he evangelized the 10/20/30 rule for presentations which states that “a presentation should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points.” 

Why it’s important

Because we’re passionate about our own stories, we’d like to think that our audience will feel the same way. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. You could be presenting the most groundbreaking topic, to the most interested audience, and you still might lose people to distractions or boredom. Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 rule ensures that your presentation is legible and concise, making it more retainable, resulting in bigger wins for your team. 

You’ve heard us say that less is more when it comes to presentations, and Kawasaki’s rule really drives that point home. You can’t expect your audience to comprehend (and remember) more than 10 concepts from one meeting, so keeping your presentation to 10 slides is the sweet spot. Each slide should focus on its own key takeaway, and it should be clear to the audience what you want them to learn from the presentation. While Kawasaki applies this to the venture capitalist world— and the 10 slides you absolutely need in your pitch — this is a good rule of thumb for internal meetings, proposals, and sales decks, too. 

When was the last time you sat through a 90-minute presentation and thought, “this is great, I’m going to remember everything.” That’s a rhetorical question, but it’s probably safe to assume the answer is never. It’s normal for people to lose focus, get distracted, or run through their to-do list in their head while watching a presentation, and it has nothing to do with you or your topic. To keep your audience engaged and interested, keep it short and sweet. Regardless of the time you have blocked out for the meeting, your team should aim to keep their presentation under 20 minutes. If there’s time leftover, use that for discussion to answer questions and drive your point home. 

30 Point font

If your audience has to strain their eyes to read your slides, they probably won’t bother to read them at all. Regardless of the age of your audience, no one wants to squint their way through a 20-minute presentation. Kawasaki’s rule of thumb is to keep all text to 30 point font or bigger. Of course, the bigger the font, the less text you’ll be able to fit. This is a good exercise to decide what information you really need on the slide, and what you can do without. By making your slides more legible for your audience, you’re encouraging them to follow along. Additionally, being intentional about what your team includes on each slide helps the audience know exactly what you want them to pay attention to in the presentation. 

Applying the 10/20/30 presentation rule in Beautiful.ai 

Now that you know what Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 rule is, let’s apply it to your next team presentation. 

In Beautiful.ai, our pre-built presentation templates make it easy for you to start inspired. Simply browse our inspiration gallery, curated by industry experts, pick the template that speaks to you and customize it with your own content. Most of our deck templates are well within the 10 slide standard, so you’ll be on the right track (the Kawasaki way).  

Once you’re in the deck, our Smart Slides handle the nitty gritty design work so that you don’t have to. Changing the font size is easy, and our design AI will let you know if the size is too big or too long for the space on the slide. You can choose your favorite (legible) font when customizing your presentation theme, and that font will be applied to each slide throughout the deck for a cohesive and consistent look. 

Of course, it’s all for naught if you don’t practice. We recommend doing a few dry runs in the mirror, or in front of your dog, to get the timing of your presentation right. Remember, 20 minutes is the magic number here. 

Jordan Turner

Jordan Turner

Jordan is a Bay Area writer, social media manager, and successful blogger. Check out TheOceanMinded.com or find her on Instagram @theoceanminded.

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What Is the 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint?

Brian Halligan

Published: November 12, 2020

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. 

marketer creating a powerpoint using the 10/20/30 rule of powerpoint

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. 

→ Free Download: 10 PowerPoint Presentation Templates [Access Now]

What is the 10/20/30 rule of PowerPoint?

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 PowerPoint

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. 

30 Point Font

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. 

Make Your Presentations More Engaging

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. 

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slide presentation rule of thumb

PowerPoint 101: The 5/5/5 Rule

slide presentation rule of thumb

When it comes to presentations, we believe that content should drive design. That is, the way that you structure and organize your presentation should follow the needs of the content, rather than a rigid structure.

But this is a lot of work, and isn’t always easy, particularly if you are still learning the ropes of presentation design and storytelling. That’s where rules come in. If you’re struggling to get started, or are unsure of how best to structure a PowerPoint presentation, rules can offer an easy on-ramp to help you get going. And the 5/5/5 Rule is both one of the simplest and most effective.

What is the 5/5/5 Rule

The 5/5/5 Rule explains what it is right in the name: when creating slides for your presentation, use at most:

5 words on a single line

5 lines of text on a single slide.

5 slides that apply the first two rules in a row

Now, let’s take a closer look at each part of the rule, and see how it helps build a better presentation.

Presentations are multi-dimensional. They rely on a combination of written words, spoken language, and visual storytelling to effectively communicate information. So if you are writing out lengthy, complete sentences in order to make sure that “all the information is there,” you are missing the point (and the value) of PowerPoint.

By applying the “5 words per line” rule, you’re ensuring that your writing stays sharp and clear, and that the audience is focused more on you than on the screen. As we noted in our blog 3 ways to up your PowerPoint game , too much content can actually lead to less information retention, which is very counterproductive.

When we are designing PowerPoints for clients, we have our own general rule we try to follow: one idea per slide .

That’s because people tend to think of a slide as a single unit of content. This tells the brain to keep those ideas together, creating associations between bits of info and helping us to cement them in our minds. And if a seminal piece of neuroscience is true, we can hold “ seven, plus or minus two ” pieces of short-term information in our brains.

By limiting yourself to 5 lines of text, not only are you helping to make your presentation more effective, you’re also helping your audience to internalize more of the information your trying to share.

(No more than) 5 slides that apply the first two rules in a row

If you followed the first two rules to the letter on every slide in your PowerPoint, you could still have way too much content for an effective presentation. So if you catch yourself relying too heavily on the first two 5’s, you should take a step back and look for ways to vary your content.

This could mean trimming back certain slides to reduce the amount of content, adding in more images/infographics, or simply removing some slides altogether.

When to use the 5/5/5 Rule

The purpose of this rule isn’t to blindly apply it to every PowerPoint you make. Rather, it’s to force you to take a step back and carefully consider each slide you’re creating for it’s content as well as keep the audience’s considerations front and center.

It’s also a great way to outline your content. If you’re ever feeling stuck on how to get started with a big presentation, creating content within the 5/5/5 Rule can help you to structure your presentation just enough that you can ignore the rule.


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