41.2% pf presentations have 21 – 40 slides

QUESTION – how do I present to win?

THOUGHT – question the protestations of guy kawasaki

Many readers would have watched Guy Kawasaki’s highly entertaining TED talk in which he highlighted and recommended what he called, and indeed others have called, the 10 – 20 – 30 rule.

Sounds clever, does it not?  It sounds clever, even without knowing what it means.

According to Guy, it means that a presentation, and especially a pitch deck, should:

  • Include no more than 10 slides
  • Take no more than 20 minutes to deliver
  • Use not less than 30-point type

I would argue that all three rules are bullshit!

The number of slides will depend on how the slide show is used. If for example it involves a series of images (for example), that you flick through quickly, it can involve many more than 10 slides. The idea length of the presentation will depend on the quality of the delivery and the capacity of the speaker to engage the audience.  (among other things). While large font sizes are easier to read, that does not mean that smaller fond sizes can be used for effect (for example).

A recent study looking at the length of high-quality presentations, found the following in relation to the number of slides:

  • 1 to 20 slides – 14.7%
  • 21 to 40 slides – 41.2%
  • 40 to 60 slides – 20.6%
  • 60 to 90 slides – 9.8%
  • 90 to 120 slides – 9.8%

It is evident that very few of these presentations were limited to 10 slides., and it is unlikely that a 60- slide presentation will be completed in 20 minutes.

What is clear however, is that all presentations must be tailored to suit the:

  • Audience – attention span
  • Content– and the interest in it
  • Speaker – and their capacity to engage the audience

It is never a case of one format fits all. Every presentation must be customised. Some presentations should not involve a slide show at all and those presentations that do involve a slide show need not be restricted in the manner suggested by Guy Kawasaki. That said, if in doubt, it is wise to keep the slides as simple as you can with as few words as possible, with a view to:

  • Focusing the attention on the speaker
  • Avoiding death by power point.

Personally, I will always put images ahead of type, large type ahead of small type and my speech well ahead of the presentation.


Take on board the 10 – 20 – 30 rule promoted by Guy Kawasaki, but don’t treat it as gospel. Always customise your presentation, talking into account the audience, the content and your skills.

If in doubt, always facilitate focusing on the speaker and to that end, prioritise images over text, large fonts over small fonts and what you have to say over everything.


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