Shall We Trust the 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint?

Posted on by Dana VanDen Heuvel

 Shall We Trust the 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint?Over the next week (yes, the whole week), I’ll be preparing for a huge presentation.  It’s 10 slides long.  When’s the last time you took about 10 days to prepare 10 slides?  (Or, do you usually give your audience death by PowerPoint?)

The presentation is a really big deal, it’s for a contest. The contest stipulates that we can only use 10 slides and that we have 15 minutes to present (about 5 minutes shy of Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 rule), but we’ll get it done in 15.  Funny, perhaps I should post this after the contest,a s a competitor might be reading!  All this got me to thinking that there really is something to Guy’s perspective on PowerPoints for pitches:

A PowerPoint presentation should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points.

Of course, the guidelines for the presentation are comprehensive, but I’ve called on some virtual advice from some VC guys who’ve seen a few pitch decks in their life.  In fact, as I go over the rules in Brad Feld’s post The Torturous World of Powerpoint, I’m reminded of just how many details we really need to cover in order to convince the committee that the idea and the founders have the chops to do what we’re said we are going to do with the business.  More to the point, David Cowan published some great advice in his post, How To NOT Write A Business Plan that again reminds us that 10 slides is it.  If you can’t get your idea across in 10 slides, you’re done.

So what about that 10 slides?  What can you do in 10 slides?  Well, here’s the takeaways that I’m gleaning from Guy, Brad and David on some of the big things we need to keep in mind.

  1. If you must use more than ten slides to explain your business, you probably don’t have a business. This comes from Guy, and I agree. We’ve spent, and would-be business starters should do the very same, hours working on the language of how we communicate our idea. Simplicity takes work, metaphors take work and the simplest of ideas that make you say “why didn’t I think of that” are generally born of a mind which has actually done quite a lot of thinking about ‘that’ long before it popped into your head.
  2. Talk from passion, not from slides.  This one actually comes from Jason Fried, but it’s so dead on.  Really, I don’t need a deck for this, and neither does my partner in the deal. We’d be doing this project (we are doing this project) whether we get funding or accolades from the contest or not. (As proof, I must tell you that we didn’t even make it out of the kiddie pool last year in this same contest, and now we’re one of the coveted “final 5”. If there’s passion, do it anyway) If you need a deck to back you up, go work on your idea some more.
  3. We know we’re not the only ones doing it.  We can say we’re the ‘first’ (though another competitor opened before we did) as we took the PR spotlight first, but that’s it. Frankly, we’re doing this in part because we’re not the first.  We don’t have the patience to wait around while everyone catches on to the idea of a first mover.  What we do have that no one else does is the vision, process, community, execution, clarity, passion, and the overall customer experience. As Jason Fried says, “The stuff you can’t specifically define or bullet-point are the things that matter.”
  4. Really define the customer. Get as specific as possible and live inside your customers head. In fact, it’s better if you could also be a customer. In our case, we’re the first 2 customers. We’re doing this because we can’t be customers of anyone else because no one has what we want.  It’s easy to explain the customer’s point-of-view when you’re swimming in the same fishbowl.
  5. Build a mission that’s achievable, but not yet achieved. I love that, and it reminds me of reading Seth Godin’s “The Dip” where he talks about world class being whatever defines world class to your audience. Our mission is local, our vision is national and we’re building something that’s totally achievable yet not yet achieved.  Wow, I feel better already!

There’s so much more that’s going into our presentation, but we’ll save that for a post-mortem post!

Oh, and to answer the question, you bet we’re following Guy’s rules, and we’re leaning on the other great sages mentioned herein.  Wish us luck!

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