I am evangelizing the 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint. It’s quite simple: a pitch should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points. 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.
  • 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 infographic created in collaboration with my friends at Visually will help you fine tune what to put on your ten slides. I hope this helps you create a winning pitch deck for your startup.

By | March 5th, 2015|Categories: Books, Entrepreneurship, Pitching and Presenting, Venture Capital|Tags: |27 Comments

About the Author:

Guy Kawasaki is the chief evangelist of Canva, an online graphic design tool. Formerly, he was an advisor to the Motorola business unit of Google and chief evangelist of Apple. He is also the author of The Art of Social Media, The Art of the Start, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur, Enchantment, and nine other books. Kawasaki has a BA from Stanford University and an MBA from UCLA as well as an honorary doctorate from Babson College.

27 Comments

  1. Sasha March 5, 2015 at 7:19 pm - Reply

    Very good points. Sometimes less is more, especially when you are trying to get important points across and increase your credibility.

  2. CrossTalk (@techtionary) March 6, 2015 at 5:57 am - Reply

    Here’s a few more ideas – “Pitch Perfect” – Ideas for Better Presentations http://www.rockiesventureclub.org/angel-investor-club-blog/

  3. stephen bleeker March 6, 2015 at 6:09 am - Reply

    I fully subscribe to this logic…just find it interesting that were you to convert this excellent info-graphic to slides it would equal approximately 15 slides.

  4. write my pape March 7, 2015 at 12:00 am - Reply

    Your presentation is meant to support the message you’re communicating, not obscure it. I can’t agree with the thought ” a normal human being cannot comprehend more than ten concepts in a meeting “. Using more than ten slides to explain for my business may not break my standard level.thanks

  5. Nicolas Rougy March 7, 2015 at 8:56 am - Reply

    Very good simple and pragmatic tool useful in various domains. I see many applications for NGOs either with policy makers or donors. We need more of those to help them integrate private sector good practices, and hence gain in professionalism, impact and coherence.

  6. Rick March 7, 2015 at 11:11 am - Reply

    Why is this not the template used for Shark Tank?

  7. Shobha Ponnappa March 10, 2015 at 11:21 pm - Reply

    Loved this article especially the part about “using a Windows laptop, so it will take forty minutes to make it work with the projector” .. hehehe!

    • Rodger March 14, 2015 at 1:00 pm - Reply

      I love this article. However, this comment ( his comment ) is unnecessary and distracting – it could have been eliminated and the article would be even stronger. I’ve been burned enough times with projectors and Apple computers that I rigorously avoid them – a personal choice. Yet, I wouldn’t have injected my bias about Apple into this article if I was wrote it. In ‘ The Art of the Keynote Guy says ‘ Don’t denigrate the competition ‘ – good advice. Apparently Microsoft is the competition. He should follow his own counsel.

      • Mike November 16, 2015 at 7:44 pm - Reply

        And the reality is it’s true you wouldn’t spend 40 minutes trying to get it to work with an apple. You’d realize immediately you don’t have the right adapter that’d be that.

  8. Peggy Guiler March 12, 2015 at 5:34 pm - Reply

    I didn’t get past the first line because the phrase is “in a pinch” not “pitch”.

    • Robert Bobson March 24, 2015 at 3:16 pm - Reply

      Peggy is this a joke? The author is referring to a sales pitch. There’s no such thing as a “sales pinch.” He’s not referencing your phrase.

  9. Brian Ernesto March 13, 2015 at 7:14 pm - Reply

    Only one slide is missing… Defensibility & IP. Every good pitch has some sort of moat. Trade secrets, patents, exclusivity agreements, etc. Investors want to have some sort of competitive advantage and protections.

    Same goes for sales pitches.

    • Dave Mariner April 14, 2015 at 10:16 am - Reply

      Brian – wouldn’t that would be in the Underlying Magic?

      • Brian Ernesto April 15, 2015 at 10:47 am - Reply

        Dave – Not really. The underlying magic is your “model”; what are you doing differently to address the need in the market?

        As an investor, you want exclusivity in the market to that magical way of addressing the need. That means you have a legal way to defend the IP (e.g. patents, copyrights, etc.). With those elements your execution in fulfilling the need becomes less important, and thereby reduces investor risk, because in the end we can then license the IP to someone who can.

  10. Abhishek March 21, 2015 at 5:25 am - Reply

    Minimal and yet momentous, definitely embodies the KISS principles, I am already working on mine with the help of this template 🙂

  11. .hj barraza June 2, 2015 at 1:06 pm - Reply

    @Briand and Dave, What I recall from the book, Underlying Magic refers to differentiation; which can take the form of IP, unfair advantage or innovative resource/model.

  12. Nigel Adams June 7, 2015 at 12:22 am - Reply

    I agree with Guy and encourage my BSc Business Enterprise (BBE) Venture Creation -Programme students to be brief and to the point, but also suggest they “tell an interesting story” when pitching.

    My BBE students, at the University of Buckingham in UK, are under pressure, as they must pitch to “Buckingham Angels” for up to GBP5000 within 4 months of starting their undergraduate degree.

    I suggest to my students that their “Management Team” slide should be number 4 or 5, not as Guy suggests, number 8. My reasoning is that “People invest in people”, so it is better to “Sell themselves and their idea to the Angels” as soon as possible.

    I also emphasise the importance of making their pitch interesting by “telling a story”.

    It seems to work, as all my BBE student businesses, who pitched on 29 May 2015, were awarded funding by “Buckingham Angels”, though some didn’t get all they asked for! If you are interested, you can read about our innovative undergraduate programme here: http://bit.ly/bbe_independent

  13. Pallavi Rao June 18, 2015 at 3:19 am - Reply

    Great Article. I completely agree with Guy, the attention span of most people is max 20 minutes after which the human mind has moved on. the slides may be more than 10 but really your message is only heard in the first 15 to 20 minutes. Lol so agree with the 40 minutes set up time 🙂 that is something we see all the time..

  14. Plants Guru July 30, 2015 at 1:21 am - Reply

    Great article! nice to read. is there any example or presentation, if you have please share with us.

  15. Srinibas Patnaik August 2, 2015 at 2:16 pm - Reply

    I would add use of pictures and graphs along with text in the presentation. Pictures catch great deal attention and they communicate well. I would also add presenter’s voice pitch and connecting with audience while presenting.

  16. Steve Goldman August 14, 2015 at 12:31 pm - Reply

    Guy’s 10 slides are clearly structured as a pitch presentation format for investors. Having now been on both sides of the table, I can confidently say they are an effective template / discipline for getting your story focused on the essential check list of questions that investors will have, for keeping their attention, and for whetting their appetites to want to learn more .. and potentially attracting a champion in the process. With a strong leader taking command of the presentation, these guidelines work well for improving your batting average attracting $. As Mark Twain said, “If I had more time I’d have made it shorter”. If that was ever more true, it’s with investors who are barraged daily with deals.

  17. Peter Gjersoe October 11, 2015 at 10:41 pm - Reply

    Love the 10/20/30 philosophy and am rewriting an article => video to follow.
    Some of the comments make me a bit concerned though.

  18. surya kumar February 1, 2016 at 11:33 pm - Reply

    some wat to relavent about internation affairs of nationality inthe antise social group….!!!!

  19. Doug B February 26, 2016 at 3:03 am - Reply

    What is your take on the PechaKucha format of 20 x 20 – 20 slides , 20 seconds each? In a world of decreasing attention spans do you think this format has the ability to add a bit more Zing and Energy to a presentation?
    Allows more time for Q & A then too.

  20. Deborah Bromell March 24, 2016 at 4:04 pm - Reply

    This is very, very helpful to me in creating my pitch.

  21. 0700812012 April 29, 2016 at 11:38 pm - Reply

    This is realy helpful I using the same in my studies here in Kenya

  22. Toba Temi May 6, 2016 at 3:32 am - Reply

    Thank you GK, I used it. I raised capital for my young company.

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