Does Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 PowerPoint Rule still stand? (Micro episode!)

Episode 116:
Does Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 PowerPoint Rule still stand? (Micro episode!)


This is an episode for: People that have to pitch, VCs & anyone that creates PowerPoint presentations.

Molly Geoghegan, Narrative Strategist

Molly Geoghegan

Apr 04, 2024

Guy Kawasaki is an amazing marketer, creator and thinker. (If you don’t follow him already, do it here!) 

His 2005 blog post, The 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint, provided advice for startups on how to pitch to VCs—but it blew up because it resonated with presenters of all kinds. 

As presentation enthusiasts, it’s about time we checked it out and see what still holds up. 

This is a shorter, “micro” episode where Molly goes through Guy’s advice and examines how the 10/20/30 PowerPoint rule is still useful today.

What's in the Spice Cabinet??

Refresh yourself with Guy Kawasaki’s viral 2005 blog post, “The 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint

  • Learn more about Guy here.

Guy’s walkout song? (at least, the on-the-nose version for this blog post)


Click here to see the podcast transcript

Molly Geoghegan  00:21

Welcome back to presentation thinking aka the storyteller Study Club podcast. I am one of your hosts, Molly Geoghegan. I'm a Narrative Strategist over at ghost ranch communications. And if you're just tuning in, normally I have my co host and founder of ghost ranch Mikey Madhu ski with me, but his offspring breaking, raging with his two little girls down in Florida. So while he soaks up the sun, I'm putting out another episode. If you're just tuning in, we like to talk about all things storytelling, whether it's presentations, PowerPoint, we're PowerPoint specialists at ghost Ranch, we often take TED Talks and break them down. We bring on amazing presenters and keynoters of all industries, and talk about what makes good presenters great, or separates the good from the great. And what really makes a presentation memorable, because presentations are storytelling and vice versa. Recently, we've been really tuning into the startup and venture capitalist world. We've had amazing founders on the podcast to talk about their pitches and their stories and how they implement story and narrative into their pitches. And this is something we're really interested in. So today, on episode, what is it 116 We're finally bringing in Guy Kawasaki, which is a name you might recognize because he's an he's amazing guy. He was one of the early Apple founders. He has long since written about presenting and pitching. He's a venture capitalist himself. He's written a book, he has several cool podcasts overall seems like a really funny guy. I was just reading his long bio on his website, and he's a goof I would love to have him on. So guy, if you're listening, I'm available. We're available to chat. But we're gonna go we're gonna throw it back to one of the first blog posts that made guy famous. I would clock guy up there in the Seth Godin ranks as someone that's early blogs really contributed to some business basics in business, no house in the early aughts of the internet as it expanded. So we're bringing back this blog post from 2005. And it's called the 1020 30 PowerPoint rule. And if you're listening, you might be wondering what you might get out of this. And let me tell you, if you find yourself, creating presentations, creating PowerPoint decks, this is something that will be helpful for you. The principles of guys 1020 30 rules still stand. In fact, I was just doing some research to see if he still stands by his rule, or what's evolved since 2005. Since he wrote this on his blog post. And pretty amazingly, he has several videos from 2015 2020, where it's still the same thing. It's still the same pieces of advice within this PowerPoint rule and the basics to strive for. So without further ado, let's get into it. Okay, the 1020 30 PowerPoint rule, guys, a funny guy, as I said, and this whole blog is framed around the fact that he has many heirs disease, which is a super unfortunate thing where you get tinnitus in your ear, you might suffer from vertigo, and ultimately him loss of hearing. And he chose that because he's heard so many pitches as a VC and this was in 2005. Right? So you have to think about how many he's seen since then, right 2024 At the time of recording this podcast. And this is something that he's trying to offer as a way of protecting the VC community and helping the startup founders themselves, make better pitches, because he says the majority of pitches he sees are absolute crap. There's 100 slides, there's tons even more words on each slide. And he's having a hard time reading it on the screen on the projector, whatever it is, he can't see the text because it's all too small. It's crammed in there. And he's like, Wait, there's not enough time. And this is, you know, one of the one of the potential factors contributing to many errors disease is stress, and strain. So he's like, let's, let's try and save the VC community here. Please, if you're a founder and you're pitching something, please adhere by the 1020 30 PowerPoint rule. What does that mean? He means no more than 10 slides in your PowerPoint. He says that humans can only comprehend so much in a single meeting. 10 concepts is plenty aka 10 slides. This really echoes the classic death by PowerPoint TED talk as well, that emphasizes we cannot cannot put more than five things on a slide single slide because the human brain can't count it fast enough. We're able to skim count a lot of things, but as soon as it's more than five, it becomes really hard to process. Okay, you guys I just actually scrolled back up to my death by PowerPoint TED Talk Notes. By Who is this guy? David JP Phillips, that was a that's a great TED talk, because we talked about him on episode 67. And I'm actually mistaken, we you can't put more than six objects on a slide. But David JP Phillips is philosophy for PowerPoint is to only have one concept per slide. So each slide has one singular purpose, don't try to do more than two or three things within one slide. And then within those slides, he's talking about the objects, or often haste, bullet points, numbers, or even images, right on a slide. And six is the magic number that a human can magically skim in their head before were like, Oh, what is seven look like it started, you can't skim that number as much. Now, I don't know the exact science behind this. But all I know is that I'm terrible accounting and that this makes sense to me. Less is more, we've said it before, if you take anything away from this episode, less is more on your pitch on your pitch slides, guy takes this a step further and tells you as a venture capitalist, the 10 slides that that VCs are actually looking for. And those 10 slides each serve a singular purpose. Right? So this is a different format for it, or a specific format of a of a presentation PowerPoint. And he's looking for one the problem side to a solution slide, which is probably your solution, if you're a founder, three, what's your business model? For? What's the underlying magic or technology? Like how does your model work? Right? This also might be what people now call a differentiated value or your value proposition. Number five, is your marketing and sales like what's going on? What's your what's your plan to go to market? Six? What's the competition look like? You're probably not the first person in this market. If it's 2024, and you're talking about some AI FinTech solution, who knows? And yet you need to you need to be aware of the competition. Seventh, who's your team who's actually applying this? Eight projections and milestones, nine status and timeline, let's get some dates on the calendar. And 10 is a summary and a call to action. So what are you actually asking for? And how can the VC get involved? Right? We heard a similar conversation from a VC friend ourselves with the 10 slides that VCs are typically looking for. And we're really excited to make some content out of that. So stay tuned, if that's something that's useful for you. So yeah, guy stands by this. And he simply says, this is a really simple blog post, but he just says, like, VCs are just as human as you. And there's no way they can comprehend more than 10 slides a single concept per slide, and keep it simple. Yeah. Alright, so if that's the 10, part of the rule, the next thing is 20. So 10 slides and 20 minutes, this kind of echoes, and I'm 10. I don't know when Ted talks began. But Ted Talks are typically around 18 minutes. So this aligns perfectly with our threshold for these perfect talks that we love analyzing, and no, your talk should not be more than 20 minutes. In 2005. One guy wrote this, he says that usually got an hour with a VC to pitch. So assuming you're gonna have 20 minutes to like struggle with the projector struggle with your technology, make sure everything's tip top shape, and actually get after it. Then your next 20 minutes is for the presentation itself. And the last 20 minutes is for feedback question and answer a vital, vital, vital, vital part of any pitch, right. So you want to make sure you have time for that time yourself beforehand, practice, practice, practice, you do not want to go in there not knowing how long your pitches and you don't want to get cut off. Like that would suck, you'd much rather finish early and have some more time for q&a, in my opinion. Nowadays, I will say in these videos that I saw of guy more recently, in 2015, and 2020, he's like, you don't get an hour anymore. You're lucky if you get half an hour. So your pitch probably should even be a little shorter than 20 minutes. If it's 10 slides can get down to 15 minutes, you can cruise through the team slide they can look at that later. You know if they're really excited and want to reach out to you specifically. So I just you know, there's ways to get it down. 20 minutes is a long time now 20 minutes in 2005 was probably accounting for an in person meeting, most pitches now are online or on Zoom. And that's inherently going to be a lot faster as well, because you don't you lack this in person back and forth. The small talk beforehand, etc. So 10 slides 20 minutes. And the last part of guys advice here is 30 point fonts. This is a quote here, the majority of the presentations that I see have text in a 10 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 sync. I think this is such a helpful quote to showcase what we've seen time and time again, how your brain receptors are at a different pace for how they intake text, how they intake someone talking to you, and how they intake visual media. So if you have all three of those things going on at the same time If your brain can take it in, so it's really easy for an audience member to tune out of your presentation or your pitch. If you have all those things going at once, it's certainly hard as well, if there's text up that you're reading, and they can't take it in at once, because everyone reads at a different a slightly different pace. And so it becomes out of line becomes out of sync as Guy says. So it doesn't make any sense to have a text or a quote up there, unless it's something you want them to read for themselves. I've seen a couple of keynoters that use quotes, and allow the audience to read first, give 30 seconds to a minute, even longer than you would even think make sure everyone's read it. And then maybe you repeat it yourself, but you give everyone the chance to read it, if it's a quote, you really need, or maybe a stat or something like that, for them to actually take in, you need to let them read at their own pace. So, guys, 30 point font advice, I suppose, is in response to the fact that people make their font smaller to fit more in. And he says that, you know, there's this weird, thought that more text equals more convincing. And he says, this is, quote, total bizarre city Bozo city. In other words, don't do it. This is ridiculous, you know, force yourself to use no smaller than, than 30 point font. Think about like, I mean, I think the default when you open a Word document is already 12. So going to 10 point font or even smaller, is kind of crazy. I, I think the only thing I have that smile in my life is a resume where they really want you to put stuff on one page where I think it kind of makes sense to shrink it down. So I don't know you guys, let me know if there's another example of something where you use really small font. But otherwise, think about like the most impactful, most historic, powerful presenters, speakers in the past like speakers don't really have slides anyway, because they're using one mechanism. And again, that's, that's its own point of impact when it's just one platform to reach you on. But if you think about people, famous people with slides, Steve Jobs is obviously one that comes to mind. And guy talks about him in his later evolutions of this 1020 30 rule, and says that Steve Jobs used 90 point font. So that's huge, like a huge, huge numbers,



huge words, inspiring things points of like, reference, maybe a breaker slide, whatever it was a quote. And he says he's being generous and giving you a lot of wiggle room tour, he's like, we aren't as good as Steve Jobs. So I'm giving you 30 points as your limit to be as small as possible. And then he does give one funny piece of advice in one of the updated ones. And he says, if 30 points is too dogmatic for you, then I offer you an algorithm, find out the age of the oldest person in your audience and divided by two, that's your optimal font size. In other words, the younger your audience, the smaller the font they'll be able to see from from afar. Again, they wonder this is a little interesting. Now thinking about how Zoom is the more common format for pitching and presenting, especially to VCs. However, think things apply. Like you don't want to share a screen and half like it's just full of text and expect them to read along with you or you read for them. That's too much, it's much more impactful have less is more. So as simple of a concept as this is. This is almost as simple as the death by PowerPoint kind of blog post. We wanted to keep this included because Guy Kawasaki is an incredible thinker. We'll definitely bring him in for future future podcasts. But what do you guys think? I mean, do you find this 1020 30 Rule useful? I personally have always loved having some kind of framework or checklist at the end of like going into a presentation going into any project really. So I love the idea of this 1020 30 Just being really simple. This was a blog post that sparked a lot of conversation. People still talk about it, HubSpot reposted it just a few like years ago, and I'd be curious, just as cute continue updating it as pitch format and pitches evolve. I think VCs are ultimately still looking for the same things. We're going to release a lot more content soon on exactly what kinds of slides that VCs are looking for. The list that guy shared early in his blog post will definitely include this in the Beatles spice cabinet so as far as guys walk out song if this is your first time joining in Mikey and I always think of the presenters walkout song or we have our guests share their walkout song would might be playing when they go up on stage for their next presentation. And I would love to actually find out guys walkout song. He seems like such a funny, you know, well rounded guy and I bet he has a lot of like niche music interests and love to uncover but just for the sake of being on the nose with this 1020 30 rule in PowerPoint. I'm going to go with dually buzz new rules free domain you know, guy knows what where she, you know, lays out the new rules of for her and her ex lovers interactions and behavior. So this is, yeah, if you have a love hate relationship with PowerPoint, I think this is actually really appropriate. So 1020 30 Rule don't miss it. Thanks for tuning into this micro episode you guys. What other blog posts and little talks from the early 2000s have really shaped presentations and pitching, let us know. We're always a DM or an email away, Molly at ghost In the meantime, keep on pitching everybody

About The Author

Molly Geoghegan, Narrative Strategist

Molly Geoghegan is a writer, organizer, and film school dropout. She hikes frequently with her dog, Guinness, and signs up for too many email newsletters. Having lived in Chicago, Paris, Dublin and Galway, Molly has made her way back to the Rockies and calls Denver, CO home.

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Does Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 PowerPoint Rule still stand? (Micro episode!)