"As to methods, there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
10/20/30 Rule of Presenting

10/20/30 Rule of Presenting


A framework designed to narrow down presentations so that they stay on point, cut through and achieve a tangible agreement or goal.

This framework was originally devised by Guy Kawasaki from his experience in the world of Venture Capital.

VC’s often have to sit through hundreds of pitches every year, and when they overflow with slides and information, your brain begins to shut down into tunnel vision and blindness.

The 10/20/30 rule is designed to ensure a presentation stays on point, and achieves a tangible agreement or goal.

Rule 1: 10 Slides

Keep your presentation to ten slides.

Ten is the optimal number to stick to, because the average human cannot comprehend more than ten concepts in a single meeting.

Rule 2: Twenty Minutes

You should aim to present your ten slides in 20 minutes. Normally meetings run in a 60 minute time slot, so this allows you ten minutes to try and make your laptop power up and to call the tech guy to make the projector work, and more importantly 30 minutes for discussion.

Twenty minutes ensures your audience feels engaged, that you can show you know your material, and that you can dive deeper on any of the points they don't understand.

Rule 3: Thirty-Point Font

When you have small fonts on a slide, and the audience notices you are simply reading the content on the slides, they will immediately start reading themselves. The problem here is that people can read faster than you can talk, so you will get out of sync.

Kawasaki went a step further by outlining exactly what the ten slides should be, based on what a Venture Capitalist is primarily interested in. These are the following;

  1. Problem
  2. Your solution
  3. Business model
  4. Underlying magic/technology
  5. Marketing and sales
  6. Competition
  7. Team
  8. Projections and milestones
  9. Status and timeline
  10. Summary and call to action

Moving Outside the Venture Capital Bubble

What happens when we apply this model outside of Venture Capital? Fundamentally the principles still hold true, they just need to be adjusted to your role and the unique culture of the organization you are presenting to.

The key here is in reducing complexity. Humans are really good at adding in complexity, but we are terrible at removing it.

Powerpoint Presentations are often a currency of large organizations and the agencies that support them, and they can often be seen as a key driver or waste.

Presentations are high-burden documents, and while there is value in the alignment that they can create, they often have key faults that help slow down momentum.

Presentations create a time suck. It’s hard to know when to stop in the process, so stakeholders over invest and over document to the extreme in the allotted time frame, or polish artifacts to the extreme when these won’t actually contribute to the final product. Action would be better invested in getting to the actual work.

Secondly, presentations often devolve into a justification of role and expense. Rather than provide real value they seek acknowledgment of time or effort.

The solution here is to have a bias for action, and to make adjustments to culture to create clarity at a much faster rate.

Three tactics that can help drive this are;

  1. Become Current: Communicate on a more consistent basis with daily stand-ups, and invest in cloud collaboration tools that move the conversation into more digestible communication chains.
  2. Become Interactive: Move presenter-audience formats into workshops or collaboration sessions. This helps break the mindset of ‘us vs them’ between presenter and audience, and encourages focus from all attendees.
  3. Become Ambient: Consider co-location of the teams, stakeholders or agencies into a single space. Being close to the proverbial water cooler does help in having staff stay better informed, which reduces the need for larger alignment.

If you do need to create a presentation, remember the key principles behind 10/20/30, and continually work on reducing the complexity of you message. Understand the 2-3 takeaways you want your audience to walk away with, present this succinctly in a large, visual format, and make sure you leave time for active discussion, rather than create another opportunity for tunnel vision.

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler”
Albert Einstein.

Author's note, all frameworks are inherently flawed, so apply them wisely. The utility of a framework is always dependent on the individual problem at hand.


Guy Kawasaki.

Design Process Pyramid

Design Process Pyramid

1% Rule of Internet Culture

1% Rule of Internet Culture