Rethinking presentations

Product managers often give presentations to colleagues, executives, customers--and we all probably suffer from "too much"--trying to say too much using too many slides.

Guy Kawasaki writes, "I am trying to evangelize the 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint. It's quite simple: a PowerPoint presentation should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points. While I'm in the venture capital business, this rule is applicable for any presentation to reach agreement: for example, raising capital, making a sale, forming a partnership, etc."

From Presentation Zen, "In the world of PowerPoint presentations, then, you do not always need to visually spell everything out. You do not need to (nor can you) pound every detail into the head of each member of your audience either visually or verbally. Instead, the combination of your words, along with the visual images you project, should motivate the viewer and arouse his imagination helping him to empathize with your idea and visualize your idea far beyond what is visible in the ephemeral PowerPoint slide before him. The Zen aesthetic values include (but are not limited to):

  • Simplicity
  • Subtlety
  • Elegance
  • Suggestive rather than the descriptive or obvious
  • Naturalness (i.e., nothing artificial or forced)
  • Empty space (or negative space)
  • Stillness, Tranquility
  • Eliminating the non-essential.

We've come to use PowerPoint as a teleprompter, resulting in too many of us reading slides. Could you make your point using fewer slides? Could you make it ten slides? Come on, net it out. What's your point? Use the student note section to add supporting information. Move your company logo off the page into the printed matter. Let the slides remind you of the point; the slides are themselves the point.

Let's hope 2006 is the year when we do better presentations using fewer slides.

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson was a founding instructor at Pragmatic Institute, a role he held for more than 15 years before he left to start Under10 Playbook. In his return to Pragmatic Institute, Steve supports the complete learning path for product teams, ensuring they are fully armed for success. 

Over the course of his career, Steve has helped thousands of companies and tens of thousands of product professionals implement product management processes. He has worked in the high-tech arena since 1981, rising through the ranks from product manager to chief marketing officer. Steve has experience in technical, sales and marketing management positions at companies that specialize in both hardware and software. In addition, he is an author, speaker and advisor on product strategy and product management.


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