The Coast News Group
Limiting speaking time to 20 minutes minimizes chances your audience will tune out. Stock photo
Ask Mr. MarketingColumns

Death by PowerPoint

As a strategic marketing consultant, I’m occasionally asked to weigh in on the suitability of a client’s potential employee, partner or supplier.

This typically requires reviewing websites, credentials and product lines, plus sitting in on in-person or virtual meetings.

Thus I found myself on a Zoom call this morning with a would-be service provider. Not yet having had my first cup, I was already struggling. Still, duty called.

Today’s vendor presented a 91-slide PowerPoint. Whenever questions popped up, the presenter seemed to start over again to regain her train of thought.


The fun folks at Microsoft offer “The 10-20-30 rule” for making a PowerPoint presentation that’s engaging and efficient. They suggest:

  • No more than 10 slides.
  • No longer than 20 minutes.
  • No smaller than 30-point fonts.

Why? Because a good presenter uses slides as a supplement, not the main event. Too many slides means you’re disorganized or providing too much information.

Limiting speaking time to 20 minutes minimizes chances your audience will tune out. You’ll encourage viewers to ask questions after you’ve finished. Plus they’re more likely to remember topic details if the conversation has been relatively brief.

And the font? Using a minimum 30-point font ensures your text can be easily read from a distance. And while most experts recommend using sans-serif fonts, high-resolution screens have made some serif fonts more PowerPoint friendly.

Other suggestions? Have no more than six lines or bullet points per slide, with six words maximum per line. This keeps the attention on the speaker, not the slide.

You should also use graphics, GIFs and videos to keep your audience engaged. While this vendor did that, the overload of other content made those slides look crowded.

Oh yes…did I mention that the vendor was only halfway done after 75 minutes? The whole thing was, in a word, unimpressive.

I know that public speaking is one of life’s biggest fears, but it can open up huge opportunities for you. Audiences and customers assume you’re an expert the moment you start speaking, and you can retain that reputation by following these simple rules.

However, just nattering on with no respect for your audience or their time is a guarantee that people will be heading for the exits long before you’ve delivered your message or closed the deal.

With that said, I wish you a week of profitable marketing.

Develop better presentations at

Leave a Comment