Guy Takeo Kawasaki, an American marketing specialist, author, and Silicon Valley venture capitalist, has listened to, seen, and observed thousands of entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to get funding for their business ventures from investors like himself. He once bluntly put it, “Most of these pitches are crap! Sixty slides about patent-pending, first-mover advantage, and all we have to do are get 1 percent of the people in China to buy it.” Kawasaki was not just pointing toward amateur entrepreneurs when he said this; he also talked about top-tier entrepreneurs who cannot seem to make an engaging set of slides when presenting their business pitches to the most elite venture capitalists in Silicon Valley.
That being said, you might be led to believe that it is insanely difficult to craft a persuasive presentation to the top investors in Silicon Valley, let alone Guy Kawasaki himself. Well, Kawasaki does not think so. He has since studied the art of business pitching and promoted a strategy known as the 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint.
But what exactly is the 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint? Simply put, Kawasaki believes that a PowerPoint presentation should only have ten slides, should only last no more than 20 minutes, and should only use fonts no smaller than 30 points.
Kawasaki argues that ten slides are the recommended number of slides in a PowerPoint presentation. That is the maximum amount of concepts an average person can understand in a business meeting. “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. If you must use more than ten slides to explain your business, you probably don’t have a business, ” Kawasaki insists.
What concepts you should include in the ten slides is entirely up to you. However, Kawasaki enumerates the ten topics that venture capitalists want you to cover in 20 minutes.
- Your solution
- Business model
- Underlying magic/technology
- Marketing and sales
- Projections and milestones
- Status and timeline
- Summary and call to action
Your pitch, Kawasaki asserts, should be given in only twenty minutes. Most presentations have an hour-long slot, but concerns on the technical end may arise, and it could take forty minutes with the projector. And even if the setup goes flawlessly as planned, some venture capitalists may arrive late or have to leave early. So Kawasaki concludes that “in a perfect world, you give your pitch in twenty minutes, and you have forty minutes left for discussion.”
Jessica Stillman of Inc. Magazine details why TED Talks last only for 20 minutes is associated with Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 rule. Twenty minutes is how long you can reasonably expect your audience to pay attention to your presentation.
You do not want your audience to lose interest in your presentation just because you maximized every grid on your screen to fit all the text you want there, even the unnecessary details. And to even worsen the presentation, the presenter proceeds to read the text instead of comprehensively elaborating and explaining their thoughts to the panel. Kawasaki maintains that:
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 sync.
Having your audience read ahead of you is one of the worst things that could happen in your presentation. Not only will you be out of sync with the audience, that is also a sign that they have entirely lost their attention to your presentation. For them, this is a manifestation that your delivery is monotonous and nonchalant, and you have not learned your material by heart, all because of the lousy font size. Using bigger fonts and fewer words will lead your panel to believe that you have memorized your presentation by nature, therefore eliciting positive feedback from them. Kawasaki adds:
The reason people use a small font is twofold: first that they don’t know their material well enough; second, they think that more text is more convincing—total bozosity. Force yourself to use no font smaller than thirty points. I guarantee it will make your presentations better because it requires you to find the most salient points and know how to explain them well. If “thirty points” is too dogmatic, then I offer you an algorithm: find out the age of the oldest person in your audience and divide it by two. That’s your optimal font size.
Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 rule will not instantly convert your pitch into a million-dollar investment. Regardless of the delivery or tactic you use in presenting your pitch, if your idea is terrible, your venture capitalists will, in one way or another, see through it. On the other hand, if you have a million-dollar idea but your delivery is as terrible as can be, your vision will die. So, keeping in mind the 10/20/30 rule by Guy Kawasaki when delivering a business pitch will, at least, give you the best chances of winning over your audience, and more importantly, your investors.
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