The 10:20:30 Formula: cliché or forever classic? Part I


Are the rules of presentation coined by Guy Kawasaki relevant these days? In this first part of the article, we dive into the creation of marketing evangelism and presentation formula origin. The second part will analyze how these concepts work (or don’t) on today’s listeners.

For those unfamiliar with Guy Kawasaki, he is a former psychologist turned marketing guru who made his mark at Apple during the Macintosh era from 1983 to 1987. During this time, he discovered two game-changing ideas: marketing evangelism and the 10:20:30 presentation formula. Some may argue that these concepts were floating around before Kawasaki, and that will be true. But he was the one who truly gave them their due recognition.

So, what exactly is marketing evangelism? Picture this: you’ve convinced someone that your product, your technology, or your brand is the bee’s knees, and they go on to spread the word like wildfire, championing your cause to their family, friends, and anyone who will listen. That is the power of marketing evangelism. It’s like having an army of enthusiastic supporters who genuinely believe in your brand without spending a fortune on traditional advertising. These devoted “parishioners” willingly and passionately spread the gospel of your brand, and that’s worth its weight in gold.

But here’s the kicker, to make this scheme work, you need a killer “sermon” to captivate your audience. Enter the 10:20:30 presentation formula. Like a magic spell, this formula was crafted to intrigue investors and leave them begging for more information about your startup. It’s concise, impactful, and laser-focused. 


What do the numbers in the formula 10:20:30 stand for?

10 is the maximum number of slides you should aim for in your presentation. Why? Because, according to the teachings of Guy Kawasaki, the average person can only handle so much visual information in one sitting.

20 represents the maximum number of minutes your presentation should run for. Anything longer than that, and you risk putting your audience into a state of hibernation. You don’t need to be a marketing guru, though, to realise that no one wants to endure a never-ending presentation marathon.

30 is the minimum font size you should use on your slides. Why is it so important? Our brains are like picky readers: we can look at pretty pictures or read tiny text, but not simultaneously both. Keeping your font size at 30 points or larger ensures your audience can read what you’ve written without reaching for their magnifying glasses and will not overhear what you are saying, squinting at the tiny text.

Numbers 10, 20 and 30 representing Kawasaki's formula of presentation

Interestingly, the last rule was the one modified most frequently. Some folks suggested alternative numbers like 6 or 60 to limit the words on each slide or the entire presentation. Others argue that the font size limitation is a relic of the past. But no matter how you interpret it, the essence of Kawasaki’s rules remains the same—to pack a punch with minimal fuss. It’s like creating a masterpiece with just a handful of brushstrokes.

Even if you’re not a fan of sermons or religious references, think about the legendary speech by Martin Luther King Jr., “I Have a Dream.” It had the power to move mountains and only took him 17 minutes to deliver. So, whether you’re preaching to the masses or presenting to a room full of sleepy coworkers, keep it concise, impactful, and leave them wanting more.

Why did the 10:20:30 formula revolutionize the art of presentation and become the gold standard? Well, picture the 1970s, when presentations were these lengthy affairs resembling academic lectures. They would drag on for 30 minutes to a whopping 2 hours, showcasing countless slides—sometimes close to a hundred. It was all about being thorough, showcasing a serious approach. But an hour-long presentation can be a snooze-fest, drowning the audience in an ocean of forgettable information.

Collage depicting Kawasaki's work in the field of presentation and marketing

Enter Guy Kawasaki, the presentation superhero. He realized that presenters were falling into one of two extremes. Some would drop a presentation bomb, overwhelming the audience with complex economic theories and global trends. Others would unleash a special forces presentation, bombarding the audience with technical jargon and intricate details about their product. It was time for a change.

Kawasaki’s rules were fresh air in this information overload. The 10:20:30 formula forced presenters to shed all the unnecessary fluff and get straight to the point—no more lengthy self-introductions or meandering stories unrelated to the topic. 

According to Kawasaki, the topics of your slides should be organized like this:

  • Problem

  • Your solution

  • Business model 

  • Underlying magic/technology

  • Marketing and sales 

  • Competition

  • Team

  • Projections and milestones

  • Status and timeline

  • Summary and Call to Action

Now, remember that the 10:20:30 formula isn’t set in stone. Even Kawasaki’s biggest fans suggest treating it as a guiding light, adapting it to fit your unique circumstances. It’s all about finding the right balance of information and engagement.

The end of the first part


Source ROI4Presenter Blog

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