How Long Should a PowerPoint Presentation Be?

by Scott Knickelbine

The features of a "perfect" PowerPoint presentation have been hotly debated in recent years. It seems everybody's seen her share of bad presentations, but people can't seem to agree on what constitutes a good one. This debate certainly applies to length. Some experts suggest that your presentation should be jammed with fast-moving slides, while others say you should be able to count your slides on the fingers of one hand.

The Slide-Per-Minute Rule

One popular rule of thumb is to provide an average of one slide per minute of your presentation. The theory here is that people need a frequent change of scene to stay interested in a presentation. One slide per minute certainly guarantees variety, but it also creates the risk that you'll feel the need to "pad" your slides to hit the quota.

The 10/20/30 Rule

Popular high-tech venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki has proposed the 10/20/30 rule: Your presentation should contain no more than 10 slides, it should go on for no more than 20 minutes, and your font should be no smaller than 30 points. He maintains that too many slides draw attention away from the presenter, and that people can't absorb too much information presented from slides.

Content-Based Approach

Some authorities recommend a content-based approach to PowerPoint length. Instead of focusing on how many slides you need, focus instead on the story you have to tell. Dr. Sophia Scott at Southeast Missouri State University recommends working in the outline view of PowerPoint first; this produces a slide for each major point in your presentation, with bullets for each sub-point. If you exceed six bullets per slide, create another.

An Endless Supply of Slides

One more-recent approach is to have hundreds of slides on hand, and display only those you need as you interact with the audience. This approach -- called a "Presentation Network" -- calls for slides to be clustered by topic point and called up through hyperlinks in a hierarchical information structure. Thus, the presenter takes his cues from the interests of the audience, and she can quickly get to the slides that address those interests.

About the Author

Scott Knickelbine began writing professionally in 1977. He is the author of 34 books and his work has appeared in hundreds of publications, including "The New York Times," "The Milwaukee Sentinel," "Architecture" and "Video Times." He has written in the fields of education, health, electronics, architecture and construction. Knickelbine received a Bachelor of Arts cum laude in journalism from the University of Minnesota.

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