You've probably endured plenty of terrible presentations in your time, but maybe you think that up in the higher echelons of Silicon Valley, entrepreneurs have really nailed the art of the pitch.
Nope. As early Apple employee-turned-investor Guy Kawasaki bluntly puts it, "Most of these pitches are crap." Even top-tier entrepreneurs pitching elite VCs can't seem to make an engaging set of slides.
You might conclude from this fact that crafting a compelling presentation is incredibly hard, requiring subtle artistry and exceptional skill. Once again, nope. Kawasaki insists that all you have to do to not torture your audience with any persuasive presentation is follow his classic 10-20-30 rule.
"Ten is the optimal number of slides in a PowerPoint presentation, because a normal human being cannot comprehend more than 10 concepts in a meeting," Kawasaki insists. "If you must use more than 10 slides to explain your business, you probably don't have a business."
What should those 10 slides contain if your presentation is an investment pitch? Kawasaki helpfully offers a list of the 10 points that venture capitalists actually want you to cover.
TED Talks are 20 minutes for a reason -- that's how long you can reasonably expect an audience to pay attention. Exceed this hard limit at your peril. Even if you have an hour to present, actually click through slides for 20 minutes, Kawasaki insists. Use the rest of the time for setting up your tech before and taking questions after.
What's wrong with small fonts (besides the fact that you are presenting to humans, not eagles)? "The majority of the presentations that I see have text in a 10-point font. As much text as possible is jammed into the slide, and then the presenter reads it," Kawasaki reports.
The result is that the audience quickly catches on to what you are doing and simply reads ahead of you. This is boring and renders you superfluous. More important, though, it also reveals that you haven't learned your material by heart. Using bigger fonts will force you to use fewer words, and that will make you actually think through and memorize your key points, improving your presentation.
Will these three rules instantly turn your pitch to gold and win you millions in investment? Obviously not. No amount of presentation savvy is going to save you if your idea is terrible. But, on the other hand, even an excellent idea can easily die because of terrible presenting.
Keep to the 10-20-30 rule and you'll at least give yourself the best possible shot of winning over your audience.