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It’s Time to Break Some Presentation Rules (But Not All of Them)

It’s Time to Break Some Presentation Rules (But Not All of Them)

Presentations and presentation design have changed drastically over time due to advancements in technology, and changes in how people receive presentations as a whole. So why do presenters still abide by the same “rules” that have been in place for years?

While some of these rules remain relevant and essential, others are limiting and outdated. Especially for professionals new to design, it can be hard to distinguish which of these rules are to be written in stone, which should be treated as guidelines, and which rules are meant to be broken.

Fortunately, you can invest in a professional design service for your next PowerPoint presentation to help you stay within these rules, and break the ones that are no longer relevant.

These are some of the common rules established for presentation design:


FOLLOW: The 10/20/30 Rule

The Rule: A presentation should not exceed 10 slides, last longer than 20 minutes, or have font smaller than 30 points.

The 10/20/30 rule of PowerPoint was created by Guy Kawasaki back in 2005. This rule is still widely used and acts as a great guideline for any presentation.

While a lot of presentation rules surround clarity, this one provides a guideline for design, length and pacing. The 10 Slides Rule keeps your content clear and concise; the 20 Minutes Rule keeps your presentation within a decent (and forgiving) time frame, and the 30 Point Font rule ensures that your audience can actually read your content.


BREAK: The 6X6 Rule

The Rule: Every slide should have 6 bullet points with 6 words each

This rule is just unrealistic. It takes more than 6 words to get the point across. Forbes explains that “the 6×6 rule makes you cut for brevity instead of editing for clarity.”

The thing is, every presentation is different. You are not going to be able to provide an accurate weekly update on 10 projects in only 6 slides.


FOLLOW LOOSELY: The 2/4/8 Rule

The Rule: New slide every 2 minutes, no more than 4 bullets per slide, no more than 8 words per bullet

The best part of this rule is that it actually helps to influence pacing. Some people spend minutes talking in circles trying to explain one slide. This rule helps you to make sure that your presentation is well paced and that you seamlessly move from one idea to the next.

On the other hand, the 4 bullet point rule is a little limiting — but it encourages you to consolidate common ideas. Before adding any more bullet points, ask yourself if the extra information is necessary.

Additionally, 8 words per bullet point is a much more realistic guideline than 6 words.

FOLLOW: Don’t Read Straight Off of Your Slide

The Rule: Make eye contact and refrain from reading directly off of your slides

Now, this is more of a presentation rule than a slide design rule, and it is probably the most important. Since elementary school, it’s been stressed that your speech should not be a direct regurgitation of what’s on your slides.

You definitely should not be reading off of slides while giving your presentation. Needless to say, this continues to be an important rule when public speaking. It forces you to become comfortable with your content so that you can share it without reading it off of a slide. It also removes the desire to pack on everything you want to say on your slides — which is another big presentation faux pas.