The 10/20/30 Presentation Approach Fails in Social Media

Photo credit: Presentaiton Helper

Photo credit: Presentation Helper

Guy Kawasaki has a well known blog post from 2005, The 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint, in which he articulates why less-is-more when it comes to presentations. This post is really good for in-person presentations, and continues to be well-received as seen by the blog links to the post and Google search results.

The tenets of Guy’s post include:

  • Only 10 slides, because the audience will only be able to follow that many
  • Target 20 minutes of talking
  • Font size no smaller than 30 point

The post is part of a larger canon regarding presentations. For maximum effect, keep each slide simple, with few words and no bullet points. Graphics are a better way to present concepts, with the presenter narrating heavily. These principles have vastly improved presentations in-person or on a conference call.

But they’re terrible when it comes to social media. At best, they force readers of the presentation to guess what the presentation is saying. At worst, they cause people to come away with the wrong impression of what is being said. This week saw an example of that.

Fred Wilson and Twitter’s Search Plans

Fred Wilson, the Union Square Ventures venture capitalist behind Twitter, gave a presentation titled Startup culture, the Internet, and Television. Included in that presentation was this slide:


Now Twitter is the subject of much speculation. And this slide seems to show something about their future. Search + matching users + featured user. Of course, all we have to go on is this slide. This comment on Fred’s blog foreshadows what would happen next:

Good example of the Great Deck Paradox. Given a great deck should provide context and visual cues rather than the contents of the talk itself, a great deck by itself is pretty unintelligible without the talk. Still, the key point came across: guidelines for success in TV = guidelines for success on the net.

Fred’s slide was picked up in a post by Eric Berlin on Louis Gray’s blog.

A Case of Misunderstanding

In the post, Eric does a nice job of breaking down the implications of what’s seen in the screenshot from that slide. There were no notes that accompanied the slide on SlideShare. The slides were an aid to the true content of the presentation, Fred’s talk. Unfortunately, there was no audio included. So without notes or audio, the slide has to stand on its own in venues like SlideShare.

It turns out the analysis that Eric did ob the slide was wrong. Not so much on the analysis itself – that was top-notch. But on the premise behind the analysis. Namely, that the slide was showing the future direction of Twitter.

In a follow-up post, Fred wrote that bloggers were getting the wrong impression of the slide, which was some alpha version floating around Twitter. Here’s what he said about Eric’s post:

But it gets even more nutty. Today I saw a story on that assumes the title of slide 22 “Where We Are Going” implies that the search results page I showed was about where Twitter is going. And then it goes on to evaluate the business model implications of the page I showed. Well the post is pretty interesting, but it’s based on a false assumption. The “We” in “Where We Are Going” means TV users and the TV business, not Twitter.

Let’s trace this:

Incomplete information on slide -> Blog post based on incorrect assumption -> Fred Wilson refuting posts

Could Fred have added some content on the slide or a note to mitigate the possibility of misunderstanding? Yeah, probably.

Recognize Two Separate Audiences for Your Presentations

In How to Integrate Social Media in Product Marketing, I noted this issue about presentations put up on services like SlideShare and Scribd:

When people are viewing your PowerPoint, they will not have the advantage of your voiceover. You can’t provide a spare slide with just a picture and hope everyone gets what you’re saying. In the webinar, you’ll have a nice narration for the slide. In SlideShare and Scribd, each slide has to stand on its own.

In terms of product marketing, this is important for making sure you effectively get your point across. Here’s an example of what I mean, from the presentation How to Double the Value of Your Social Software:


The left graphic is a good visual aid. My voiceover is shown on the right. If you want to combine in-person slides with social media-ready slides, the little talk bubble on the right can be a custom animation that doesn’t appear during your narration of the slide until the end. You get the minimalist approach during the presentation, readers get the context afterwards.

That’s from a product marketing perspective. But as this incident with Fred Wilson shows, it’s a lesson that applies to any presentation you put up on social media sites. Perhaps Guy will update his 10/20/30 Rule to reflect the ways in which people consume information in 2009.

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.


About Hutch Carpenter
Chief Scientist Revolution Credit

4 Responses to The 10/20/30 Presentation Approach Fails in Social Media

  1. Eric Berlin says:

    Hi Hutch,

    Great piece, as always.

    My intentions in writing the piece were to say, “*If* this is the direction that Twitter is going in, this is what it might mean in terms of user experience and monetization.” I found the fact that a venture capitalist that produced this slide — a screenshot that presented a new look search results page — and published it on the Internet to be a newsworthy event, something worth talking about with Twitter red hot (red hotter?) as ever.

    • I agree Eric. Looking at that slide, you see things that aren’t on the current Twitter page. And the presentation is by the VC backing Twitter. I’d assume the same thing – these are some of the revenue-generating features coming down the pike.

  2. Pingback: Technology news for 2009-03-12 | Technology News

  3. Call me old-fashioned, but I think the important presentations will be done the traditional way – in ppt – with the narrator narrating. Not on social media.

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