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3 easy steps to a great 20 minute presentation.

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Don’t get me wrong. Although twenty minutes is a perfect amount of time for a presentation, it takes work to make it effective.  You need to draft a narrative, carefully edit and refine the content, and develop compelling visuals.  Let me take you through a 3-step process that will help you create your next pitch or presentation when you’re given a relatively short amount of time.

1.  Develop sound bites .  Before you even open PowerPoint (or Apple Keynote) craft the key messages that you want your audience to remember.   During our presentations at LeWeb, artists with a firm called were creating one-page visual representations of the presentations.  Looking at the one they created from my talk as well as some of the others, I noticed that the sketch artists were listening for key phrases as well as lists.  Bill Gross, the CEO of technology incubator Idealab, delivered a presentation with 12 entrepreneurial lessons from the last twenty years.  The sketch artists highlighted each of the key lessons (all of the sketches can be seen here  Lists are catchy and make the content easier to absorb. People like lists. Use them.

2.  Storyboard the content. Speaking of sketch artists, it helps to think like an artist when preparing a presentation.  Before you open PowerPoint, head to a white board or take out good old-fashioned pen and paper and start sketching.  Think about how you will visualize each of the key points and supporting messages. What pictures will you use?  Are there abstract images that will reinforce your content?  Remember that people process information more effectively when the content is delivered as words and pictures rather than words alone.

3.  Practice the presentation. Nobody expects you to read extensively from notes for a 20 or 25-minute presentation.  In fact they expect that you have the content down cold.  I’m glad I did.  When I went on stage I could see my slides in the monitor in front of me, but not my presenter notes.  As it turns out I didn’t need them because I had practiced the presentation many times out loud.  Most people save their practice time until the night before a presentation and it shows.

A 20-minute presentation is ideal for new product launches, investor pitches, employee updates, sales meetings, etc.  Take the opportunity to craft, design and deliver a presentation your audience will remember.

Carmine Gallo is the communications coach for the world’s most admired brands. He is a popular keynote speaker and author of several books including the international bestsellers, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs and The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs . His new book, The Power of Foursquare , reveals how businesses can use mobile social media to attract, reward, and engage customers in ways that were never possible. Follow him on Twitter: carminegallo

Carmine Gallo

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how to make a 20 minute presentation

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How to prepare a 20-minute ted-like talk.

More and more the call is for short speeches.  Of course, the popularity of TED and TEDx talks is one cause, but the impatience of the times is another, along with our shrinking attention spans and all the other distractions competing for our mindshare.  Keynote speeches, which used to be 90 minutes, are now 60, and our clients regularly report that they are often asked to give a 20- or 30-minute version of their keynote speech – and sometimes on the fly.

So you’d better have a short version of your talk ready to go, along with that splendid, full-bore, detailed, 60-minute masterpiece.  How do you shrink what you have to say into a 20-minute miniature version of itself?

The secret to saying something memorable in 20 minutes is to resist the urge to say too much.  Changing lives in 20 minutes takes focus.  And that’s something that most people have a hard time doing.  In 20 minutes, you can say roughly 2500 words, give or take, and that’s not very many if you’ve set yourself the task of changing the world.  So you’ve got to narrow the field, resist the urge to say it all, and pick your details judiciously.

A good 20-minute talk presents one idea, tells one story, and asks one question. 

Begin by choosing one idea.   Try to make it an idea that has universal interest, but where your specific expertise can usefully be applied.  Then, narrow it down and focus it until you can sum it up easily in an elevator pitch of a few sentences:

As a neuranatomist, I study the difference between normal brains and the brains of the mentally ill.  One morning, I suffered a stroke, and experienced a mental disorder of my own. I was fascinated to learn from the experience.  Here’s what I learned while I was dying, especially about the differences between the right and left hemisphere’s experiences of reality. 

That, roughly speaking, is what Jill Bolte Taylor might use as a guideline for preparing her TED masterpiece on her “stroke of insight.”  It’s one idea, her expertise is highly relevant, it’s focused and it’s inherently interesting.

Next, pick one story to go with the one idea.   Make it a story only you can tell.  And make it a story with a point, or lesson.  In the Taylor example, her story focuses on the drama surrounding the moment of the stroke, and what follows from that.  The insight Taylor brings to bear on her stroke lets her tell the story in a way no one else can.  The lesson she derives from the story is all about learning to live, especially in that right-brain, non-judgmental world of affirmation, and in the end it’s her affirmation in the face of such a harrowing life-event that makes her perspective powerful and unique.

Note that your story doesn’t have to be as dramatic or life-threatening as a stroke, but of course it doesn’t hurt.  The further down you are on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the more viscerally you will grab your audience.  The safety level is the best place to be, but don’t fake it.  If your speech is not about life and death, don’t distort it to try to make it so.  Just tell it in the way that only you can.

Finally, ask one question.   A good talk poses a question, for which it has an answer that might be sketched quickly at the beginning of the talk, but for which the talk itself is the fuller answer.  Don’t be afraid to make it a big question.  In Taylor’s case, the question she asks is “Who are we?” – plenty big – and the answer is that we are boundless beings that channel and embrace the energy of the universe – but that have the physical body to do something with that energy.

Audiences always start out asking why – why should I care, why is this talk important, why should I listen – and it’s good to give a provisional, brief answer at the top of the talk, so that the audience relaxes and listens to the whole talk as the fuller answer.   Taylor cheats a little on this one, opening with the statement that she studies the brain because her brother suffers from mental illness.  So she studies the differences between brains like hers that allow her to dream her dreams and yet bring them into reality, whereas her brother’s dreams never become reality.  That does answer the question why, but her speech is not really about normal v mentally ill brains.  Rather, it’s about the universal and differing experiences of reality offered up by the left and right brains.

But by the time we get to the end of the speech, most of us have forgotten that entry point, so compelling is her story.

One idea, one story, one question.  That’s  how you focus your thoughts to produce a coherent, potentially powerful 20-minute speech.

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About the author: nick morgan.

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What Audiences Want from Their Speakers: Personas, Part 2


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A good 20-minute talk presents one idea, tells one story, and asks one question – that’s a great piece of advice. I have always found that it takes much longer to prepare and write a short speech than longer. The art and skill is knowing what to include, what to leave out and how best to structure the key points. I also think your point above, (The further down you are on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the more viscerally you will grab your audience.) is really helpful in learning how to significantly engage the emotional level of the audience. Pathos Is such a powerful tool in making our speeches stand out. Thanks for the reminder.

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Thanks, Peter, for the comment and point about pathos — it is also a good reminder! If we don’t touch the emotions of our audience, we don’t touch them at all.

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Hi Nick, This is such a helpful post. I’m just in the midst of transforming my 45 minute talk into a 20-minute version. I understood the idea about getting down to the most essential content, but the “one idea, one story, one question” is so valuable. Putting my thinking hat back on, but feeling very focused! Thanks.

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Hi, Liane — great to hear from you and glad it was helpful! Break a leg….

Thanks, Liane — when you focus, the results are always amazing!

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Nick – I’m a bit late coming to this. Nontheless – This is particularly helpful. Brilliant! I’m using it right now for an informal talk I have to give. I’ve been asked to “share my wisdom” with a group of people at a dinner gathering and have been trying to determine 1) if I have any and 2) how best to impart what I’ve learned in a brief and pithy way that can be useful to others. Thanks!

Ruth, you do have wisdom to share, as anyone who knows you will attest, so good luck with the process!

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Ruth Mott. Loved your post – “1) If I have any…” I think you make a great life coach.

Here`s a thing. Who coaches the coach? Best of luck.

liane, I loved your post too – it was succinct.

I have an hour to an hour and a half talk to give in 20 mins on. . . .Global Warming.

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Thank you for this. Very helpful. While I am a presentation trainer, training people every day on presentations and public speaking, it is good to be reminded of the basics. I need to give two big talks in the next few weeks and will use this process. Completely agree about the use of pathos. The greater the emotional buy-in the more powerful the talk. And that is often the hardest part of a talk to get right.

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Hi, just stumbled upon this link! Very informative. I have been asked to share my story to grade 5-6’s about being vision impaired. I have spoken to adults before, but how would you approach talking to kids for 20-30 minutes?!

Hi, Nessa — glad you found the post helpful. For kids, involve them, keep it action-oriented, and pick one point and stick to it.

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One powerful tool with kids (and adults if done really well) is repetition of the key aspects of a story from different perspectives…

Eg (crap simple draft version…) I was on my way to work when realised that I had forgotten my keys. No keys. Uh, oh… What will I do… When I got to work I said to my boss “I was on my here and do you know what? I forgot my keys. I don’t know what I going to do. Then I asked my friend “I found out that I don’t have my keys. I don’t know what I am going to do” etc… builds up the excitement bit by bit, and all the kids start to see the pattern… kids love the sense that they know what is going to come up… and then the surprise when something changes…

(this comes from years of practice with my 7 year old daughter, no guarantee that it will still work when she is 8 or 12 or 16…)

Love this, Conor — great tip, and thanks!

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Hi Nick! I’m a big fan of your writing and ideas – they are thoughtful and grounded and I share them often! I just ran across this particular post, which jumped out because I too just wrote something about the awesome Jill Bolte Taylor talk! Thought you might get a kick out of it: Thanks again for your work!

Thanks, Sally — I appreciate you continuing the conversation!

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Hello, I am a beginning professional motivational speaker and I just have to say thanks. This post was definately a confidence booster for my 1st speech tomorrow.

Thanks, and good luck, Keith.

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I found this page on google. Such a brilliant article. I’m preparing a TED like speech for freshmen at the faculty of Engineering. As a guest speaker and alumni, I want to draw their attention, share my experience, and leave them aome thought. Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us.

Thanks, Chayathorn, and good luck.

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I really appreciate this advice, Nick. I am speaking soon about stuttering, a subject about which I am passionate. I was so tempted to try and fit ‘everything’ in but I will focus on how my personal (and hopefully powerful) story can encapsulate the main issues and on communicating my main argument. Thank you.

Katy, thanks for your comment and good luck!

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sweet advice bruv

Thanks, Ryan.

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I have found that most talks lasting under 45-60 minutes are a total waste of time to attend. With severely linited time, speakers are unable to present their hypothesis and the underlying subject matter properly. They resort to platitudes and uninformative statements that cannot be followed up and verified.

Of course I am referring to proper academic presentations of serious topics. It seems though that most talks nowadays focus on deathly boring, human-(non)-interest anecdotal drivel about the speaker’s personal experience, which has no scientific value whatsoever. I avoid that sort of crap like the plague anyway.

Thanks for your comment, Ammut. I wish you the best of luck in finding talks that fit your description of what’s worthwhile. They are increasingly rare.

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This was c00L m8 XD

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Ha – very useful. Ive just been asked to convert a 13,500 word first chapter of a book about Laozi (written by a Chinese academic that I proofread the English for) into a 30 minute speech. WTF? Anyhoo I found these 3 ideas skimmed the chapter and BOOM there was the outline of the speech I have to write. Check how many words 30 minutes is on Google – Aiming for 2500 and within 30 minutes the speech is on its first draft. Thanks so much.

Thanks for the comment, and good luck with the speech.

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This was a wonderful “focus” lesson to help me better prepare my thinking. I am working on writing a proposal that would encompass a 90 minute period to a group of educators. What are your thoughts as to doing 3 of these “mini” 20 minute sessions into 1 – 90 minute period? It would be like having 3 mini TED Talks with time for questions at the end and/or time for participants to practice what I am presenting. I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Thanks in advance.

Hi, Mary — breaking up a 90-minute session into 3 20-minute sessions, with interactive time in between is an excellent idea. When in doubt, get the audience to work with you!

[…] At the start of this post, I said many speaking professionals advise you to use emotion. Here’s another example of that – speaker-coach Nick Morgan puts it this way: […]

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Really great post and what a speech! I need to give a 20-minute speech for Toastmasters and am struggling with finding something to talk about for 20 minutes! Whereas you talk about cutting an hour speech down to 20 mins. I’m looking at it from the opposite direction where we normally give 7 minute speeches and I need to come up with 3 of them! I agree that there needs to be a single central theme to bring it all together and Dr Jill’s speech certainly is a great example of doing that. Thank you for sharing this great info and story. Very helpful.

Thanks, Joe — interesting perspective for me, given that the people I work with are almost always trying to find a way to fit their message into a shorter time-frame. The trend over my working life has been from 90-minute keynotes when I started my business in the Dot Com boom, to 60-minute to 45-minute, and now (thanks to TED) often a 20- minute version. Can 7-minute keynotes be far behind?

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how to make a 20 minute presentation

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Empowering Keynote Speaker and Presentation Strategist

3 ways to build a 20-minute, “quaranteeny” presentation

Have you noticed this? That just about everyone wants what I’m calling  “quaranteeny” virtual presentations  these days? I hear it from clients, who are realizing their teams just don’t have the time or energy to sit on a virtual call for 90, or even 60, minutes. Maybe  you’re  the one suddenly struggling to figure out how to get your previously big, beautiful presentation to fit into only 20 or 30 minutes.

And more than that,  how can you get all your information to fit  and  count?  How can you make sure people  understand it, agree with it, and act on it ?

One of the easiest ways to think about it is this:  there’s a distinct relationship between the information you’re giving and people’s capacity to process it.  What’s the relationship?  People’s capacity to process information is defined by both time and attention :

So, the answer is pretty clear when it comes to these quaranteeny presentations.  To be successful, you have to create an experience that matches your information to their time and attention.

How? I just so happen to have spent most of my presenting career in exactly these “teeny” time frames, though thankfully without the quarantine part until now. In my 13 years as a Weight Watchers leader (which I did alongside my full-time work in brand and message strategy), I gave over 3,000 presentations, most of which were 30 minutes or less. Even in the longer “meetings,” my task was to only present 15-20 minutes of content. The rest of the time was in facilitated discussion and peer-to-peer sharing.

I’ve also spent seven (!!) years now working deeply with the speakers at  TEDxCambridge , one of only 10 “legacy” TEDx events in the entire world. Six of those speakers have been promoted to, and the remainder have well over 10 million YouTube views, combined. That’s not to mention the dozens of other speakers who’ve wanted to find their way to a TEDx stage — and to the challenges of that three- to 18-minute timeframe. Based on all of that, here are three techniques to try:

We can all agree we want to know …[shared GOAL]. While there are barriers to that problem we all know exist, the real problem is … [unknown, but real PROBLEM]. Yet we can agree it’s true that … [shared TRUTH]. Which means, to achieve our Goal, we have to … [CHANGE in thinking or behavior.] How? By … [required ACTION(S)].

Want even more ideas? Maybe one of these will help:

After you’ve drafted and delivered your quaranteeny presentation, you can celebrate with a…  quarantini ! (You could make this work-friendly by using a non-alcoholic spirit like  Seedlip . Cheers!)

Like this content? Be the first to get it delivered directly to your inbox every week (along with a lot of other great content, including my #swipefiles).  Yes, please send me the Red Thread newsletter, exclusive information, and updates.

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8 Tips You Can Use to Make Your Presentation Longer

Last updated on January 25th, 2023

Tips to Make your Presentation Longer

Striking that perfect duration for your presentation can be tricky. Your presentation should be brief so as not to bore your audience and to take advantage of the attention span , but it should also be thorough so you can fully deliver your message. There will be times when you’ll need to have a longer presentation than what you had planned, and it can be daunting to prolong the session on the spot if you don’t know what to do. Remember, a long presentation doesn’t mean a wordy presentation.

Let’s say that you were forced to use a specific time frame for your presentation. As an example, let’s assume this is a 60-minute presentation. But when you realize that you’ve prepared a presentation that you are able to deliver in 30 minutes, what would you do to cover the timing requirements and time constraints? In this article, we’ll share 8 tips that you can do to make a presentation longer , some you can do before in preparation, and others you can use during the presentation itself. But first, let’s talk about the possible reasons why you might need a longer presentation.

What are some reasons you might need a longer presentation?

You don’t want to look unprepared. When not done properly, a presentation that is too short may give off the impression that you do not know a lot about the topic you are presenting, or that you did not exert enough effort in creating the presentation. This, even if you have delivered a message effectively and already said everything you needed to say. By having a long and effective presentation, you can show that you are capable and knowledgeable about the topic. It is not the idea to talk for the sake of talking, because if that is the case a wise decision would be to be honest with your audience and cut the presentation beforehand. But in some other situations, this is not the case, and you need to use all the time that you have available for the presentation.

Recommended reading: 75+ actionable topic ideas for your presentations in PowerPoint or Google Slides

You want your audience to feel engaged. Studies from military training have shown that there is a certain balance you should strike when delivering a message to make sure your audience connects with you and understands your key points. Too short a presentation usually does not give the audience enough time or information to fully embrace the topic.

Your presentation time was changed at the last minute . When you’re presenting as part of a panel, you always have to be prepared to adjust the duration of your speech in case you have to accommodate a change in schedule. If you have been asked to fill in for another presenter, you’ll have to find a way to stretch the presentation to make it longer .

What is the ideal length for a presentation? It will depend. Is the presentation you are creating a speech (not a workshop)? In those cases, ideal length may vary between 10 and 20 minutes. However, in some situations you may want to make your presentations longer in time.

How to make a presentation longer (8 Actionable Tips)

Before the presentation.

It is best to design your presentation to already be substantive beforehand so that you can take up as much time as needed to present your topic. Here are 4 tips and strategies to use when making your presentation:


If you have been asked to present for 20 minutes, make sure to prepare enough content for at least 25 minutes. A common standard is that you should always be ready to speak 25% more than you were asked to do. It is much easier to be over-prepared and just cut the less important points from the presentation than to add points that you weren’t prepared for.

Layout a timed schedule for your presentation.

Plan out your speech by knowing how long you take for specific portions of the presentation. This includes your introduction, all the key points, your closing remarks, and any engagements you have prepared like a Q&A portion from the audience. This allows you to have a more detailed estimation of the duration of your presentation, and you can see which parts of your speech you can choose to stretch or insert additional information. This action requires a proper planning, and define the presentation structure beforehand. Alternatively, you can work in a presentation outline first.

Design your PowerPoint presentation purposefully.

Having a visual aid like a PowerPoint presentation is a must in any professional setting, and you can harness it to lengthen your presentation and make it more substantive. By including a graph or a data set to your slides, you are giving yourself a short break from constant speaking.

To help you in designing effective presentations, check out our roster of the best free PowerPoint templates , as chosen by the editor.

Present facts and quotes

A million dollar tip to make your presentation longer is to include new facts and why not, quote slides. Adding facts to your presentations not only will help to transmit the Logos part of the Rhetoric triangle (Logos is an appeal to logic, and is a way of persuading an audience by reason), but also help to lengthen your presentation a few seconds.

Similarly, presenting quotes from famous characters (they can be from different areas, such as politics, sports, public speaking, etc.), you can motivate your audience and keep then engaged. The audience will dedicate a few seconds to reasoning about the quote, what it means, what it tries to say and also about the personality or character who said it, remembering different stories. This will of course help to stretch your presentation a few seconds more. Using a free quote slide for PowerPoint can help you to achieve this with no hassle.

Quote Slide for Presentations - Example

Vary the elements of your presentation.

When appropriate, you can add more types of media into your presentation. A short video clip or an impactful image is a great thing to incorporate. Not only do they lengthen your presentation, but they also spice up your speech and make it more engaging.

During the presentation

Making a presentation longer while you’re already at the podium is all about adapting and taking control of the time. Here are 4 tips that you can employ to make your presentation longer, during the presentation:

1. Speak slowly yet deliberately

Your nerves when public speaking can cause you to speak in a rush or in a panic. Take control of your voice and speak more slowly and include short pauses when making a point. By speaking slowly yet deliberately, you effectively lengthen your speech, and you also help your audience grasp your message much easier.

2. Stress out and repeat key concepts

When presenting, do not shy away from repeating the main points of your message throughout the presentation. By repeating key concepts, you hammer them down so that your audience remembers them and takes them away after the presentation. Stressing out main points is also one of the tips in making a brain-friendly presentation.

3. Add in your reserved examples, stories, and anecdotes

If you’ve done your over-preparation, this is the time when you can include the extra information you have exceedingly prepared and incorporate them into the speech. However, make sure that what you add is still related to the topic and adds substance to the speech. Remember, a long presentation does not mean a wordy presentation.

4. Enrich your presentations with videos

Adding videos to your presentations or embedding a video into your slides and playing it during the slide show can help you to make your presentation longer. However, this technique must be combined with other ones. If you embed a video in your PowerPoint presentations, make sure that it resonates with the topic and speech, and try to keep the attention span in mind. Videos longer than 3 minutes may make your presentation too boring unless the video is engaging enough. Please be sure to use this technique with caution. Additionally, consider that when using videos, the estimated number of slides may vary because each video is generally presented in a slide. So, for instance, if you rely on a specific number of slides for a 10-minute presentation , understand that using videos would require fewer number of slides.

Engage with your audience

Audience participation is a great strategy to use when you’re playing for time and need a longer presentation. There are many ways you can engage your audience throughout the presentation. You can say that you are open to questions during the speech rather than afterward in the Q&A session (Questions and Answers). You can also ask a question, and ask for simple input from the audience like a show of hands.

Final Thoughts

When you need to explain your topic thoroughly and intensively, long presentations are the way to go. However, keep in mind that longer presentations have to be engaging so as not to lose the interest of your audience You can use the 8 tips and techniques that we have mentioned above to help you deliver longer presentations that remain effective and dynamic, so you can nail your presentations every time.

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how to make a 20 minute presentation

Blog / Presentation Design / How many slides should I have in my PowerPoint presentation?

how to make a 20 minute presentation

How many slides should I have in my PowerPoint presentation?

When you’re planning out your next big presentation, it can be hard to know what the slide count sweet spot is. How many slides to put in a presentation, to keep your audience’s attention, is a much bigger question than it may seem.

We’d love to tell you there’s a simple answer, but if you really want to create a persuasive argument, there are a few variables to consider when planning the number of slides in your presentation. And despite what other articles spout, it has nothing to do with time.

We bet you’ve heard a few conflicting theories on this subject, so we thought it was about time we weighed in. You might’ve heard  Guy Kawasaki ’s 10/20/30 rule. This rule states that the “perfect” presentation has ten slides, lasts for 20 minutes, and uses a 30pt font. Or you might’ve read that every minute you speak equates to one slide on display behind you. You might even have uncovered some more formulaic and intricate theories than those, where x = the perfect number of slides. To reach x, you simply divide the number of people in the audience by how many seconds you have to speak, times that by how many steps between your house and the venue, to the power of your height in centimetres. If you’ve already worked your way through a series of varying opinions, you might currently be crying out “just tell me how many damn slides I need!”

Just tell me how many damn slides I need! You

While a lot of these theories are rooted in intelligent thinking and, sometimes, even science, we can’t get on board. They’re just too damn limiting. The people behind the theories were probably trying to over-simplify this complicated question, just to give you an answer. But do you want any answer? Or do you want the right answer?

The right answer is: you’re thinking about presentations wrong.

Do you think Jack Kerouac, Graham Greene, or Dan Brown ever sat down to write with the sole intention of landing on 432 pages? No, they had stories to tell, and it didn’t matter how many pages they took to tell them.

What makes you so different from  Kerouac ?

writing materials

How many slides until there’s purpose?

You’re writing a presentation with a purpose. There’s a change you want to make, and your task is to convey your message persuasively, to inspire everyone that hears it to want the same change. Your purpose is not to fill exactly 20 minutes with exactly ten slides. It takes as many slides as it takes.

No, we’re not just going to leave you with that. We’re not trying to lose friends, clients and beloved readers.

We understand that presentations do often have a time limit, and that limit is one we have to consider when writing. But that limit needs to influence the number of ideas you try to convey, not dictate how many slides go into your presentation to convey these ideas. Because that’s what we’re really talking about here: ideas. For a shorter presentation, you’re going to need to be cut-throat with your editing. To trim the excess, until all that’s left is the most impactful, delicious centre piece. 

That doesn’t mean, if you have the freedom of time, you should use it to reel off every idea you’ve ever had. But you can allow yourself the luxury to layer linked ideas that all point towards one conclusion. To build a nest of ideas. And to support those ideas with facts, figures, previous successes, as well as other people’s ideas.

Only once you’ve written your detailed  narrative structure , or your full script, if that’s how you feel most comfortable, should you even start to think about PowerPoint slides.

Give your ideas room to breathe

Each of your ideas deserves its time to shine. A dramatic pause works to let an impactful sentence sink in, giving the audience a moment to consider the gravity of the spoken word. Uncluttered slides have the same effect. If you try to include too many ideas on one slide, none of them are going to be understood, or remembered. 

If you’re just starting out in the world of persuasive communications, a good rule to follow is:  one idea, one slide . This will allow each idea to have its moment, without competing with any of the other ideas. This will also mean, visually, you’ll have more opportunity to enhance your message. With more slide real estate to play with, you can create presentation designs that hammer your ideas home, rather than confuse the situation further.

The journey of an idea:

and signal the introduction of the next idea with a brand-new slide.

This is a great guide, for those lacking confidence, to use as a starting point. It is not a rule.

What counts as an idea?

Now, this is a much more complicated question, and one that will change for every presentation. In our role as guides in this scenario, we want to give you a tangible answer to your query, not simply introduce more questions, and more confusion, into the mix. After all, if your presentation is tomorrow and your search was the result of extreme desperation and maybe a little too much wine, well, you’re probably not reading this anymore because you’ve already poured said wine over your laptop in frustration. But if you are still with us, you’re probably really keen to get an answer right about now.

woman tired at laptop

Frustration and confusion are not our goals. We just respect you too much to lie to you. We trust that you’ve caught on to the general theme that there are many considerations that go into the slide count of any presentation that comes through the Buffalo 7 studio doors. Now that we’ve addressed that, we can give you a template to help you along your way.

If you’ve read any of our other  storytelling blogs , you already know that every story – this includes your presentation – needs a beginning, middle and end . Let’s break down a very basic structure, and accompanying slide count, for these three key sections.

This is where you set the scene, pique the audience’s interest, give them a clue as to what’s in it for them, and establish common ground. It might look something like this:

This is where we get into the real juicy bit of storytelling. And it’s also where all hope you had of squeezing a definitive slide count out of us will come tumbling down. 

A persuasive argument needs to acknowledge your audience’s challenges, and propose a solution to each one of them. Your audience might have one challenge, they might have 50, which is where the ambiguity kicks back in. Each challenge needs its own slide, and each solution does too. 

If your audience does have 50 challenges, try to find common themes between them, so you can address them as a cohesive group, all under one idea umbrella. Human beings find patterns comforting, so they’ll appreciate the bundling, as well as the reduced slide count.

Appealing to emotion, by showing you have the answer to your audience’s problems, is just one part of landing a persuasive argument. You also need to apply to logic and establish credibility. Again, this could take one slide, or it could take nine, but here is some general guidance:

To close, you’re going to want to sum your key points up in one slide. Just a gentle reminder of the immense benefits they will receive by working with you.

And finally, your end slide should be, as the name suggests, one slide with a powerful call to action. To find out more about how to leave a lasting impression on every audience you encounter,  take a look at this article .

Even if you’re still pulling your hair out, desperately grasping for a simple number, hopefully these guidelines have given you some food for thought.

And now we’re going to complicate the already-fuzzy rules we’ve put in place. 

At Buffalo 7, we never look at the number of slides.

Give a shit, that’s what we say. Slide count doesn’t mean a damn thing. Sometimes we spread one message across five slides, because that’s how you get the animation to work seamlessly.  Complicated navigation  often requires duplicating slides, so that you don’t confuse PowerPoint as to where action came from. In contrast, we can present really complicated messaging on just one slide by using animation builds to break up the story, instead of a series of slides. There are so many variables. All we’re trying to say is, stop worrying yourself about slide count. 

However, some things, to do with slide count, you should worry yourself about:

Bad advice  

This is a call back to some of those other articles you likely stumbled across in your search. If you’re basing your presentation on hitting exactly one minute per slide, you’ve already lost your audience and you’re not even stood in front of them.

If you’re basing your presentation on hitting exactly one minute per slide, you’ve already lost your audience and you’re not even stood in front of them.

Are all ideas created equal? No. Does your audience care about everything you have to say in equal measure? No. Even if you’ve taken the  “so what?” test , and all your messages have passed and are providing value to them, they’re not going to appreciate you skipping over important parts of the solution because the clock is ticking. 

Take time to explain the ideas with the greatest impact, and appreciate your audience’s intelligence enough to assume they’ll understand what an award means, without you describing it for a minute, just because the rule says so.

Do you need slides at all? 

Pick your jaw up off the floor. Just because we create next-level presentations day in, day out, and we absolutely bloody love PowerPoint, doesn’t mean we’re going to lead you astray. Sometimes, you just don’t need the support that slides bring. 

Slides are not there to remind you, as presenter, what your key talking points are. If you’re one of the – terrifyingly few –  people who practice adequately  ahead of a big presentation, you won’t need your memory jogged anyway. 

Slides are not there to tell the whole story for you. The slideshow is not the presentation. The words coming out of your mouth are what the audience came to hear. You are the star of your own presentation.

Before you start closing your laptop down in celebration, let’s take a step back and talk about why you (probably) do need slides.

What are slides for, anyway?

When  designed  and  animated correctly , slides enhance your spoken message so that it’s easier to understand, easier to remember, and more persuasive. You and your slides are a team. There are some things that a visual can just do better than you can. Take, for example, a chart. You could spend half an hour painting a word picture of a chart you saw once. Or you could whack an impactful piece of data vis up on the screen and move on.

how to make a 20 minute presentation

So, back to the original question you never even asked:

When might you not need slides?

If you only have five minutes to influence that desired change in the minds, hearts, and actions of your audience, an emotional and well-told story, spoken directly from your heart, without the dilution of technology or the fumbling of a slide clicker, could be the best way to get your message across. No distractions, no gimmicks, just authenticity. 

In this instance, it wouldn’t matter how many slides are in your presentation, they’re never going to be more impactful than your honesty and vulnerability.

In this short amount of time, your audience is unlikely to suffer from information overload and forget any of your messages, so you don’t need the slides for their ability to enhance memory. They’re unlikely to lose the train of your narrative, so you don’t need the slides as visual guidance. And if your story is told right, speaking to their challenges, and wrapped up in a situation that’s personal to them, you won’t need the persuasive powers of PowerPoint either.

But, nine times out of ten, a PowerPoint can only better your spoken messaging. Fact.

Nine times out of ten, a PowerPoint can only better your spoken messaging.

Extra time means extra slides 

And not just because of the extra ideas. If you’ve been asked to speak for a long time, firstly ask yourself if it’s really necessary. Can your audience concentrate for that long? Could the session be split into smaller chunks? Is it even going to be valuable for them? Do you have that many relevant ideas?

If it turns out to be necessary, there are some extra slides you’re going to want to add to your deck. Consider adding regular breaks (one slide per break), recaps (one slide per recap), even quizzes (one slide per question-answer combo) to keep your audience engaged, check understanding, and give them a chance to stretch their legs.

And, with the freedom of time, comes the opportunity to use other people’s voices to enhance your own. Consider adding relevant quotes, audio clips, or videos from recognisable people who support your message. Of course, you could animate these elements onto your slide with a click, but if you’re not that confident using PowerPoint, creating a new slide for each is an easier option.

When we’re deciding what the most impactful way to tell a client’s story is, we bring brilliant minds from each department together to throw ideas around, consider workarounds for each limitation, and push ourselves to deliver the best solution for each client. And not once do we say “But is that the right number of slides?”


Work Can wait

Put off writing that email just a little longer. Send your incoming calls to voicemail. Put your feet up, grab a brew and explore more presentation insight in the Buffalo 7 Library


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