Do your palms get sweaty when you have to speak in front of a large group of people? Does your mouth dry out and you forget what you have to say? If you experience any or all of these feelings you are in the majority.
Public speaking is, surprisingly, the thing we fear the most. We fear it even more than death, according to many surveys and studies.
The great comedian Jerry Seinfeld famously made light of people’s fear of public speaking by saying,
“Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”
But what can we do to calm this irrational fear and avoid our bodies going into the fight or flight response every time we stand up in front of an audience? There’s only one answer that will really work in the long run: practice and preparation.
The 10/20/30 Rule
With this in mind, here’s a tip from a man, who not only stood up in front of thousands of people, he did it very, very well. Guy Kawasaki popularized the concept of secular evangelism or evangelism marketing. He gives over fifty keynote speeches per year. People listen to what he has to say. Not least, Steve Jobs who he worked with at Apple.
But what does he have to say specifically about presentation preparation? According to Kawasaki, you can’t go wrong if you adhere to something he calls the 10/20/30 rule of PowerPoint.
As he put it,
“it’s quite simple: a PowerPoint presentation should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points.”
According to Kawasaki, you should use no more than ten slides as your average human being cannot comprehend more than ten concepts in a meeting. His advice is geared largely to entrepreneurial pitch presentations, however, his tips can be applied effectively to any type of presentation in which you’re trying to get a basic message across.
A guideline of the ten concepts a venture capitalist cares about, according to Kawasaki are:
2. Your solution
3. Business model
4. Underlying magic/technology
5. Marketing and sales
8. Projections and milestones
9. Status and timeline
10. Summary and call to action
Kawasaki’s advice is all about keeping the message clear, simple and concise. Present those ten slides in twenty minutes. As Kawasaki says,
“in a perfect world, you give your pitch in twenty minutes, and you have forty minutes left for discussion.”
This, of course, is a man who has to listen to hundreds of entrepreneurs pitch their companies. He’s jokingly blamed a barrage of terrible, 60-slide pitches for his tinnitus. The message to take from this? Keep it simple. If your message is worth hearing, there’s no need for over explanation.
Many pitchers and presenters frustratingly include small text in their slides and even read out large segments of what is on the screen. The problem with this is that human beings, in general, read faster than a person can speak. If you’re reading out what’s on your slides, your audience will realize this and start reading ahead of you. You will effectively become obsolete in your own presentation. Not a great impression to give if you want to communicate your message effectively.
As Kawasaki puts it, using size 30 font on your slides works
“because it requires you to find the most salient points and to know how to explain them well.”
Not only is it possible to overcome a fear of public speaking, it’s possible to excel in front of an audience! Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 rule of PowerPoint can help you to do just that. If you focus clearly on what you want to say and practice delivering it with confidence, people will listen.