A couple of years ago I led a panel on online learning among nonprofit organizations at N-TEN’s
National Technology Conference. As it happened, Guy Kawasaki was one of the
keynote speakers at the conference, and I had the pleasure of listening to his
thinking on innovation. As part of his presentation, Guy commented on
presenting itself—with the poor use of PowerPoint as his main target. His
approach to avoiding “Death by PowerPoint”—that affliction in which listeners
are verbally flogged into a state of mental numbness by far too many slides
with far too much text on each slide –is what he calls the 10/20/30 rule. I’ll refer
you to Guy’s blog posting on the topic for full details, but the
summary is “a PowerPoint presentation should have ten slides, last no more than
twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points.”
Now, Guy speaks from the perspective of a venture investor
and suggests that his rule is applicable to any situation in which reaching an
agreement is the goal. That doesn’t really describe most training and education
situations, and yet I can’t help but think that the spirit of Guy’s advice applies
well in situations where PowerPoint forms the primary source material for an online
learning module—as it does for organizations that are making use of online course and presentation development tools like
Adobe Breeze and Articulate Presenter.
The key to something like Guy’s 10/20/30 rule is not that it
needs to be followed dogmatically, but that is suggests a disciplined framework
in which thoughtful design of each presentation slide becomes much more
important that the total quantity of slides of the quantity of text on each
slide. Karl Kapp’s
excellent presentation “avoiding death by PowerPoint” really helps to bring this
point home in the context of presentations for training and education, whether online or off. Karl
uses more than 10 slides, but I think you will agree that he uses them very
effectively and he comes in at under 10 minutes for the entire presentation. It is itself an enjoyable and effective e-learning experience based on PowerPoint.
If you’ve developed PowerPoint learning modules for online learning that are in
the spirit of the approaches described above, I’d love to hear about them.
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I am an avid lifelong learner who writes and speaks frequently on the critical role of learning in our fast-changing world.