Raise your hand if you’ve ever said, heard, or thought something along the lines of “I’m tired of kids giving boring PowerPoint presentations.” I have and I know many others who have said the same. That changed when I changed how I taught students to create and give presentations.
The 10-30-30 Rule
Guy Kawasaki made his name as a product evangelist for the Mac division of Apple. He’s also the author of multiple best-sellers including my favorite, Enchantment. If you ever get a chance to see him speak in person, take it! He has a rule for presentations called the 10-20-30 rule.
Guy’s 10-20-30 rule states that presentations should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and use no smaller than thirty point font. I created a variation of that rule for my classroom. I call it the 10-30-30 rule.
The 10-30-30 rule for classroom slideshow presentations states that presentations will have ten slides, students will talk for thirty seconds per slide, and use a minimum of thirty point font.
Designing with the 10-30-30 Rule
- The hardest part of implementing the design aspect of the 10-30-30 rule is getting students out of the habit of filling their slides with bullet points. To that end, I ask students to start by writing down the main point of their presentation on one slide then the supporting points on the other slides. We then work together to summarize those points in one to three words per slide.
- After the slides have been labeled with their summary words then it’s time to look for visuals (images or video clips) that represent the summary words. For example, if the summary word is “comfort” and we’re talking about how students feel when walking into school, the visual might be a picture of kids talking and walking or a picture of students hanging out at their favorite place at school.
Presenting with the 10-30-30 Rule
- As a teacher, I know that speaking in front of the class scares the living daylights out of many students. Fortunately, there are some things that I can do to help students feel more comfortable, or at least a little less uncomfortable, with speaking to an audience.
- Speaker Notes! I have students fill in the speaker notes in their presentations with as many bullet points that they want. I then have them share copies of their slides with me before they present to the class. When they are presenting I keep the speaker notes open on my computer so that I can nudge or help students if they get stuck or freeze during the presentation.
- For my students who are exceptionally nervous about giving presentations I work with them to think about their presentation as a series of thirty second sound bites rather than one five minute speech. Breaking it up that way makes it seem a little less intimidating.
- Rather than just sitting there watching their classmates and worrying about when they’ll be in front of the class, I like to give my students something to do while watching their classmates’ presentations. What I’ve found effective is to simply ask each student to write down what they think was the main point of each presentation and one thing that they liked about each presentation.
Tools to help
- Canva and PowerPoint both offer fantastic tools that can help students design the visual components of their presentations. Canva has hundreds of professionally designed templates that students can modify. Additionally, Canva has a feature called “magic recommendations” that makes suggestions for visuals based on words you’ve typed combined with visuals you’ve already selected. PowerPoint has a similar feature that will make layout suggestions based on the visuals and text in your slides. Unfortunately, Google Slides still only offers some basic design templates.
- The online version of PowerPoint (free to anyone who wants to use it) includes a wonderful feature called Presenter Coach. The Presenter Coach will give you immediate feedback on things like how quickly you speak, your use of filler words like “um” and “uh,” and the complexity of your word choices. I encourage anyone, but particularly students, to use Presenter Coach to practice giving presentations. This video will show you how the Presenter Coach works. And this video demonstrates how you can use it even if you built your slides with Google Slides.
It’s not a magic fix.
The 10-30-30 rule isn’t going to turn students into dynamic Guy Kawasaki-like presenters overnight. It will, however, give students a structure for their presentations and a bit of confidence knowing that they only have to share a short series of thirty second sound bites instead of giving a “big presentation.”