The Golden Rules of Holding the Audience Attention in PowerPoint Presentations

The Golden Rules of Holding the Audience Attention in PowerPoint Presentations
The Golden Rules of Holding the Audience Attention in PowerPoint Presentations

There are innumerable ways to structure PowerPoint presentations based on the context and the requirements. However, presentations, not unlike other forms of communication, do have some ground rules that are often considered cardinal regardless of what is being presented. Savvy presenters understand that they cannot take the audience’s attention span for granted and work smartly to get the most out of the time the audience gives them.

A lot of research has been done on the methods of presentation delivery. SlideUpLift has compiled a list of these rules for you to create an impact when you adopt these practices.

In this blog, you will learn

Importance Of Organizing For Attention Capture

Many forms of media and communication take the idea of attention capture very seriously- think about the last time you saw a TV ad the ad was likely a few seconds long and the creators worked very hard to get the message across in those few seconds- every aspect was optimized knowing fully well that precious attention from the audience is likely to wander off if anything goes off tangent in the advertisement. There is more: think of posters, of banner ads on websites- all of these are designed around constraints of space or time- limiting how much time and attention the audience could really give.

Now think of PowerPoint presentations: the audience behaviour is likely to not deviate much: In fact, studies have indicated that the average duration of focused attention span is 8 seconds, down from 12 seconds in 2020; there are enough distractions in today’s digital world that drive these trends.

Bottom line is, presenters need to actively think about the topic of holding the attention of their audience. The ease of editing slides in tools like PowerPoint is a proverbial double-edged sword -since it is so easy to add slides, text, graphics, etc that the presenters often can do too much without seeing the slippery slope they are on when that occurs.

Presentation Rules To Maximize Attention Span

Each of the following rules presents powerful ideas towards capturing and holding the audience’s attention. These can be used in isolation or combined to cater to your specific requirements and objectives for a presentation.

10–20–30 Rule

Guy Kawasaki, a venture capitalist well versed in making and assessing presentations, came up with the 10–20–30 Rule. He created this rule in response to hundreds of entrepreneurs pitching their ideas to him using dense 60+ slides PowerPoint presentations to explain something that could have been explained in 10. While he made the rule in the realm of venture capitalism and start-up pitches, the 10–20–30 Rule can be applied pretty much unanimously for every business need.

The rule states that each presentation should have no more than 10 slides each. The total time taken for the presentation should not exceed 20 minutes. And the font size for all the text in the presentation should not be less than 30 px.

- This is in reference to people’s attention spans and the power of retention. For the average human, the information given concisely and carefully is more effective, rather than long-winded explanations and detailed descriptions. Thus, 10 slides are the optimum number of slides to put relevant information that can actually be retained.

20 Minutes — This is the maximum time an audience is willing to give you after experiencing several bouts of attention loss. So, wrap up your presentation within 20 minutes to keep the audience interested and focused.

30 px font size — The dilemma of putting in more information at the expense of font size is a struggle every presenter’s faces. However, having the bottom line read 30 px for the font size constrains a presenter into making their information short and effective, rather than relying on long-winded explanations crammed onto a page in 10px font size.

Business Pitch Deck
Business Pitch Deck

Source: Business Pitch Deck by SlideUpLift

5–5–5 Rule

The 5–5–5 Rule follows the principles of the 10–20–30 Rule, in the sense that it seeks to quantify the structure of a presentation. However, it delves deeper into the details of PowerPoint presentations through the number 5 and talks about structuring information within a single slide.

The three 5s stand for

5 words — There should be no more than 5 words in one sentence (in a slide). This keeps the sentence focused only on the objectives, rather than creating a whole story around it.

5 sentences — There should be no more than 5 sentences or lines of text on a single slide. This makes each slide that much more approachable and readable for the audience.

There should not be 5 text-heavy slides within a presentation in a row. Space them out as much as possible. Having text-heavy slides back to back can cause information overload and fatigue in the audience.

Single Big Idea

One of our guiding principles is the notion of a “Single Big Idea”. The premise of this idea is two-fold. The overall presentation should be focused on the main vision and goal of the presentation. For instance, if the goal is customer acquisition, the whole presentation, tonality, graphics, story flow, messaging should be focused on customer acquisition.

Moreover, each slide should also follow the concept of a “single big idea”. Treat each slide with the reverence given to the overall presentation, ensuring that each element, be it visual or textual, aligns with and reinforces the larger idea being presented on that slide.

The 15–75–10 Narrative

One of the best tools in a presenter’s toolbox for making presentations is storytelling. We as human beings love stories and absorb messages without even realizing it.

One of the ways to structure your PowerPoint presentations is to narrativize them. The 15–75–10 rule is one way to do it

The 15% Introduction: This should be about 15% of the whole presentation, wherein you introduce yourself if needed, and the larger idea that you intend to convey within the presentation. You can also establish your touchpoints and objectives right at the beginning.

The 75% Body: Consisting of about 75% of the presentation, the body is where each of your touchpoints is elaborated on using anecdotes, examples, statistics, and information related to them. The body should answer the questions of what, why, and how for the topic.

The 10% Conclusion: The last 10% of your presentation should be the conclusion. A good conclusion is not just a conclusion slide with a thank you note on it. A solid conclusion summarises the presentation, talks about key points of focus, provides contact information, has a call-to-action, and prompts audience engagement to recall and revise everything said during the presentation. Conclusions are brief but powerful parts of a presentation.

Also learn a few tips on effective public speaking.

SlideUpLift Templates for PowerPoint Presentations

SlideUpLift consists of a team of visual design and business experts that are well-versed in both presentation structures, and business foundations for communication. As such, each presentation is made keeping in mind their impact and effectiveness for each topic.

All SlideUpLift presentations work with the rules of structuring that best fit that particular topic. From project reviews to SWOT analysis, each template is guided by the golden rules of presentation structuring to create a unified and cohesive template that fits all business requirements. Creating impactful, engaging, and effective PowerPoint presentations have never been easier.

Value Proposition PowerPoint
Value Proposition PowerPoint

Source: Value Proposition powerPoint by SlideUpLift

Source: Customer Journey Executive Summary by SlideUpLift

Ladder Diagram
Ladder Diagram

Source: Ladder Diagram by SlideUpLift

Puzzle PowerPoint Template
Puzzle PowerPoint Template

Source: Puzzle PowerPoint Template by SlideUpLift

Project Kickoff

Source: Project KickOff Presentation by SlideUpLift Conclusion

It’s a given that a good presentation needs a great structure. But understanding the rules that govern human psychology is extremely important to make an impact when presenting, whether to a group of people or an individual. Using presentation templates that pre-bake such insights and are created specifically to capture the audience’s attention is a smart thing to do.

Now you don’t have to scour the web to find out the right templates. Download our PowerPoint Templates from within PowerPoint. See how?

About SlideUplift:

SlideUpLift is an online platform to help professionals make compelling presentations using principles of vision science and storytelling. The platform contains an online library of pre-designed presentation templates for Professional PowerPoint Presentations & Google Slides that can be used across industries and functions.

Check out our library of free PowerPoint templates & free google slides templates, which are weekly updated to serve the presentation needs of professionals. You will find the simplicity and ease of downloading the editable template, filling it with your content, and building world-class presentations in just a few clicks.

Originally published at on September 1, 2021.

SlideUplift is a utility to help business professionals create powerful presentations using ready to use impactful PowerPoint tools and templates.

SlideUplift is a utility to help business professionals create powerful presentations using ready to use impactful PowerPoint tools and templates.