Why You Can Break ‘Unbreakable’ Rules

I just read an article over at Hubspot that touts the ‘10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint’ as created by Guy Kawasaki.

I want to state upfront that I have nothing against Guy. I’ve read his books and he gives great advice on many topics.

But I suspect that one day Guy needed something to write about and was fresh out of ideas.

That’s when he decided to share his own 10/20/30 rule of PowerPoint with readers, and now it’s gospel among speakers and video creators.

It’s also, in my opinion, bullocks.

The rule says that you must never use more than 10 slides in a presentation, you must never go over 20 minutes and you must never use fonts smaller than 30 point.

Even if you don’t do powerpoint presentations or make slideshow videos, you can tell at one glance this rule is wrong.

The clue is a certain phrase that appears not just once, but three times.

Go back now and see if you can spot it…


“You must never.”

You must never this and you must never that and it’s all rubbish.

Very few rules apply all of the time. In fact, the only hard and fast rule I can think of right now is that if you want to keep living, you have to keep breathing.

But I can even think of an exception to that rule, too.

And yet I see new marketers make this mistake time and time again.

Their favorite expert-guru type says they MUST do this and this and this without deviation, and the new marketer will struggle to follow those rules until they collapse in frustration.

Never mind that the expert-guru works in internet marketing and the new marketer works in hobbies. Never mind that the expert-guru has a following of 100,000 with huge name recognition while the new marketer has neither.

Never mind that the expert-guru has a staff of 5 with 20 outsourcers at his beck and call while the new marketer is trying to do it all herself.

Almost no rule applies all of the time. While it makes perfect sense to follow the guidance of someone wiser and more seasoned than you, it makes equal sense to adapt their advice to your situation, to your niche and to your audience.

There will be times when you need more than 10 slides, when your talk might be a lot longer than 20 minutes (especially if you are teaching) and when your font might not be 30 point.

And that, my friend, is okay.

One last thing… when you become a big shot in your niche, or if you already are a big shot, please do everyone a favor and teach others not to work in absolutes and to instead think for themselves.

And the next time you catch me saying “you must” do anything, be kind.

I make this dumb mistake myself from time to time, but I’m working on removing words like ‘must,’ ‘should’ and ‘never’ from my vocabulary.