You got a minute to live. Fill it with words.”

-Tony Stark, Iron Man 3

Just a few days ago, I answered a question about delivering a PowerPoint presentation to a prospective client. They wanted to know the maximum number of PowerPoint slides to use when making a presentation about their company.

Some of the pointers I gave him are below:

Keep the Focus on You, Not Your PowerPoint

You are the presenter. The focus needs to be on you, not your PowerPoint slides. So work on your message first and then create the slides.

2 to 3 Minutes per Slide Is Generally a Good Rule of Thumb

If you have a 1-hour meeting scheduled with your prospect and you have a 50-slide PowerPoint presentation, you need to prune your presentation.

I once had the pleasure of doing a team presentation in front of a very large client with three of my colleagues. One member was a department head for service and support. Another was the regional sales director for sales and major account management. The last one was the Director of  Product Marketing. Then there was me, a sales engineer. I was there to talk about the solution to a specific challenge plaguing the client at that time.

We had about 90 minutes of the client’s time. The product-marketing director went first and spoke strictly from his PowerPoint presentation. After watching the presentation for 30 minutes, I realized that my colleague was using about 4 minutes per slide. And  he was using the generic marketing presentation, which consisted of 95 slides!

If your client or prospect was gracious enough to give you a period of time to work within, that time is yours to either capitalize or waste. Your prospects may be polite and smile through their displeasure, or they may show overt signs of disinterest such as doodling, falling asleep, and just walking out. But, when the allotted time is done, so are you, regardless of where you are in your presentation.And whatever you do, don’t say, “Bear with me. I have just a few more slides to cover…”

Do Your Sales Presentation with 10 Slides

This was a rule of thumb suggested by Guy Kawasaki. He came up with this general rule as a suggestion for any entrepreneur looking for seed money from angel investors. He later generalized it even further to encompass people looking for a job.

Tailor Your Presentation to Your Audience

Every good professional speaker will start by determining what their audience wants. Incidentally, all good sales people use this as a starting point as well. You are about to stand in front of your audience or you are about to propose a solution to your prospect – what do they want? How will their lives or their company be different from their interactions with you? Before delivering a presentation, most professional speakers will ask the event coordinator about the group they’re about to address. This helps the speaker identify the points they need to cover. Good sales people will also conduct an in-depth analysis highlighting their prospects needs before presenting a solution. If you want to be a big hit or you want to make the sale, focus on what your client wants. Anything else is a shot in the dark.

After posting the answer, I came across this posting from Chelsea Blacker on Search Engine Journal entitled The Perfect SEO Pitch. There are a couple of other items in the post that deal specifically with presentation delivery. But her point about the number of slides in a presentation re-emphasizes my point: you are in a sales situation. You need to sell. Your PowerPoint slides are there to support your presentation, not prop it up as it limps along.


For additional ideas on using PowerPoint in your presentations, I would suggest picking up a copy of Beyond Bullet Points by Cliff Atkinson.