How many slides do I need for a 5 / 10 / 20 / 45 minute presentation?

by Oliver Adria on 05/01/2011

This is a question I get asked a lot. And for me it actually has a more deep-rooted answer. Because the number of slides should not really matter or at least it should not be a primary concern. To make the case: There are 10-minute presentations that have anything from zero to 50 slides (or even more). It depends on what’s on them and what you want to convey.

What your main concern should be is what the main message of your presentation will be. As I have written in several of my previous posts, I usually start with the question: “What is the main point / one core message that I want to convey to the audience?” Once I know, I will start brainstorming for ideas, and later I will create a story and only then – when I know what and how I want to say it, will I create the slides.

And depending on the audience, my slides will differ, from many pictures or to some interesting charts and facts, or in most cases a mixture of both. The slides are there to visually enhance what I want to say. I’ve created 20 minute presentations that have about 80 slides, but I also have presentations with about 20 slides. It depends on how complex your presentation or your topic is. Sometimes in order to show a very complex chart, I will show one piece of the chart at a time and then build it up until the whole chart is visible.

As I’ve noticed myself: When I start developing a presentation with the question “What’s the main point that I want to say?” I have much more effective results than when my primary question is “How many slides should my presentation have?”.

What’s your idea / opinion on this? I’m interested to know!

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