Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 19)

Seth Godin - American Entrepreneur, Author and Public Speaker

Seth Godin – American Entrepreneur, Author and Public Speaker

“No more than six words on a slide. Ever. There is no presentation so complex that this rule needs to be broken.” — Seth Godin

About John Zimmer

International speaker, presentation skills expert, lawyer, improv performer
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10 Responses to Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 19)

  1. N.Simasiku says:

    The rule is not cast in concrete and stone. It is a guide I have used as it is, and broken at times. It teaches about summary and being concise. The few power point inscriptions (guide) can be explained orally to clarify issues when necessary.

    • John Zimmer says:

      I agree. In fact, if you watch some of Seth Godin’s talks on YouTube or elsewhere, you will see that he breaks his own “rule” many times over. I don’t necessarily agree with the quotes that I post and I know that others won’t either. (See the first quote that I posted for may explanation.) So I am glad when people challenge the wisdom of the quote.

      Thanks for the comment.


  2. I know this post is fairly old now, but all the same, thanks for encouraging debate about this quote John.

    It’s more than 10 years since Seth proposed it. Yet just 10 days ago, authorSTREAM tweeted it, just as though 6 words is really all you need.

    For my part, I just published a post about it, giving 2 examples where it really wouldn’t work:

    That post also talks about likely reasons Seth made his 6-word rule so strict, and what still attracts people to it.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts.


    • John Zimmer says:

      Craig, thanks very much for the comment and for bringing the issue to our attention. I very much enjoyed your post and have left you a more detailed comment there.

      As for Seth, I know for a fact that he does not always adhere to his own rule. I have seen presentations where he gone past 6 words. In fact, I took a quick look on YouTube just now and here is the first video I checked: http://youtu.be/g-qZ1dYT_lc Note the slide that appears at 0:27. I count 11 words, almost double Seth’s own rule. But it is an effective slide. And, Seth’s overall message about not overloading your slides is advice worth taking.



  3. Pingback: 2½ reasons why Seth Godin’s wrong about how many words to put on your slide | Remote Possibilities

  4. Joby Blume says:

    What about showing a quote, or a line from a book that is under discussion?

    The problem with this kind of dogmatic rule is that it’s wrong.

    • John Zimmer says:

      Thanks for the comment, Joby. I am glad to have sparked a reaction. When I started the series of quotes, I decided to just offer the quotes without comment and let people decide for themselves whether they liked them. As I said, “The quotes might be serious; they might be humorous; they might be bizarre; but they will all have something to do with public speaking. Do you agree with them? Why or why not? Do you have any other insights? Share your thoughts!”

      On this one, I agree with you that Seth Godin is being dogmatic. And I have written elsewhere what I think about such “rules”: http://wp.me/pwfa1-EC. However, I do agree with the principle that Seth is trying to promote; i.e., that people need to cut down – significantly – the number of words that they put on a slide. But will the sky fall down if you put 7 or 8 or 12 or 20 words on a slide every now and then? No.

      I like your idea for a quote from a book. If you have any suggestions, do let me know.



      On this one, I agree

  5. Pingback: Tweets that mention Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 19) | Manner of Speaking -- Topsy.com

  6. Gabriela says:

    Could this rule depend on the language?

    • John Zimmer says:

      Interesting question, Gaby. I suspect that Seth would say no – the whole point is to keep the words on your slide to a minimum. Having said that, and though I agree wholeheartedly with his general principle, I do not see anything wrong with having slides with more than six words every now and then.


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