The Right Number of Slides

People often ask, “How many slides should I use in a 20-minute (or 30-minute, or 40-minute, etc.) presentation.” I always respond the same way: “I don’t know. Maybe three, maybe 20, maybe 50, maybe 100, maybe none.”

There is no right answer. It depends on a number of variables, including the audience, the subject and the context. However, the number of slides in your presentation is less important than the way in which they are designed and used. I would rather watch a presentation with 50 well designed slides than one with 15 poorly designed slides.

Of course, you cannot disregard the time element. If you have 10 minutes and 200 slides, you’ll succeed in giving your audience a headache and not much else. You should use as many (well designed) slides as are necessary to enhance and support your message. No more, no less.

In 2010, I wrote a post on the same idea after reading an article by Seth Godin. I was prompted to revisit the issue after recently coming across a wonderful slide presentation on BBC News Magazine that is narrated by John Hockenberry, an American journalist and commentator who has been in a wheelchair since a car accident left him paralyzed.

In this presentation, Hockenberry shares the real message that people around the world should take away from the 2012 Paralympics that were held in London. The presentation lasts only three minutes but has, by my count, 45 slides. That’s one slide every four seconds. Yet not one of them was superfluous or out of place.

To see the presentation, please click the BBC image below. As you watch, notice how the images enhance the words. The number of slides is not a problem.

Image: Partial Screenshot of BBC News Magazine Website

About John Zimmer

International speaker, presentation skills expert, lawyer, improv performer
This entry was posted in Slide Presentation and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to The Right Number of Slides

  1. When it comes to scientific presentations, I like to tell people “It’s less about the amount of slides than about the amount of information in your presentation and per slide.” A presentation with three slides packed chock full of barely legible information is not made better by the fact it only has three slides but worse. Had the same information been distributed on ten slides or possibly even twenty, it would be far more digestible.

  2. Pingback: Suunnittelutoimisto Havain Follow Friday - julkisen puhumisen Euroopan mestari John Zimmer Suomessa » Suunnittelutoimisto Havain

  3. John Kluempers says:


    Very good video/show. But John Hockenberry’s voice is inimitably strong. He’s telling a story. Whether 7 or 77 slides, if the story is good — and told good, then the audience will sit back satisfied.

    John Kluempers

  4. simonr says:

    Nice… You can probably hear me saying “Amen” from here! My answer is always “As few as you need to get the job done”. 🙂

    • John Zimmer says:

      Thanks, Simon. I tell people that the first question to ask when designing a slide presentation is, “Do I need one?”.



Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.