Rule of 7x7 in PowerPoint

By Carol Finch

Effective PowerPoint presentations can make you a more effective speaker; badly designed slides can negatively affect your ability to communicate with your audience. Ideally, slides should be cues that guide you and your audience through a presentation; however, they often simply replicate the presentation itself. The 7x7 rule helps avoid this by encouraging you to limit each slide to seven lines of text, each containing a maximum of seven words. Alternative guidelines use the 6x6 and 5x5 rules.

Seven Lines per Slide

The first part of the 7x7 rule limits the number of lines of text or bullets on a PowerPoint slide to a maximum of seven, not including the title. On any slide, these seven lines should focus on the core elements of your presentation, giving your audience a snapshot view of the information you'll present. It's fine to have fewer than seven lines or bullets -- don't make numbers up to fit the rule -- the point here is to summarize as briefly as you can.

Seven Words per Line

According to the 7x7 rule, each of your seven lines or bullets should have no more than seven words. You don't need to use complete sentences and can minimize your use of pronouns, connective words and prepositions. For example, instead of writing "The consumer sales team achieved record sales in our home product ranges," you could simply write "Record home product sales." Your aim here is to provide keyword cues on the slide and to then give the rest of the information orally.

7x7 Speaker Advantages

The 7x7 rule keeps an audience's focus on you rather than your slides, helping you keep their attention. If you simply use PowerPoints to replicate your content, your audience might assume that it knows what you're going to say before you say it, leaving people with no incentive to listen to you. The rule also forces you to analyze your presentation to find and summarize its key concepts, which is useful when you're planning your content structure and practicing your delivery.

7x7 Audience Advantages

Listening to a speaker regurgitate information word-for-word from slides doesn't engage an audience, and people may think that the event is a waste of their time. If you use the 7x7 rule, they’re more likely to have a positive perception of your presentation and to retain the information you give them. If they have to actively listen to you speak, they're more likely to remember what you say, and may also take notes as an additional memory aid. Limiting slide text also has readability benefits. If you use too much text, your font size may be too small for the audience to read comfortably, or in extreme cases, to read at all.