“We have study hall at the beginning of our meetings.” says Jeff Bezos.

Staff meetings at Amazon begin with 30 minutes of silent reading.

Powerpoint is easy for presenter, hard for audience

Jeff Bezos of Amazon

“The traditional kind of corporate meeting starts with a presentation. Somebody gets up in front of the room and presents with a powerpoint presentation, some type of slide show.  In our view you get very little information, you get bullet points.  This is easy for the presenter, but difficult for the audience.  And so instead, all of our meetings are structured around a 6 page narrative memo.”

All meetings are structured around a 6 page memo

“When you have to write your ideas out in complete sentences, complete paragraphs it forces a deeper clarity.”

Why don’t you read the memos in advance?

“Time doesnt come from nowhere. This way you know everyone has the time. The author gets the nice warm feeling of seeing their hard work being read.”

“If you have a traditional ppt presentation, executives interrupt.  If you read the whole 6 page memo, on page 2 you have a question but on on page 4 that question is answered.”

And so that is what we do, we just sit and read.

“Think Complex, Speak Simple”

I love this idea.  In our communications courses we talk about “think complex, speak simple”.  It is hard work to prepare well enough to be able to speak simple.  Most presenters are figuring out what they really want to say as they are presenting.  This is a terrible waste of an audience.

This video is “The Single Most Important Ingredient in Becoming Influential”:

These quotes come from the Charlie Rose interview with Jeff Bezos.  It is available here: http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/12656

NEW August 2015: View the Original email memo sent by Jeff Bezos (thanks to Pete Abilla)

P.S. If you liked this post you might also like 16 Lessons from the European HR Directors Summit and Zero Executive Presence: When I speak, People don’t listen. Why is that?

Discussion of this Post

Twitter:

Lots of Debate on Reddit:

Main Discussion Page http://www.reddit.com/r/technology/comments/1ebavs/amazon_staff_meetings_no_powerpoint/

  • [friedice5005] Powerpoint isn’t the problem. It’s a very useful tool to augment information you are trying to get across. The problem is people people who are bad at it using it as a crutch. Powerpoint should basically be an outline of what you’re talking about with MAJOR discussion points and any images or graphs you need to show. It should not be blocks of text that you read verbatim.
  • [via Yajirobi ] if you dont integrate people into it, they just sleep. Forcing them with made up questions is a bad idea too. Getting random questions from the audience is the best way to do it. Its a GIFT. They make the presentation good for you, without any effort from your part.
  • [via EngineerVsMBA]I experienced this system, and I loved it. I will use it in every job from here on out. Let me explain why:1.) It requires meaningful preparation by the presenter. They cannot hide behind pretty slides, and you can’t use the usual confusion tactics. If you can’t fit it in six pages, you didn’t prepare enough.2.) You know everyone is going to read it.3.) These meetings are intense! The participants can’t just sit back and relax. They are digging into it. If you are the presenter, you can use that time to send some emails, or do some other work.4.) People with poor communication skills can’t suck the life out of a meeting. It allows good ideas to come out. There is always that guy that talks too much, and this meeting shuts him up.5.) This isn’t for the every-day meeting. This is for the multi-million-dollar business deal. Anything you would typically reserve for an hour-long power-point presentation.Power-point is for selling a concept or an idea. The written word is for discussion. Anyways, a good exec will print out the power points and make notes on those anyways. Might as well tell him exactly what you think instead of letting him interpret your spoken word.

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