I have been writing this month for the Lifehack blog.  They have published 4 of my blog posts so far.  It’s challenging and helpful to get pushed to improve my ability to explain my ideas, work with editors and pitch story ideas 😉

6 Item Checklist for Running Impressive Meetings

Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 11.48.47Our first board meeting was chaos. There was a paper agenda, but I failed to keep people focussed on the agreed discussions. Each board member would throw their own opinion in for every small point. We spent almost 4 hours sucked into petty administrative details. It was tiring. Over the next 2 years, I learnt how to run meetings that get volunteers engaged, proud, active and delivering big results. What works for volunteers also works for corporates, universities and professional associations.

Read the 6 Item Checklist for Running Impressive Meetings

Richard Hamming’s 14 Lessons for Success (as a Scientist)

Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 11.48.36Before we dive into Richard’s wisdom, let me give my 20,000 mile high summary: If you want to live a life that matters, it is necessary to do something outstanding, otherwise it will all be taken away from you. This talk is not a talk about living a happy life, nor a helpful life. Richard himself says: “I am really trying to get you to think about doing significant things…”

Read Richard Hamming’s 14 Lessons for Success (as a Scientist)

3 Reasons why Work Life Balance is a Stupid Ideal

Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 11.48.11Balance is an ideal. It doesn’t exist. When we are walking, we aren’t in balance. We fall to the left, we fall to the right.  When we are running, we aren’t in balance.  We fall to the left, we fall to the right.  When we are cycling, we aren’t in balance… I think I’ve labored the point.

All natural forward progress by humans comes from imbalance.

Read 3 Reasons why Work Life Balance is a Stupid Ideal

Procrastination, Schmastination: 3 Power Tools to Get Things Done

Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 11.47.57My entire life can be divided into 3 phases.
Blissful Avoidance; Lucky, and Avoiding Responsibility; and Realisation
I know what an unproductive day looks like. I can recognise the features of a zero day. What’s the opposite? What is a productive day? What’s in a ‘Get Things Done’ day?

Read Procrastination, Schmastination: 3 Power Tools to Get Things Done

“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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