If you’re ever going to make a presentation to Jeff Bezos at Amazon, here’s a tip–don’t make a PowerPoint presentation.
As noted in an article in Observer about Bezos’ approach, “In one episode of The Office, Dwight says of Ryan’s flashy PowerPoint slides, “PowerPoints are the peacocks of the business world: all show, no meat.”
Bezos is now famous for not permitting PowerPoints, and his approach and demands for substantive meetings is probably why he owns one of the few largest global brands in the world.
- Staff participating in meetings will write or read six-page memos.
- The beginning of the meetings is spent by meeting participants reading these lengthy memos.
- Why does Bezos demand this of his team? In his opinion, PowerPoint:
o Fails to provide sufficient information
o Is prone to audience interruptions.
- A memo communicates well-reasoned thoughts.
Understandably, when you’re the CEO of a global brand like Amazon and when your team is meeting and making decisions that can have a substantial impact on the growth of the company and bottom line, it is essential that well-reasoned communication takes place.
Should you and I, as business owners do it?
I’m personally someone that likes to provide and receive information in a condensed and concise fashion because I’m the ultimate decision-maker on almost all aspects of my businesses. My businesses are not on the scale of a global brand like Amazon. However, I can see how the Bezos approach is essential.
The Devil’s In the Details
I think we operate in a world where most people have very short attention spans. We’re all rushing from one thing to the next, and the fact is that most of the time if you can’t capture someone’s imagination or interest in about 90 seconds, you’ve lost them.
However, it is a mistake to think that using the PowerPoint approach is the right way to go for essentially–everything. As a business owner, you’re looking to expand and develop your business. One of the most important areas for you is your sales team. Let’s say, for example, you want to understand why your sales team has projected an increase in revenue for next fiscal year of 10 percent. You’re going to make assumptions based on those revenue targets, and you’ll craft an operating budget that could potentially reflect that 10 percent increase in revenue.
In this situation, a business leader would be smart to take the Bezos approach and require a well-thought-out, detailed and reasoned memo explaining the who, what, when, where and how of the 10 percent increase in revenue.
Taking Your Team Through the Paces
There are many other situations when it would be wise to require that your team deliver to you a well-reasoned and thoughtful written presentation on their thinking, which will impact the decisions you will make as its leader. For instance, you might be looking to create a new job or department that will be expanded because you’ve been succeeding and want to reinvest your profit to grow the business. You might also consider making a purchase of thousands of dollars of equipment, starting a new marketing initiative, or be looking to expand the footprint of your business. All of these are excellent opportunities where you should require your team to take a pause and explain their rationale to you as thoroughly and thoughtfully as possible.
As Bezos explained according to the Observer article, “When you have to write your ideas out in complete sentences, complete paragraphs it forces a deeper clarity,” Bezos told Conor Neill, a business coach at IESE Business School in 2012. “If you have a traditional PowerPoint presentation, executives interrupt. If you read the whole six-page memo, on page two you have a question but on page four that question is answered.”
While I’m not sure all business leaders need to demand that their teams produce evidence-based memos ahead of each of their meetings, and that’s not, candidly, the way I operate my businesses, I do see and understand the value of requiring these types of memos for critical decision-making meetings on critical topics.