20 Apr A Much Better Way to Provide Information
In his latest letter to shareholders, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos explains one of the keys to the company’s success is the way Amazonians are expected to share information to each other. Instead of a PowerPoint Power or some other kind of slide presentation, they are required to write “narratively structured six-page memos,” which attendees read silently at the start of the meeting (https://work.qz.com/1256645/for-meetings-amazon-makes-its-employees-write-anonymous-six-page-stories-instead-of-powerpoints-or-slides/).
I agree most PowerPoint presentations that seek to provide/share information are a waste of time since they are poorly done (to long, provide useless information, do not encourage clarification or feedback) and, unless the presenter is really entertaining (using a sock puppet, speaking in accents), most people zone out after 7 minutes (http://www.mrmediatraining.com/2012/08/23/how-many-minutes-is-the-audiences-attention-span/). But while I applaud a better way of sharing information and engaging a group, the process used by Amazon – six pages, takes days to write and rewrite – is to arduous and unnecessary for most companies.
A simplified version of the Amazon process achieves the same outcome by increasing a group’s attention to a presentation and gives the presenter the feedback needed to determine whether the information being provider is sufficient, relevant and clear.
Here is the more realistic alternative presentation approach I recommend for the organizations I work with:
1. The presenter prepares a one page written Executive Summary providing the following information, using no more then three bullet points/sentences per item:
a. What is being accomplished?
b. Why it matters?
c. How it is going to be accomplished (what resources – people, money, etc – are needed)?
d. When it starts and when it will end?
e. What the ROI – if any – is projected to be and when it will be realized?
2. The group reads the Executive Summary.
3. The group’s members ask the presenter questions that clarifies the presentation and gets the additional information needed to provide immediate feedback to the presenter about the elements of the presentation.
4. By answering those questions and hearing the group’s immediate and focused feedback, the presenter is able to better understand and address any issues inherent in the presentation and ultimately improve the presentation and achieve.
The Bottom Line: This approach recognizes and address the limitations of most presentations, encourage more focused group engagement and allows the presenter to use the input provided by the group to improve the presentation.
I could be wrong…but I’m not.