It’s no secret that the richest man in modern history, Jeff Bezos, has outlawed PowerPoint for all meetings at Amazon. Replacing the venerable Microsoft product with multi-page memos may or may not be a future-proof strategy, but it’s now the law at Seattle’s largest company. At Amazon, meetings begin with a narrative-style memo (no bullet points) that’s handed out to all participants. According to Bezos, executives spend as much as 30 minutes reading—in silence—just to take in all the information.
Why start a meeting with study hall? Because, Bezos says, “Just like high school kids, executives will bluff their way through the meeting, as if they’ve read the memo.”
For most of us, eliminating PowerPoint (or Keynote, its Apple cousin) isn’t the answer. What makes a tool useful is the way you use it. And the key word here is “tool”; the PowerPoint document is not the presentation.
Until your company becomes as enlightened as Amazon—and forces you to read the memo—chances are you will still be imprisoned by PowerPoint presentations. But freedom is closer than you think. Here’s a five-step plan that will unlock your message and create the kind of dialogue you really want.
Step 1: Create a flexible agenda
The banking executive was frustrated. He had prepared an epic slide deck for government regulators, yet only two minutes into the presentation, they were already peppering him with questions. He asked if they could hold their questions until the end. They quickly informed him that they were U.S. government regulators, and he would answer their questions as they arose, period. Derailed from his plans, the banking executive lost his composure. Eventually, he managed to muddle through their questions and his slides,...
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