Are PowerPoint presentations becoming outdated for internal communication?
Despite their visual appeal and ease of creation, presentations can sometimes fail to provide a clear understanding of the proposed ideas. It is also extremely common for two people to create different logics and ideas of the same set of slides, which generates misunderstanding and a sense of false alignment.
According to Jeff Bezos, there is a simple method - written memos - that generates alignment and presents a narrative structure that can easily and accurately be interpreted by everyone.
I have always loved this approach: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L227qFemjqI
It is one of the best ways I have used to level-up my team's thinking. Let’s explore why written memos can be a more effective alternative, and how they will help you promote thoughtful work, precision, and alignment in decision-making processes.
Written memos are more accurate than PowerPoint presentations
The power of written memos is that they drive a level of consideration that presentations might lack. They make the writer articulate their thoughts in a detailed and precise manner, revealing the depth of their understanding and clarity of their proposals.
Unlike presentations, written memos expose the flaws or weaknesses of ideas more effectively, allowing for more critical evaluation and refinement before presentation to others.
Bezos has revealed that this strategy created a work culture at Amazon that fosters critical and refined thinking, while avoiding the common problem of overcomplicating simple things.
Appreciate the value of clarity in thinking
The primary value of a written memo lies not just in communicating ideas to others but in forming thoughts for the writer themselves.
The act of composing a memo encourages you, memo writer, to read and reevaluate your own thoughts, significantly improving the quality of your thinking before sharing it with colleagues.
How you start with a memo-based approach
When initiating change or proposing new ideas, the memo-based approach can streamline decision-making and enhance understanding among team members.
Jeff Bezos uses a 6-page rule on his memos, as it ensures the right length to present key ideas and analysis. This rule will keep your memos simpler and more effective.
The process begins with writing the memo before convening a meeting!
5-Steps to craft your comprehensive memo
When writing down your ideas, your goal is to present them in the clearest way possible. A great memo will have the readers think for themselves. Here is the structure to use:
- Abstract / TL;DR: Tell about what you are going to tell and why. What are the results you look for?
- Background: What should your team know before knowing this idea? What data is the idea based on? What is the problem behind this idea? The backstory is important for the team's understanding.
- The Idea and Implementation: Tell about what it is you want and how you believe you should approach the idea.
- Conclusion: To recap, tell what you just told.
- The Ask: Finally, outline what is expected from each participant and do it clearly!
Remember, a memo reveals your thinking process, and as such, it is important that you get immediate feedback about the level of communication and the clarity of your ideas, before the meeting. This can be done efficiently by having someone else read it for you.
How to conduct your memo-based meeting
The best strategy to create a memo-based meeting is to put these written notes at the centre of the stage and allow enough time to go through them and discuss. Here are 4-steps to easily implement memos in your next meeting:
- Preparing the meeting: Distribute the memo to all participants before the meeting. This leads your team to have a sense of the topic before the meeting to get themselves ready for the introduction of the idea.
- Setting a specific long enough reading time: Allocate 30 minutes at the meeting for everyone to read the memo. This time should be completely silent without any interruptions. \ This way everyone gets to form their own thoughts about the topic without anyone affecting their opinion.
- Clarifying Questions: Initiate a round of clarifying questions to ensure comprehension. Because everyone views things from a different perspective, some questions will arise and by clarifying them before the actual discussion some questions will be answered, saving a lot of time.
- Discussion: Finally, open the floor for discussion, enabling constructive dialogue and collaborative input. At this point everyone has an educated view formed by themselves, which will create a fruitful conversation with good ideas.
Jeff Bezos has proven that written reports can be more effective than your standard PowerPoint presentations.
The shift from traditional presentations to written memos presents a model that promotes clarity, considered thinking, and mutual alignment in decision-making processes.
- Create a comprehensive and well communicated approximately 6-page long memo and hand it out to people before the meeting for them to have time to get ready for your idea.
- During the meeting, set a long enough reading time for everyone to comprehend your idea.
- Have clarifying questions ready to make sure everyone understood the topic well and to save time by answering some of the possible concerns before the actual conversation.
- Discuss the idea with your team and BOOM! – A well structured educational conversation full of ideas is ready to be had.
By encouraging your team through consideration and clear communication, this approach enhances the quality of ideas presented and expedites discussions towards more productive outcomes.
Implementing this methodology will transform the way your team communicates and makes decisions, steering all of you towards a more reasoned and well-informed path.