Making Powerful Points, Without PowerPoint
Last week, Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Amazon, released his highly anticipated annual letter to shareholders. In addition to a range of topics and insights, he also put a bullseye on Amazon’s next target: PowerPoint.
“We don’t do PowerPoint (or any other slide-oriented) presentations at Amazon,” said Bezos. In fact, Amazon traded presentations for employee written memos long ago. The reason? Bezos believes that not only is it harder to write a six-page memo versus a 20-page presentation, he thinks memos do a better job of delineating what’s important.
While we wouldn’t necessarily suggest ditching PowerPoint entirely, we do encourage Amazon’s way of thinking. By challenging conventions and finding new ways to work and think, we can open our minds to new possibilities, opportunities, and solutions. So, the next time you’re feeling stuck with your presentation, consider the following ideas:
Tell a Story
Experience, and evidence, tells us that stories work. Stories create connections and form stronger, longer-lasting memories. For centuries, stories have permeated every aspect of humanity. They help us work, live, and communicate. For your next presentation, try inserting a story to emphasize a key point or message. However, don’t just tell the story off the cuff; just as you’d prepare a slide or review a paragraph of a memo, take time to carefully construct your story. The best storytellers understand the art of it – knowing what points to capture, what pieces to leave out, and other steps to telling an effective story.
Draw a Picture
The primary language of business is verbal communication. And for auditory learners, that can be a good thing. But for visual learners, the barrage of conference calls and meetings can be a challenge. Drawing a picture, showing an image, or illustrating a diagram can help engage other types of learners and thinkers. It will also help auditory learners to expand their thinking. We know what you’re thinking – “I can’t draw” – but the value is using imagery, not testing your artistic talents. Whether a stock photo, a hand-drawn sketch, or an infographic, images can be a helpful tool for communication.
The Greek philosopher Socrates encouraged his students to partake in the Socratic method, a form of discussion for which its foundation lies in asking questions. This learning practice is continued today, as it challenges its participants to think critically and dispel assumptions. While your team may no longer be students in the literal sense, purposeful group discussion can create an opportunity to learn from each other. Whether your team discussion brings about new ideas, new initiatives, or new lunch spots, a diversity of thoughts shared among your group can only lead to great things.
There’s a saying that goes something like, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got.” While the adage is attributed to a number of different people, for us, the author matters less than the concept, which is: if you want to be successful, stop doing things because that’s how they’ve always been done, and start rethinking how they could be done better. Does that mean success begins by banning PowerPoint? We’re not sure. But, we do know that if you strive to think and act creatively, good things happen.