2024-01-07-Why is PPT not as good as a memo?

Why is a Memo Better Than a PowerPoint Presentation? -


Lex Friedman is a very famous American host, and his podcast has a great influence. Many celebrities are willing to appear on his show and accept interviews.

The guest on the December 15th episode was Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon. They talked for over two hours in total.

Bezos is no longer the CEO of Amazon, he only remains on the board of directors and is considered semi-retired. His main focus is on his space tourism company, Blue Origin. From the photos taken at the scene, he appears younger and more energetic after retiring.

There are many interesting contents in this interview, and the complete video is available on YouTube.

I would like to share a segment where Bezos talks about how Amazon conducts meetings.

The host asked Bezos, "I heard that Amazon doesn't allow the use of PowerPoint during meetings, and speakers must submit a six-page memo. Is this true?"

This has always been a rumor, but this time, Bezos admitted it himself. "Newcomers may be surprised, our way of conducting meetings is different from others."

"For the first 30 minutes of the meeting, we don't speak. Everyone sits quietly in the meeting room, reading the six-page memo and taking notes in the blank spaces. Only after 30 minutes do we start the discussion."

It's really strange, have you ever seen a meeting where nobody speaks for half an hour?

Bezos explained, "You could say that it's better for everyone to read these memos in advance. But the problem is, people don't have time to do that, they attend the meeting just because they have to."

"So we set aside time during the meeting for everyone to read the materials on the spot, and then we can have truly high-level discussions. Everyone can keep up with the topics being discussed and won't be confused about some basic facts."

So, why do people have to submit a six-page memo instead of giving a live PowerPoint presentation?

Bezos said that a written memo is much more effective than a PowerPoint presentation for several reasons.

  1. The purpose of PowerPoint is persuasion, it's a sales tool. But within the company, what you want is the truth, not the sales pitch from business executives.

  2. The disadvantage of PowerPoint is that it's relatively easy for the author, but difficult for the audience to grasp the main points. On the other hand, a memo is the opposite, it's difficult for the author to write a good six-page memo.

You may need two weeks to write a draft, and then rewrite it, constantly refining it to ensure that your words are accurate and reliable. So, writing a memo is very challenging for the author, but it's much better for the audience. Reading it for half an hour can clarify the context of the matter and also show the author's familiarity with the issue.

  1. A memo can save meeting time. If it's a PowerPoint presentation, executives will keep interrupting and asking questions, only to find that the answers are on the next slide.

However, when reading a memo, you have to write down all the questions in the blank spaces. When you reach the last page, you'll find that many questions have already been answered, saving time for public questioning.

  1. During a PowerPoint presentation, the speaker may decide to hide or modify certain statements based on the situation. This is not a problem with a memo, the speaker must provide a complete description in advance, and you can better understand their true thoughts.

  2. PowerPoint usually only consists of bullet points, not complete sentences, which is conducive to hiding many hasty thoughts. On the other hand, a memo consists of complete paragraphs with topic sentences, verbs, and nouns, making it difficult to hide your hasty thinking.

A memo forces the author to be in their best state, and you can get a person's best ideas. If it's a PowerPoint presentation, you may have to discuss for a long time before the speaker can reach their best state. In the long run, a memo saves you time.

These are the five reasons why Bezos doesn't allow the use of PowerPoint.

I think these reasons are very persuasive. PowerPoint has already become rampant in China, and it seems that everyone assumes it's the standard way of conducting meetings and it can't be done without it. This really needs to change, learning from Amazon's "memo-based meeting" - writing a document first, then discussing - may be a better and more correct approach.



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