Jeff Bezos is the Amazon founder and CEO. In his 2018 annual letter, he repeated his rule that PowerPoint presentations are banned in executive meetings. In his letter, and in a recent discussion at the Forum on Leadership at the Bush Center, Bezos revealed that “narrative structure” is more effective than PowerPoint.
Bezos says that the new executives are going to get a cultural shock in their first Amazon meetings. Rather than reading bullet points on PowerPoint presentations, everyone sits silently for about 30 minutes to read a “six-page memo that’s narratively structured with real sentences, topic sentences, verbs, and nouns.”
After everyone’s done the reading, they discuss the topic. “It’s so much better than the typical PowerPoint presentation for so many reasons,” Bezos added.
There are a number of reasons that narrative memos are better than these PowerPoint Presentations. Our brains are hardwired for it. Anthropologists believe that the discovery of fire was not only important for cooking food. It also allowed people to sit around campfires and swap stories.
Neuroscientists have confirmed that human brain is wired for stories. The world is processed in a narrative. All of us talk in narrative and people recall and retain information more effectively when it is presented in the form of a story rather than bullet points.
It is not a secret that stories are persuasive. Human emotions are very powerful and a person is driven by these. A narrative can play on these emotions. “I’m actually a big fan of anecdotes in business,” Bezos said. “I’ve noticed when the anecdotes and the metrics disagree, the anecdotes are usually right. That’s why it’s so important to check that data with your intuition and instincts and you need to teach that to executives and junior executives.”
Bullet points is perhaps the most common way to share ideas but it is also the least effective. Bullet points have never inspired anyone. It is the stories that inspire people. Our brain is not designed in a way to remember bullet points in PowerPoint presentations. It is designed to remember occurrences or stories.
These are the reasons Jeff Bezos does not like bullet points and it sounds like a very convincing argument.