PowerPoint is one of the most popular tools for presenting information. But at Amazon, the software program takes a back seat to written memos.
In a letter to shareholders, founder and CEO Jeff Bezos reveals that company execs "don't do PowerPoint" or any other slide-oriented presentations. Instead, "Amazonians" create six-page narrative memos that are read at the beginning of each meeting—kind of like a "study hall" session, he says.
Though Bezos admits that silently reading memos together is the "weirdest meeting culture," he has to carve out the time because his execs are busy.
"If we don't, the executives, like high school kids, will try to bluff their way through a meeting," says the CEO at a recent Forum on Leadership. "[The memo is] supposed to create the context for what will then be a good discussion."
Amazon has long prioritized memos over PowerPoint and in a 2004 email to his team, Bezos broke down his thought process:
"The reason writing a 'good' four page memo is harder than 'writing' a 20-page PowerPoint is because the narrative structure of a good memo forces better thought and better understanding of what's more important than what."
In his latest shareholder letter, Bezos adds that reading these memos taught him the importance of scope. While some memos are well thought-out and carefully crafted, others are poorly written and fall on the other end of the spectrum, he writes.
Although it's hard to pinpoint what differentiates a great memo from an average one, says Bezos, employees know a great memo when they read one.