Jeff Bezos, PowerPoint, & the Beauty of Narrative in Presentations

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Bezos Blueprint" by Carmine Gallo. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Why did Jeff Bezos ban PowerPoint presentations at Amazon? Was that a good idea?

Jeff Bezos famously booted PowerPoint out of the presentation room at Amazon. In The Bezos Blueprint, Carmine Gallo explains why.

Keep reading to learn about Jeff Bezos, PowerPoint, and the beauty of stories in communication.

Jeff Bezos & PowerPoint

To reap the benefits of narrative communication during presentations and meetings, Gallo suggests that you avoid using PowerPoint—presentations of slides filled with bullet points, fragmented sentences, and isolated pieces of data. For Jeff Bezos, PowerPoint got in the way of effective communication.

Gallo explains that Bezos insisted that anyone presenting information at an Amazon meeting do so with short memos structured like narratives.

Gallo explains that the typical slide is too detailed, too complex, and too hard to read, which allows presenters to get away with weak connections, poor organization, and insufficient explanations of the key ideas. It also causes listeners to disengage and not pay proper attention.

By contrast, turning your ideas into a story (instead of a slideshow) forces you to think about what’s important, why, and how best to convey the implications of your ideas. It also helps listeners to pay better attention and more effectively absorb your messages.

(Shortform note: Although Bezos might oppose slides, Gallo himself points out that they can have their uses. In Talk Like TED, he suggests PowerPoint slides as a way to strengthen your presentation by engaging your audience’s senses [in this case, sight]. If you do opt for a slideshow, experts recommend that you keep your slides simple and concise, incorporate images and visual aids, and keep the focus on yourself and the story you’re telling. By keeping the focus on yourself and your message, you’ll avoid the pitfalls Gallo warns about—you’ll be sure to make strong connections and explanations, and you’ll better engage your audience.)

Exercise: Turn Your Message Into a Story

Of all the tools Gallo offers for improving your communication, storytelling is particularly useful because it combines other principles such as simplicity, getting to the point, and making information relatable. In this exercise, you’ll practice organizing your message into a compelling narrative using the three-act structure (setup, challenges, and resolution).

  • Think of a recent time when you explained a complex topic or tried to convince someone of a new idea. Describe what your central message was and how you presented it.
  • Now, we’ll shape that message into a story. Start with the setup: What basic background information does the audience need? Who are the main characters? What’s the world’s status quo? (For example, what was your customer’s typical day like, or your company’s initial status?)
  • What’s the inciting incident in your story? What kicks the hero into action? What is the hero’s newfound goal or quest? (For example, what problem did your customer face? Or, what happened to your company to prompt action?)
  • What challenges does the hero face along the way? What obstacles, setbacks, or opponents must the hero overcome? How does the hero tackle these challenges? (What made your customer’s problem more difficult? Or, did your company face competitive or regulatory challenges?)
  • Finally, how does the story resolve? How are the hero and the world improved after the hero accomplishes the goal? (How did your company, service, or product help your customer? Or, how did your company come through the challenge stronger?)
Jeff Bezos, PowerPoint, & the Beauty of Narrative in Presentations

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Here's what you'll find in our full The Bezos Blueprint summary:

  • How to improve your communication by using Jeff Bezos's principles
  • Why you should start a project with a press release
  • Why you should ban PowerPoint in favor of storytelling

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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