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October 19, 2018 | By

When It Comes to Online Meetings, You Have to Balance Show and Tell

Whether its an in-person or online meeting, it’s fairly standard practice to use powerpoint slides in meetings or presentations. But some experts have questioned this tried-and-true method in favor of new ways of getting your point across. Jeff Bezos for example has reportedly banned PowerPoint presentations at Amazon meetings. In their place, the company’s founder and CEO wants people to tell stories using narrative memos. Anyone who has survived a long, boring, convoluted presentation may already be nodding their head in agreement with this idea.

Explains Bezos in a letter to shareholders, “we write narratively structured six-page memos. We silently read one at the beginning of each meeting in a kind of ‘study hall.'”  A meeting kicked off with a thoughtful memo sets up a high-quality discussion. And for meeting presenters at Amazon, they can’t add-lib a memo. Bezos views memos as the end result of a critical thinking process that involves iteration and collaboration. “The great memos are written and re-written, shared with colleagues who are asked to improve the work, set aside for a couple of days, and then edited again with a fresh mind,” he says.

What Bezos describes above is a form of storytelling. Using a narrative format as the basis for a presentation  can be an ideal format not just for physical meetings, but for online meetings, too. Communication through storytelling can enable a deeper understanding and an emotional connection to ideas, as well as build stronger relationships with your audience.

Bezos is on to something, as there’s scientific evidence to back up this thinking. Three reasons a narrative format works best running an effective meeting can be linked to the way that humans learn and think:

  1. Our brains are hard-wired for narrative. Throughout human evolution, storytelling has been the primary medium for instruction. This is how people have always learned the essentials of life and survival.
  2. Stories are persuasive. Neuroscientists believe stories that tap your emotions are the fastest path to your brain. A good story is going to connect better than boring one.
  3. Visually, less is more. Our brains can’t process images and text at the same time, so cut the text altogether. According to Inc. that Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, does not use bullets in his presentations – just pictures!

If you aren’t ready to part with your slides just yet, one way to use them successfully is to think of your slides as billboards rather than the key communication vehicle of the meeting. When people drive, they only briefly take their eyes off their main focus (the road) to process a billboard. So a Power Point audience should focus intently on what you’re saying, looking only briefly at your slides for visual support of the narrative.

So the next time you want to run an effective meeting, inspire a brainstorm, or get a key message across – consider a more narrative presentation format. Whether your meetings are in person, online, or a combination of both, the key takeaway is to really understand the story you want to tell, then to convey it using tools that will help your audience remember your message.

Learn more about how GoToMeeting can help you run an effective meeting and achieve great results.


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