Presentations have long been a staple in meetings. And, like everything popular, they’re also getting some backlash. Does a presentation actually make a meeting better, or can it make the meeting experience worse? For internal meetings where the goal is to build consensus, consider turning off the projector.
As an alternative to presentations, Amazon starts all its meetings with a 6-page memo. Amazon contends that memos better foster agreement and solidarity through well-informed conversations that a wide range of people can participate in.
When you’re having a meeting where you need to foster consensus – try doing something similar to Amazon: distribute a short document with helpful information about the subject-at-hand, which people can take the time to read before discussions begin. Giving people info they can read at their own speed is helpful, since studies show people can read two times faster than you speak when you present. With a memo, everyone benefits: attendees can take in your important information before you begin a dialogue, and you don’t lose listeners while they are trying to process and respond to what you’re saying as you stand and ramble in front of a set of slides.
Text heavy documents are one way to get information across at a meeting. But there’s also an alternative that doesn’t rely on slides: Slidedocs are tangible documents that pair words and images to deliver and clarify information. Slidedocs are handed out and read, not projected and watched.
We contend that meeting memos actually benefit from being more visual than word-dense. Research shows that using visuals boosts retention. According to John Medina, author of Brain Rules, “We are incredible at remembering pictures. Hear a piece of information, and three days later you’ll remember 10 percent of it. Add a picture and you’ll remember 65 percent.” If people can see what you are saying, you’ll end up with a shared understanding. See for yourself by looking at the gorgeous slidedoc we worked on for the Sant Foundation.
Slidedocs differ from slides in the following ways:
- Word density: They have about 150-200 words per page (vs. 40 words or less)
- Modular bites: Each page or slide is designed to be self-explanatory
- Interactive: They can contain links to both internal pages (to jump around to related content) or external sources
- Device-friendly: moving through them feels like turning pages of a book.
- Skimmable: information and visual hierarchy is well-organized helping readers navigate through the content
Distributing slidedocs ahead of time makes meetings more productive. Here’s why:
They Foster Conversations
If your meeting is to drive consensus, Slidedocs are your friend. They’re well-suited to help facilitate good, meaningful conversations. Slidedocs – when given out 10 minutes before meeting– allow everyone access to the same information, so they can discuss the issue at hand from an informed place. A presentation simply one-directionally presents information to listeners; they’re not intended for navigating back-and-forth.
They Are Designed For Clarity
Slidedocs use a format that is designed for visual clarity and easy processing, and they ensure that your dense and technical information can be studied and understood. Their format makes it easy to intake information, while still allowing for enough word-density for well thought-through insights. People understand concepts and information much better when prose and visuals are paired, so Slidedocs boost comprehension.
They Are Shareable, So They Can Spread
These more text-heavy Slidedocs contain enough information that they can be shared and spread without the help of the verbal stream of a presenter. Slidedocs can get distributed throughout an organization and the great ones breed within an organization, so they live well beyond a specific meeting. They are an excellent tool if you’re trying to create institutional documents post-meeting, or share information with people who weren’t able to attend.
We love presentations (obviously), and we agree that Amazon is on the right track, switching up the meeting format by using a memo. But, Slidedocs are an even better way to go: a perfect marriage of visuals and words that can foster conversation, boost comprehension, and create productive room time during a meeting for consensus.