In undergrad I took a class about how to make compelling powerpoint presentations. It was 2007 and people were losing their minds over making the best, most media packed, over the top presentations, to get an A.
I feel like that was the start of my arranged marriage to powerpoint for the rest of my academic and professional life. In Bschool, after you got through the Core and away from excel, you were thrown back into powerpoint presentations, searching the web for .png files to make the perfect mock up of your point. I took immense professional pride in working on the Upfronts deck at NBCU, and at Telemundo I spent 2 weeks storyboarding a post mortem for the marketing done around The World Cup coverage. A few years ago I was making 4 decks a week, and in my role at BET+, I made an 86 page brand deck, that I’m incredibly proud of, but man was it an inefficient way to explain anything.
So what does all of this have to do with what Jeff and I have in common? Well Jeff Bezos hates Powerpoint!
Here’s an email from 2004 where Bezos talks about how much he can’t stand Powerpoint:
A few years ago, Brad Porter, Amazon’s VP of Robotics, quoted Bezos on this:
“The traditional kind of corporate meeting starts with a presentation. Somebody gets up in front of the room and presents with a PowerPoint presentation, some type of slide show. In our view you get very little information, you get bullet points. This is easy for the presenter, but difficult for the audience. And so instead, all of our meetings are structured around a six-page narrative memo … If you have a traditional PPT presentation, executives interrupt. If you read the whole six-page memo, on page 2 you have a question but on page 4 that question is answered.”
As someone who worships at the alter of operational excellence I was super into the idea of eliminating Powerpoint for a more efficient method, and wanted an excuse to implement the idea.
Bryar and Carr explain in the book that powerpoint lacks nuance, but narrative documents are portable and scalable. They allow for nonlinear and interconnected arguments. They’re better for decision making, you’re able to write while anticipating objection, you can connect the dots for the reader, and a narrative is more interactive.
Amazon meetings allegedly start with 20 minutes of silence while everyone reads, and then they can get down to brass tacks. Every narrative doesn’t have to be 6 pages, but they cannot be more than 6 pages. And your ability to craft a narrative can be a make or break for your success at the company. You are ultimately writing 1 page for every 10 minutes of a meeting/presentation.
A few months ago when I was speaking with a mentor he was encouraging me to make a walking deck, to prepare all senior and executive leadership for my 2022 vision by presenting a powerpoint of what I was thinking for the year ahead. It hit me after we hung up, that there was no way that I could present to every single person I needed to, and that my little neurodivergent brain would get exhausted with my own road show. So this year I figured was the perfect time to try my hand at the Amazon memo technique.
I’m proud to say that after 6 pages, size 10.5 font I was able to express some ambitious goals and strategic priorities in that document. And as a writer, I found it to be a more fulfilling exercise, it took the mental load off from presenting, and it’s allowed me to have some really in depth convos with internal stakeholders once it was sent around.
Now I won’t be sharing my document, but I did find another blogger, who not only explains the 6-pager but also shares his own 6-pager from his time at Amazon. You can find it HERE. Seriously, hit that link if you want to try your hand at a new technique for presentations and meetings.
I don’t think I’ll be able to eliminate powerpoint forever, but when it comes to presenting more strategic initiatives I can’t wait to dive into more Amazon memos.
Now if you’ve made it this far and you neither want to read a book or a blog post, enjoy some YouTube videos…
October was one of my stronger reading months, most 5 star reads, and most DNFs in a month.
A DNF for those that don’t frequent the book corners of social media are “did not finish” books. Every great reader I admire and aspire to be like (yes, having reading “idols” is really a thing) espouse the importance of not finishing books that aren’t clicking for you. Ali Abdaal said it best, treat books like blog posts. Take away what you want, leave when it isn’t serving you, and move on if it’s not working. Because I think we all know someone who is languishing away months at a time to read Sapiens. I don’t know who needs to hear this, but, IT’S OK TO NOT FINISH A BOOK!
Before I share my reviews, I have some book analytics thanks to Storygraph (the social book platform I use, now that I’ve left Goodreads).
I “read” 16 books, with 4 DNFs, and most of those DNFs were around 40-50% into the book.
47% of my reads were nonfiction, 53% were fiction…I don’t weigh nonfiction as more important but I’m proud to see an almost fair split. My average rating with 3.64 stars, and I read 4,750 pages, the most pages this year.
Pros: Grady Hendrix does campy horror stories so incredibly well. He has the right balance of gore, laughs, and story. There’s a really wonderful story about friendship at the center of this that made me a little misty in the end. It’s so fast paced and fun that it’s like reading a movie.
Cons: Grady is so committed to the social commentary and staying authentic to the time there are some moments that are offensive. (There’s reference to a Slave Auction day at the high school) SpoilerThe exorcism scene was a little long for no reason. I would have loved more scenes of how possessed Gretchen was impacting the students. I wanted to know what the parents thought or if Gretchen ever tried to tell anyone what happened…cause it felt like the exorcism was wrapped anticlimactically.
I don’t have the right vocabulary to explain how much I hated this book. I didn’t like the Silent Patient, and honestly reading this is on me knowing good and damn well I don’t like this author…but here we are. All my marginalia is just rants about how mad I am that I’m still reading it. The main character, hated her…the unnecessary tie to Silent Patient, burn it all down…the random ass parade of new characters to try and throw the reader off, oh boy. I want to fight the publisher. The men in this book are written so creepy that even I was like damn homie you are making a great case for neck beards with this. Just flames, flames on the side of my face.
I really enjoyed this, and it desperately made me want to go back to Paris. I would have loved a section on how the art, literature, and films of Paris helped her embrace her inner Parisienne, along with how she learned the language through living. Also Paris is such a visual medium, I would have loved pictures or a link to a website or Pinterest board. I did walk away fully inspired and looking forward to implementing points from the book. And I applaud the author for acknowledging the heteronormative nature of the dating portion, and including Black women in the interviewees because Black women aren’t always associated with a typically French aesthetic.
I was looking for a book the would inspire me to believe bigger with the help of my Christian faith. This book wasn’t it for me. Yes this is hopeful, grounded in the word, and very vulnerable. However, it feels exceptionally repetitive and the overall thesis feels like she’s projecting. The only way to you purpose is some major life shake up by God. I would have loved for this to be more about believing bigger, walking through the Bible and finding all the places God calls us to accept and ask for bigger. This was a lot of repetition, and could have been a lovely YouTube video.
Pros: Bennett does a beautiful job weaving all of these seemingly branched timelines and stories together to make a really rich picture of how this family got to where they are. The pacing was good, I didn’t get bored at all. There’s beautiful commentary on identity, and the inhumanity marginalized people face.
Cons: It felt like another Imitation of Life style passing story. The sections served no point. It felt like it was written to get non Black people to have compassion for all the generational trauma Black people deal with.
I don’t even know how to review this book because I don’t fully understand what I read. I like that it challenged me, but the book felt so heavy handed on symbolism and metaphor that I wondered if that was intentional or satire. Pros: It’s a fairly quick read. Loved the Heathers/The Craft/Coven vibes. Also enjoyed the satire around writers and artists. Cons: Genuinely couldn’t tell what was intentional and what was just heavy handed on metaphors. I wish there’d been some semblance of character development so I got a sense of the situations I got dropped into. The three act structure didn’t feel like it was used well.
Pros: Really great mix of hip hop/pop culture and feminist commentary. It doesn’t center mainstream feminism in any way or use that as the set point for the book to move from. It’s incredibly challenging and forces you to check your respectability politics at the door as a Black reader.
Cons: While the first portion of the book felt like incredibly crafted essays the back half felt like personal stories. Would have loved more academic insight or even a portion at the end of additional reading so I could continue engaging in the topics she brings up.
I will never meet Steve Jobs and I’ll probably never meet Ed Catmull but this book has profoundly changed my life every time I’ve read it. I’ve been a senior manager desperately looking for a way to find my professional and creative voice, I’ve been a director wanting mentorship and a North Star on how to innovate, and I’ve been a VP wanting to be the leader I always wished for and to create the groundwork for my professional legacy. I’m never the same person every time I read this, but I always walk away from this book changed. And I’ll never get through the final chapter without sobbing because it reminds we that we don’t get to experience our legacy, but we plant the seeds for it while we’re here.
Pros: This was so fast paced and kept me engaged from the moment I started it. I thought I knew where this plot was going but it surprised me in the best way. It had more heart than a traditional thriller. I like at the center is really a story about what you’d do for your family and the people you love.
Cons: I didn’t think the book needed to be divided into parts. The story was cohesive without those “commercial breaks.” As someone who knows nothing about Austin, those details about the city were lost on me, and could have gone toward the story. There were some superfluous characters that felt like they were just there to make certain plot holes make sense (I’m looking at you best friend and high school boyfriend character).
Pros: Loved the setting against the Mexican backdrop, all Gothic stories don’t need to be set in England. Really enjoyed the themes around women’s health, believing women, and women finding their power/breaking generational curses. I can see why this is being adapted, lots of visual mental pictures come up while reading.
Cons: For a 300 page book this is so slow that I almost DNF’d multiple times. It’s so wordy that I had to just breeze through some of the descriptions to get on with the plot. The eugenics convos served no purpose to the plot in my opinion.
Honestly, I didn’t enjoy this book, maybe I’ll like it more when it becomes a TV series. But, this confirmed that even with a WOC writing, gothic is not my genre.
Pros: Loved a rom com book with a Black woman at the center. Loved that the main character was over 35 and not posed as a spinster. The social media element was cute and made for a new setting on the fake relationship trope.
Cons: This was a DNF for me, it was so slow and so British and just had words for the sake of having words. The author spends a literal chapter and a half trying to prove she can write a Black female character that she spends it talking about Black hair. It was clearly projection having a chapter about a white stylist doing her hair, to show a white person can comprehend a Black experience. But that immediately went out the window when at the end of the chapter her friend asks to touch her Afro and she gladly welcomes it. There was nothing interesting about the story that made me want to stick around.
This was a DNF for me. There were some strong moments in the first story, but the surreal narratives were way over my head and I couldn’t get through the writing. There are other short story collections I’ve loved this year that have set the bar so high that this wasn’t the right kind of challenging read for me. BUT I may revisit this one next year.
These were phenomenal and short reads that lit a fire under my ass to let go of my analysis paralysis and show my work, not allow my limiting beliefs to keep me from sharing my knowledge and work, and to keep going through it all.