Jeff Bezos’ three rules for productive meetings

Amazon founder and CEO has three rules when it comes to holding productive meetings. 

Start with silence

Before every meeting begins, Jeff Bezos and his team take time out to read the memos prepared for the meeting before opening up to discuss. “We read these memos silently, during the meeting,” says Bezos. “It’s like a study hall. Everyone sits around the table, and we read silently, for usually about half an hour, however long it takes us to read the document. And then we discuss it.” This is a very clever tactic because it ensures everyone in the meeting has to read the memo and is educated on what’s being discussed, rather than taking it away after the meeting and throwing it out.

No PowerPoint

The term death by PowerPoint gets thrown around a lot – but to combat this, Bezos has decided that PowerPoint is not to be used in meetings at Amazon. “No PowerPoint gets used. Instead, somebody for the meeting prepares a six page, narratively structured memo. It’s real sentences, not just bullet points.” He has previously said these memos can take as long as one week to prepare and no shortcuts are taken in preparing them. “Great memos are written and rewritten, shared with colleagues who are asked to improve the work. They simply can’t be done in a day or two.” I know I’ve sat in meetings in the past where I wished PowerPoint didn’t exist.

Two-pizza teams

I know what you’re thinking – what does pizza have to do with making a meeting more productive? But it has nothing to do with eating pizza, and it actually makes a lot of sense. Sometimes having too many people in the one room makes meeting a little bit more difficult with too many voice and opinions floating around which can really take the meeting off track. Jeff Bezos’ two-pizza team means that no meeting at Amazon will be overcrowded. “We try to create teams that are no larger than can be fed by two pizzas.

By Stephen Larkin

Published on 30 July, 2019