LinkedIn and Amazon are implementing some radical strategies to make their meetings more productive.
LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner explains on the company website that in an effort to make meetings shorter yet more productive, he has eliminated all presentations and implemented 10 minutes of silence at the beginning of every meeting. Jeff Bezos starts his meetings with 30 minutes of silent time, where executives have to handwrite their presentations.
A New Way of Thinking
Sound crazy? Maybe. Here's how it works at LinkedIn: The necessary materials for the meetings are delivered to each of the participants a day in advance, and employees have the option to either read the material when they receive it or use the first 10 minutes of the meeting to catch up on it.
"Just because the material has been sent doesn't mean it will be read," Weiner writes. That's the reason for the 10 minutes of silence. Anyone who hasn't done the reading is free to do it at that time. Anyone who already reviewed the document is free to look at it in greater depth or quietly catch up on other work, like checking email.
Once the reading time is over, the discussion can begin in earnest. But Weiner warns that the discussion cannot turn into a presentation. "It's important to stay vigilant on this point as most people who prepared the materials will reflexively begin presenting," Weiner writes.
He insists this meeting style is unusual but effective.
"The first time I read about this practice it immediately conjured up images of a library or study hall, two of the last forums I would equate with meeting productivity. However, after the first few times you try it, not only won't it be awkward—it will be welcome. This is particularly true when meetings end early with participants agreeing it was time well spent."
Over at Amazon, when the senior executive team gets together, the beginning of the meeting silence can last 30 minutes. That's because CEO Jeff Bezos asks his team to pen their presentations for the executives to read.
"We have study hall at the beginning of our meetings," Bezos tells journalist Charlie Rose. "All of our meetings are structured around a six-page narrative memo."
He maintains that writing the memos is as helpful as reading them.
"When you have to write your ideas out in complete sentences and complete paragraphs it forces clarity," Bezos told Rose.
Is Change Always Good?
But can eliminating presentations in meetings be too radical of a style for the average small business?
Samantha Jackson, owner of Percolate Galactic, a B2B social media and marketing consulting business, believes it can be a problem with meetings held outside of the office.
"Recently, we were up for a tender with a fairly large account and, as usual, we sent our pitch and the relevant materials to all of the involved parties 24 hours prior to the meeting with a note requesting that they please review it and then we would discuss it in detail during the meeting," Jackson says. "When we arrived, they were utterly unprepared. They hadn't bothered to actually read our email or the materials. They asked us to present our PowerPoint, which we didn't have because we don't work that way. We ad-libbed the pitch to the best of our ability. Later, we found out we got passed over for the tender. Their reason? They wanted to be courted with an elaborate PowerPoint and printed materials and flip charts and mock-ups."
So while Amazon and LinkedIn may be able to change the way meetings are handled, inside and outside the office, it may be tougher for small businesses to adopt their strategies—especially when meeting with clients unfamiliar with the practice. But then again, Weiner and Bezos aren't known for doing things like they've always been done.
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