I read an article a few months ago about how Jeff Bezos banned PowerPoints from meetings at Amazon. Instead, people write a “narratively structured six-page memo” to lay out what’s being discussed.

At the time of reading the article, I was creating a PowerPoint presentation for a group of medical students. I was delivering four sessions covering machine learning principles and their applications in healthcare. However, I was finding it challenging to condense complex ideas into bullet points on the slides. I was also struggling to consolidate my knowledge while doing so.

After reading the article I switched to the following approach while producing the first drafts of the sessions:

I simultaneously had both a Word document and a PowerPoint file covering the same content (machine learning in healthcare). When I felt that I had a lot of thoughts I wanted to write down and explore, they’d go into Word. When I felt like outlining overall themes, they’d become slide titles and bullet points in PowerPoint.

Then, after having elaborated in one of the domains, I’d later transfer the contents over to the other domain.

Using Word really demanded that I was able to explain everything I was saying and highlighted any gaps in knowledge or reasoning. Using PowerPoint forced me to identify the key points, on which the rest of the information hung.

For some reason, this was extremely effective. I continued to make slow and steady progress over the course of four weeks, and now have a full set of 95 slides and a 40-page word document on machine learning in healthcare. I’m planning to use the slides to deliver future sessions and convert the word document into blog posts or an eBook.

It got me thinking about the benefits of expressing the same ideas in multiple mediums. Both Word and PowerPoint are powerful methods for presenting information, yet both have their limitations. Using both may be our best opportunity to overcome the limitations of the other.

I think this could extend to other mediums as well. I’ve been thinking about the pros and cons of sharing ideas through blogging vs videos vs podcasts and may share these thoughts in the future.

Below are some samples of the Word and PowerPoint versions, if interested: