Recently I attended a great conference on a subject connected to the Emergency Management and Preparedness industry. It was quite informative and as I always try to do, left with greater knowledge than when I arrived; always taking with me information that can help boost any potential gaps in Business Continuity Management, Disaster Planning & Management, Crisis Communications and Emergency Management. It certainly did provide some great insights.
However, I found that due to many of the attendees and presenters – many of which were scientists and researchers – the message they were trying to convey sometimes got lost during their presentations. It was because they were incredibly intelligent and brilliant in their thinking, they could not speak to the audience; they were speaking at the audience. Often, many of them had the same end-message, where governments and organizations need to step up and take their topics seriously but it got me thinking; if I can’t understand some of what is being said – and I’m in the industry – how are governments and organizations going to take the message(s) seriously? They won’t be able to because they aren’t able to understand the message.
So I started writing some notes that would inevitably help presenters when speaking or presenting in front of others. If you can manage a few of these your message will be better received – and understood.
1. No Gaps: Don’t leave anything out of the message you’re trying to convey. Make sure you state the past experiences and state of the organization as well as your desired end state. An author doesn’t tell half the story or leave anything out; at some point the entire story is there for the reader. This must be true to BCM/DR/ERM; tell the entire message you’re conveying.
2. Verbiage to a Minimum (Slides): If you’re going to use PowerPoint slides, don’t overload them with tons of verbiage. Simply keep this in mind; do you want the audience to listen to you or read the slides, ignoring you? Choose wisely.
3. Not Just Data / Facts and Real Examples: Providing a ton of numbers won’t help get your message across – unless you’re an accountant. Since that’s not always the case, data – too much of it – will only get people to think of something else while they wait for you to finish your talk. Provide real example – even some from you own corporation – that illustrates your comments and position. Even provide good (and bad) examples from your competitors because if they’ve had a bad experience, which you can learn from – that’s the best example you can use.
4. Know the Value of BCM: If you’re going to present the good points of BCM to Senior Executives, really think through the value that BCM will bring to the organization. Too often it’s thought of as an expense but if you’ve thought through how it adds value to the organization, then you’re offering something that executives will listen to and buy into to.
5. Know the Stakeholders: When presenting in from on Senior Management, many believe that they are the stakeholders. Well, as with other internal resources (i.e. employees) that’s correct though they aren’t the only stakeholders. Remember to think of external partners, vendors and suppliers; they are stakeholders too and if they have a disaster your organization is impacted. If you have a disaster, they have an impact upon you and these dependencies must be understood by executives.
6. Acronyms: Simply put, people aren’t automatons or robots so don’t speak like one. Not everyone knows what they mean and with so many acronyms around these days, you could use one that has a completely different meaning than what you intend. If that happens, you’ve lost your audience because they simply don’t understand you. So if you’re speaking your language make sure you translate your words so they understand you.
7. Use of Assumptions: Many people forget that assumptions are those things you believe to be true; either in a disaster, during planning or in some other area. If you start quoting assumptions – especially in front of executives – make sure you investigate your assumptions first. And those you can’t clarify, make sure that during your planning efforts you either prove they are correct or prove them wrong. In the end, if you don’t clarify your assumptions, you could cause major headaches when a disaster occurs.
8. Be Relevant: Speak to your industry and your organization. Yes, some examples may represent others but stick with what you’re really after; getting BCM/DR/ERM buy in from your own organization. If you speak too much about others – especially other industries other than your own – you’re not being relevant at all. You’re wasting time – yours and theirs.
9. The Right Presenter: If you don’t know how to present or don’t know how to present, then get someone who is. You can still be there to answer questions and coach them ahead of time but if you’re not the right person to get the message across, get someone who is. It will make a huge difference if the message comes across with confidence rather than coming from someone who shows insecurity and stutters/stammers through the presentation. Feel free to join a Toastmasters group to help build your presentation skills.
We all want our presentations to be understood and welcomed and we have to know how to present our ideas effectively. If we don’t learn how to do that, we might end up with BCM being pushed to the backburner so make sure you get their attention right from the start; it could end up being the only opportunity you get.
© StoneRoad Inc
“Heads in the Sand: What Stops Corporations From Seeing Business Continuity as a Social Responsibility” and “Made Again Volume 1 – Practical Advice for Business Continuity Programs”
by StoneRoad founder, A.Alex Fullick, MBCI, CBCP, CBRA, ITILv3
Available at http://www.stone-road.com, http://www.amazon.com & http://www.volumesdirect.com