Best Briefings: How To Deliver A Briefing Your Boss Will Thank You For

Briefing, noun brief·ing \ˈbrē-fiŋ\: an act or instance of giving precise instructions or essential information.

As usual, Webster’s definition is a useful starting point for helping us focus on the goal here. A briefing should communicate only the essence of what your target audience needs to know. As the briefer, you presumably know quite a bit more. To understand where your knowledge and your audience’s need to know intersect, begin by asking yourself about your purpose. Why does your audience need this information? How will they use it? What do they already know or assume about what they’re going to hear? Briefings are a no-frills form of communication that seems deceptively simple, but one that even senior executives can struggle with. Follow some basic rules to deliver the kind of briefing your boss will thank you for:

EVEN INFORMATIONAL BRIEFINGS HAVE TO BE PERSUASIVE
If your audience is to believe you know what you’re talking about, regardless of your title or position, you’re going to have to persuade them of that in your briefing. Your audience will have to hear and see through your presentation that you’ve selected the right information for them to consider. In other words, the recitation of raw data, no matter how profound or complex or enlightening, isn’t going to make your case for you. Numbers actually don’t speak for themselves (and neither do ideas). You’re there to provide perspective on the information. Even when presenting raw numbers, you’ll need to help your audience make sense of their meaning (are they more than expected, less? What are they comparable to?) Help your audience understand your information, not just hear it.

BRIEFINGS MUST BE BRIEF
Remember your audience, any audience, does not want to know all you know and could possibly say on the subject. That’s true for any executive presentation. Briefings particularly however are a mode of communication that carry the assumption of being short and succinct. Let your audience guide you in the q and a portion (if there is one) into any further detail they require. (Even there, the answers need to be direct and brief, with an option for more explanation in a different venue if need be.)

TEAM BRIEFINGS ARE ABOUT THE TEAM
If you’re preparing for a team briefing, first decide every member’s distinct role in delivering the information. You want the information to highlight both individual contributions and knowledge, as well as display your team strategy and a sense of cohesion. You can accomplish this by looking for places to back each other up with references to what’s come before and what the audience is about to hear presented from others, at the same time avoiding repetition. Make sure your briefing team participates in oral rehearsals and doesn’t just share written information. You want to experience the briefing the way your audience will, orally, so you can make adjustments to benefit them.

REMEMBER THIS IS ORAL COMMUNICATION
If you’re presenting your briefing using PowerPoint or handouts, remember those are visual AIDS, not the whole of the briefing itself. Make sure whatever materials you have are visually powerful and not mere words for your audience to read. Whatever aids you use shouldn’t take center stage or overpower you–the job of the briefer is all important here. Remember too that oral communication demands you be understood the first time. As FDR famously said, “Be sincere, be brief, be seated.”

Aileen Pincus is President and CEO of The Pincus Group, Inc., providing tailored presentation training and media coaching to executives worldwide, with headquarters in Washington, DC.

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Pincus Group VP, Timothy Kenny Releases New Book

New Nonfiction Book By Timothy Kenny, Vice President of International Training for The Pincus Group

For Immediate Release:

In Far Country, Stories from Abroad and Other Places,  veteran USA Today journalist Timothy Kenny takes readers to places where there are “Dark Nights and Feral Dogs,” where Serb snipers shoot at reporters along a road called Sniper Alley and where a “Month in a Far Country” in the Caucasus is a teacher’s delight.

Kenny’s collection of creative nonfiction stories brings alive the places he has lived and the people he has known as a foreign news editor, Fulbright scholar and University of Connecticut journalism professor.

Far Country “is memoir,” Kenny notes in the book’s introduction, “an account of events that I witnessed and remembered. My intention was a simple one: to tell readers something about the ways in which unusual places are indeed, different, and why that is so.”

Trish Harris, editor of the Pea River Journal, says that in Far Country “the connecting thread is not the obvious adventure but human relationships. Each essay is a story we fall into, story after story connected through relationship and observation, from darkness to the next darkness. Kenny’s essays are not just reports from the front but a fascinating set of hard-won observations on any front, any complex of situations that any of us might encounter.”

The author, who was born and raised in Detroit, also writes stories “closer to home,” as he notes in the collection. In “The Fall of Detroit,” Kenny describes a city that has slipped from grace, and recounts his stunned and unbelieving reaction after years away. In “On Turning Sixty-Six and Six in Umbria,” he writes about the joys of raising a daughter who is sixty years younger than he is.

A reporter since 1972, Kenny began traveling abroad in November 1989, when the fall of the Berlin Wall changed the world’s political order and opened the door to a life spent observing other cultures and other lives in forty-five countries, as well as his own. He is currently of Vice President of International Training for The Pincus Group, which specializes in media and presentation skills training for executives.

Far Country is 152 pages long and includes photos. It is published by the independent Midwest publisher Bottom Dog Press, as part of its Harmony Memoir Series. Far Country is available at bookstores and online. The author will hold a series of talks and book signings at libraries and bookstores this summer and fall.

Review copies are available upon request. For interviews, contact Timothy Kenny at: Timothy.Kenny2011@gmail.com. Bottom Dog Press editor Larry Smith may be reached at Lsmithdog@aol.com.

Books by The Pincus Group Trainers:

 

Writing That Works By David Griffiths

Poor writing is an obstacle to productivity, a hindrance to customer and client relations, and an impediment to effective management. Good writing is an opportunity to be creative and crystallize thinking while portraying a consistently professional image.

Why should a well-run organization care about writing training? Because meaningful communication — whether in reports, memos or the ubiquitous emails that make writers out of all of us — is the key to good management. To get the message across internally, it must be concise, unambiguous and logically structured. Overly long, badly organized writing can create confusion.

And without clear management expectations of what constitutes effective writing, you leave yourself vulnerable to erosions in productivity and morale. Nothing can slow the pace of decision making like the seemingly endless “rewrite cycle,” as one management layer above another finds fault with a document that would have been clearly written in the first place had there been writing guidelines, with leadership insistence on a concise message.

The penalties for inattention to the quality of writing can be just as severe when it comes to external communications with clients, customers and other constituents. Letters or emails that look rushed and shows signs of shoddy — or nonexistent — editing can leave a harmful impression of the writer, his or her superiors and even the whole organization. In fact, errors — grammatical and spelling blunders, run-on and fragmented sentences, misleading punctuation, redundant content, passive verbs, sloppy organization — can all lead the reader to ask: What else is wrong with this? Can I trust what the writer is trying to tell me?

So what constitutes Writing That Works?

  • Usa a writing process that starts with a free-wheeling exploratory phase and ends with a concise product that demonstrates a disciplined approach to business and/or government communications.
  • Knowing your audience is an absolute necessity. Writing that looks and sounds professional must edify with straightforward English, not try to impress with “insidey” and often (albeit unintentional) pompous language. Respect the reader.
  • Writing is thinking. The writing process forces you to analyze and be creative, and maybe even surprise yourself at how much you know. Good writers exercise their minds.
  • Revise and edit. No matter how well crafted, your message can be garbled and you can project a negative image of you and your organization if you don’t cast a critical eye on your own work. Effective writers must learn how to edit and revise. It’s all about “quality control.”

A recent Business Week magazine poll showed that 41 percent of employees who are dissatisfied with training efforts offered by their employer plan to leave the company within 12 months, compared to 12 percent who are satisfied with the training.

It’s not too late. Effective business writing can give employees a greater sense of cohesion. What business couldn’t benefit from more confident communicators who shun jargon and bureaucratic padding.

David Griffiths with the Pincus Group is a professional with over 30 years of experience in writing, editing and communications coaching. He can be reached at info@thepincusgroup.com.

Want To Be A Better Writer? Don’t Go It Alone By David Griffiths

“Everyone needs an editor.” Ernest Hemingway

Papa Hemingway, one of the great prose stylists of the last century, was dead on. Human nature is such that we find it difficult to be rigorously honest about our own work. We may be able to spot the occasional misspelling or misplaced comma, but we won’t catch them all without help. The fact is that it’s a rare writer who can look at his or her own work with an objective and critical eye.

Why is editing — and more extensive revising, where needed — so important? Because sloppy or nonexistent editing leaves the reader asking: “If he uses spell-check as a crutch and doesn’t know the difference between ‘there’ and ‘their’ and ‘they’re,’ why should I take the rest of his writing seriously? Where’s the pride?”

Professional editors assume that the copy they’re working on is far from perfect. Viewing themselves as “first readers,” they start with a clear understanding of the audience for any particular piece of writing. Then they edit for message, organization, paragraph and sentence structure and length, consistency in internal construction, word usage, and errors in punctuation and spelling as well as typos.

Think of it as quality control.

The result should be writing where clarity and brevity are natural partners, the message is clear, and style doesn’t get in the way of content. As the novelist Somerset Maugham said, “The best style is the style you don’t notice.”

The Power in Presentations: a warning for senior executives

We can easily recognize why presentation skills are so highly prized. Credit for the work usually goes hand in hand with those who are accomplished at speaking and explaining the work. That’s why senior executives in particular, know the value of coaching. They know their work can’t and won’t speak for itself–They’ll have to become adept and making others understand and appreciate it’s importance and their contribution to it.

The positive impact on careers and reputation that powerful presentations have is understood to a greater degree than the flip side of the equation. Poor presentations also leave deep impressions that can unfortunately cause real and lasting damage. A poor business presentation can leave the impression that it’s not just the presentation that’s not up to par, but our work or our competence generally. Even if your reputation can withstand such doubt, it’s important to understand just how much damage a poor presentation can have. These are missed opportunities at publicly proving the value of our good work and they take on added weight for senior executives, especially when ‘presenting up’.

When they present to those they report to, executives tend to put a lot of thought and practice into their presentations. Under the stress of workloads however, that commitment can slip. That’s understandable, but it doesn’t change the equation. Speak poorly and others will question more than your oral presentation skills. They’ll question your very abilities.

That’s why it’s so important for senior executives to heed this warning. You simply cannot allow yourself to be standing before others unprepared. If time pressure prevents adequate preparation, look for alternatives. You might delegate the task on occasion and give others a chance to show their competence. You might look for other means of presenting information, such as written summaries, or delegate part of the task, such as putting together drafts. Do what you have to do to control those high-stakes appearances and limit them to those times you are confident and ready.

Solidifying a great reputation will take more than the occasional home run. Show up ready for your best, each and every game!