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.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

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!

PowerPoint or No PowerPoint: That is the question

During every coaching session, the question is sure to come up. “Do I have to to use PowerPoint in my presentation?” PowerPoint has become almost synonymous in some circles with the modifier “boring”, but that’s not the fault of the tool. It reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of that tool’s purpose.

Before you toss the tool, ask yourself whether you’ve been using it effectively. Are your slides packed with text? Is the point of each slide difficult to follow? Are the slides chiefly there to help you communicate your points? Are you using your slides both as presentation tools and as handouts for the audience to read and refer to later?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may not be using PowerPoint very effectively.  Remember, if your audience can see and hear you, you need to be communicating differently than if you sent your information in an email, or mailed out printed material. Oral communication demands something different from both the presenter and the presentation. [Read more…]

Do Presentations Or Public Speaking Terrify You?

“It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” ~ Mark Twain

I offer communications training, including business writing, presentation skills training, and media relations. The latter two, I’ve found, have much in common in that they force one to stand up and talk to strangers who may or may not be receptive. Over the years, I’ve come up with several teaching points, largely by watching accomplished professionals draw audiences in and make them comfortable, open to new ideas, and eager to share in what becomes a productive conversation. [Read more…]

Tips for a Winning Welcome Speech

We work with a lot of executives at The Pincus Group who are called upon to deliver welcome speeches at industry conferences and major events. Usually, we’re working with these executives on honing key note speeches or business presentations. During that coaching, they’ll often casually mention the welcome speech they’ve been asked to deliver but usually consider it a far lower priority.

Here’s why that’s a mistake. Don’t minimize the opportunity you have in that welcome speech to make a first impression with your audience that will shape their views of you and the entire conference. In his book “Blink”Malcolm Gladwell explores the power of what’s known in psychology as “thin slicing”, the ability we all have to make sense of situations on the “thinnest slice” of experience. Gladwell details fascinating examples of that phenomenon at work, but anyone who engages in public speaking needs to understand the opportunity it presents. [Read more…]