Get ready. You’ll probably be asked to give an executive briefing at some point during your career. You might as well be prepared for it.
Briefings are really common in business, although you may be more familiar with their use in government and military settings. Their purpose is usually to inform, instruct, or facilitate action. Their common denominator? They are meant to be brief—there’s zero time for haranguing, rambling, or fillers. Your goal is to quickly and accurately make your point with absolute clarity.
1. Know the purpose. Before you do anything else, you must get clear on the purpose of your briefing. It guides your research, structure, and all facets of the delivery. Understanding the purpose also means knowing who will be in the room and why. So, what is your overall goal? It could be any one of these or more:
- Inform. Provide listeners with only the facts. Refrain from drawing conclusions or making recommendations. You should be keenly focused on key details that require immediate attention and action. The information may be complex and require an expert explanation, which may include research, statistics, case studies, or diagrams, etc.
- Instruct. In this scenario you will provide step-by-step direction on a preferred course of action. Your instructions will include a strategic plan of action aimed at getting results. You will give guidance, recommendations, and draw conclusions.
- Decide. Here you will marshal data and provide information like above; except this time to get an answer to a question, elicit a decision, or prompt a course of action. Make sure to isolate and define the unique challenge you are facing.
2. Choose an appropriate structure. No matter which structure you choose, organizing your content in a clear and concise manner is key. For example, you may choose to utilize a linear structure (issues, analysis and recap/next steps), which is pretty common. However, this may not work for every topic. When it doesn’t, consider a nonlinear structure, where hierarchy may be more effective at dictating how issues and information are addressed. Some examples are: cause/effect, problem/solution, questions/answers, or maybe even a chronology.
3. Stand and deliver. This is not a mechanical talk—be conversational. Your comfort level, however, is dictated by how well you’ve prepared in advance. Work out the kinks methodically. Think content fluency; which conveys technical expertise, as well as mastery of body language; which conveys confidence. Start strong, captivate in the middle, and conclude with impact. Be enthusiastic and engage in active listening. Be prepared to incorporate facilitation skills if any portion of your briefing requires it. Add pizzazz with compelling visuals. However, don’t use slides that are stuffed to the gills with a “script” and no white space. Use key phrases. Include fascinating charts. Bring handouts for the audience to reference. They can add tremendous value.
Even if you’ve never had the opportunity to give an executive briefing at this point in your career, you can benefit from using these tips when you’re called to action. So, get excited. When you’re asked to give the next executive briefing, you’ll be ready.
To your success.
Karima Mariama-Arthur, Esq. is the founder and CEO of WordSmithRapport, an international consulting firm specializing in professional development. Follow her on Twitter: @wsrapport or visit her website, www.wordsmithrapport.com.