Please note that this is a page from a previous version of Continuity Central and is no longer being updated.

To see the latest business continuity news, jobs and information click here.

Business continuity information

Five ways to boost the impact of your business continuity presentations

By Chris MacArthur, CBCP, MBCI.

Have you ever wondered if there was a way to significantly improve the effectiveness of your business continuity presentations? Before I describe some proven steps that really work, permit me to share with you my own experience.

I can still clearly remember the first time I was asked to provide an update to the executive committee about our business continuity management (BCM) program. I couldn’t help but feel somewhat anxious as I thought that the audience may be pressed for time and would want me to get the point quickly so they can move on to the next agenda item. During my preparation I found out that these updates were provided several times a year and, in the past, included a brief description on the status of the BCM program and identified if there were any issues the executives needed to be aware of. If there were any issues then this team needed to be reassured that the BCM team had a plan of action to address the risks. I put myself in the shoes of the audience and thought how bored they might be to have to sit through yet another update and reflected about what could be done to make a more impactful presentation and gain their support so that our BCM program could add more value to the organization.

This type of an opportunity is one where you don’t want to come across too strong and risk alienating your audience. Worse you want to avoid fear mongering as this may have the opposite effect and actually turn off the audience. Ideally you want to make the executives interested in wanting to know about you and, in our example, wanting to know more about the BCM program. One effective way to demonstrate that you can hold gain and hold interest is to develop a powerful introduction which includes a memorable attention getter and provides an executive preview of what will be presented.

Let me ask you a question: if you were provided with this type of an opportunity would you be ready? Would you be comfortable that you know what to do and how to effectively articulate the value of BCM to the organization? Let’s focus on how to make your presentation introductions more powerful and memorable.

1) Get to get to know your audience
As I continued to prepare I realized I had little information about the backgrounds of the committee members; their concerns; or the decision making process itself. So I started to do some detective work. I contacted their executive assistants and even the executives themselves to introduce myself, explain that I was new to the organization, and needed their help so that I could be more prepared for the presentation. I was honestly taken aback with their response. Many were quite pleased that I took the time to reach out and they told me that many of the presentations in the past had too much detail, at times rambled on, and then there was no decision requested from the executives. I couldn’t help but sense their frustration.

As I continued my fact finding I discovered that there were several members of this committee who were quite new to the organization and I believed this detail would provide an excellent opportunity to not only provide the requested update but to also describe the benefits of our BCM program so that the executive team would provide the support we needed. I also uncovered that the decision making process was done by committee however there was one key executive who everyone looked up to and he was most concerned about risk management. I now felt that I was much better prepared to tell my story in a more meaningful manner and ask for their decision.

2) Gain their interest
There is a saying that you often only get one chance to make a strong first impression and this is especially true when presenting to executives. Experience has shown that you have less than one minute to create interest and leave a meaningful and impactful impression. As I developed my presentation I realized the need to answer the question: ‘What’s in it for me?’ To address this point, once you have introduced yourself, consider asking a question or citing a startling statistic related to BCM. The other ways you can gain their attention could include any of the following:

  • Tell a personal story;
  • Ask the executives to imagine a scenario;
  • Use a visual aid (but avoid dwelling on the negative);
  • Cite a recent headline;
  • Conduct a survey and ask for a show of hands.

3) Use powerful words that will motivate
Experience has shown that an audience will be more receptive to your message if you utilize a vocabulary which motivates. I am sure you know of these types of words such as, ‘proven, results, guarantee, easy, fast.’ Try to incorporate this type of vocabulary and avoid words such as ‘me, mine, I, you know’.

4) Have a call to action
Tell the audience up front that at the conclusion of your presentation you will be asking for them to make a decision. You will never know if the executive audience is convinced that they need to take action unless you do one important thing: let them know in advance that they will need to take action. What do you want them to do with the information you are going to present? If you are you seeking their approval to move forward with your proposal, for example, then ask them.

5) Be natural
Get comfortable with delivering your presentation. You don’t want to sound like a pre-recorded program. Have passion, yet show some restraint. Most of all, slow down your rate of speech, smile, and relax. To illustrate the importance of rate of speech I used to train customer service representatives and part of the course focused on slowing down one’s rate of speech to 140-160 words per minute. If you speak faster than that, especially during a presentation, the audience will focus on how fast you are speaking rather than what you are saying. Finally to make a more impactful presentation is to rehearse as much as you can so that you sound more natural.

Let’s put this all together. Here is an example of an introduction I have used when delivering to an executive audience.

“Good morning everyone and thank you for this opportunity to provide you with an important update on our business continuity program. My name is Chris MacArthur and by way of background during the past nine years I have assisted clients in the private and public sector to significantly improve their business resiliency by following a tested and proven methodology. But what’s more important, and the reason I am excited to be here today, is that I have seen these organizations benefit as a result by improving their ability to respond more effectively to unplanned events thereby safeguarding their reputation, reducing insurance costs, and meeting regulatory compliance.

“Before beginning let me ask you a question. Imagine if there was a power outage that affected this building and it caught all of us completely by surprise. It is unknown to what degree this outage would impact our ability to continue delivery of our services. Would you know what to do in the first hour? (Pause for a few seconds) Would everyone in the organization know what to do? (Pause briefly).

“That brings us to the purpose of todays’ presentation. During the next twenty minutes I will update you on the status of our business continuity program and then describe the precise changes which would enable our organization to more effectively manage risks and improve our ability to respond more quickly and effectively to unplanned events. Finally, I will close by asking you to make a specific decision”

In closing, let’s recap some key points. In order to make your business continuity presentations more impactful and memorable take the time to learn about your audience. What is their background? What are their interests? How are decisions made? Next, establish your credibility and build trust by briefly describing your background and how you have benefited other organizations. Give some thought to gaining their interest and provide them with a preview of what will be presented. Finally, close by asking for a decision.

I encourage you to incorporate these suggestions to make your presentations more impactful, gain executive support, and significantly improve the maturity level of your business continuity management program.

The author
Chris MacArthur, CBCP, MBCI, is with CR MacArthur Consulting. Contact Chris at crmacarthur@gmail.com

•Date: 10th September 2014 • US/World •Type: Article • Topic: BC general

Business Continuity Newsletter Sign up for Continuity Briefing, our weekly roundup of business continuity news. For news as it happens, subscribe to Continuity Central on Twitter.

How to advertise How to advertise on Continuity Central.

To submit news stories to Continuity Central, e-mail the editor.

Want an RSS newsfeed for your website? Click here