Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Talking about talking

There's an old expression that goes something like this: be careful what you ask for, you just might get it.

I am a graduate of our county's succession management program, and during the last few classes of that two-year-long course, I asked the facilitator if they needed any help in offering a class I had taken nearly 15 years ago called Giving Successful Presentations.

Me and my big mouth...
Well, as an experienced presenter, our human resources department took me up on the offer, and yesterday, I led the pilot offering of the new incarnation of the program. We had a dozen students in the class, and after a morning of instruction, we had each of them give a five-minute presentation on the topic of their choosing.

Now, what does this have to do with emergency communications?

I am glad you asked.

In the event of a large, catastrophic event such as a hurricane, the public information officers in our county are going to be overwhelmed. National media will descend on our area, citizens will be looking for information and it will take us a while to regain our footing and assess just how badly we have been hit.

A Red Cross volunteer speaks with a resident who has lost everything
Post storm, we will be turning to many of our employees who are able to return to work not only to try their best to get the county back on its feet, but to also serve as our ambassadors out with the citizens. Someone is going to have to address the residents' questions about where to find their lost pets, how to report price gougers and when they can re-enter their devastated neighborhoods.

Someone will have to do this speaking, so why not build a cadre of well-trained spokespeople who will be able to confidently get up in front of an audience and deliver a message?

What did we cover? Well, some of the key points included understanding that presentations require a five-step process, which includes:

  • Plan: Getting the details for the presentation, understanding the audience and determining the length of the presentation.
  • Develop: Gathering the information, building a solid introduction, developing key content points and building a killer close.
  • Prepare: Beating the jitters, practicing the right way and learning how much appearances matter.
  • Dazzle: Getting to the venue early, focusing your energy and delivering the best presentation possible.
  • Evaluate: Discovering what worked, what didn't and how could it be improved. 

How'd we do? Well, the evaluations looked good, and it looks as if only minor tweaks will be required to get the presentation into its final version.

All in all, I'd say it was a great opportunity to teach some valuable skills - something that doesn't hurt to have in your back pocket should the worst happen.

Tom Iovino, Public Information Specialist
Pinellas County, Florida

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