Giving a Briefing
Many briefings lose effectiveness because they are too long. A
briefing should be as brief as possible and still cover the subject
Function. Briefings originated in military settings.
Seeing their value for presenting much information, former military
members introduced briefings into business settings. Today, briefings
are the most common type of presentation in both settings. Sometimes
their purpose is to inform-tell about a mission, project, operation, or
concept. At times they enable listeners to perform a procedure or carry
out instructions. At other times they advocate or seek to persuade
listeners to accept a certain solution or way of doing things; they may
seek a decision from listeners.
Since a briefing should be brief, don't use extraneous or "nice
to know" support. Visual aids are often used to save time and
achieve accuracy. Humor is seldom used because entertainment is never a
purpose of briefings. Briefings concentrate on the facts. Briefings also
generally begin and end according to a prescribed format, designed to
save time for the hearers.
Briefings are given to busy people who desire and need to know your
information, so don't waste time on a long beginning or ending. A Chief
Financial Officer (CFO) briefing the CEO and vice presidents of a bank
on its current financial status, a military officer briefing higher
ranking officers on a proposal to upgrade enlisted barracks on the base,
the chairman of the United Way briefing sector chiefs on progress of the
campaign are all examples of briefings.
Beginning. If, as often happens, another speaker introduces
you and your subject, you may only need to give a quick overview of the
subject and proceed immediately to the main points. Your listeners'
familiarity with the subject will determine the length of the overview.
In most cases simply mentioning the main points is sufficient. If you
are not introduced, you might simply say, "Good morning, I'm
_______ briefing on __________. Here are the main points we will cover
today." Often, just a couple of seconds before you begin speaking
or at the moment you actually begin you may show a PowerPoint slide,
chart, or transparency with the title of your presentation, name, and
(if appropriate) the name of your company or organization in whose
behalf you are speaking. You can use another visual listing your main
points. Then get into the body of your talk. If you expect a decision
from you listeners at the end of your talk, tell them at the beginning.
Ending. This part of a briefing should be short but positive.
Normally you will end by reiterating the main points of the briefing,
usually with an accompanying slide or chart showing the points. If you
are recommending a particular solution or course of action, say so. Give
a brief, clear restatement of the possible solution or course of action
you judge best. No new material or commentary should be presented here.
You have given the information in the body of the talk. Now conclude
quickly. Briefings are to be brief.
Although many briefings are subject to interruption for questions from
listeners, many times a good concluding sentence might be: "Ladies
and Gentlemen, are there any (further) questions?" If a question
period is not to follow, or once the questions have ended, you might
simply say, "Ladies and Gentlemen, that concludes my
briefing," or "Thank you for inviting me to speak to you
today," or "Thank you, I look forward to talking more with you
about this concept/proposal/idea." Often the highest-ranking person
listening to your briefing or the person conducting the meeting may
conclude the question period for you by declaring, for example, "We
have no further questions." Depending on the situation you will
either say nothing or else a short "Thank you." Usually
briefings are one item on a longer agenda. Listeners will be ready to
move to the next item.
This information was adapted from my book, Speaking Effectively: Achieving Excellence in
Presentations, Upper Saddle River New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2004, which can be purchased