Safety meetings are NOT about filling time. They are about ensuring that you engage your attendees in safety and help them to make better choices.
(An excerpt from my free e-book, The Perfect Safety Meeting)
What is crucial to understand is how people learn and what they can effectively recall from presentations: mostly they remember the beginning and the end. The middle of a presentation is forgotten first - if it is even grasped at all.
Amateur presenters who do not deliver presentations over and over again, are unable to fine-tune their presentations editing for brevity, timing or humor segues. In fact, when given 60 to 90 minutes of time to fill during a safety event, they will over-prepare with fillers, padding and irrelevant material. That is why you often see presenters get bogged down in the middle of their 90-minute presentations - because there’s just too much stuff.
When that happens, they skip over dozens of slides and rush through the closing - the part people recall best of all.
Time or Substance?
Could a presentation on Fatigue Management or safe driving or hand-washing be made in thirty minutes or does it really, honestly take ninety minutes to make the point?
Safety events are NOT about filling time. Safety events, stand-downs and meetings are about ensuring that you engage your attendees in safety and help them to make better choices. Don't force your presenters to fill more time than is necessary to effectively address an issue. If they need 30 minutes to address the problem, don't make them add filler and fluff to stretch it out to a 90-minute presentation just because you've scheduled 90-minutes. You're better off giving your people a one-hour break after a riveting presentation to to think about how they can apply what they learned instead of forcing them to sit there and be distracted by fluffy and time-filling messages.
The Ideal Hour
Ideally, for each hour of your meeting or event, you would construct your presentations as follows:
- Presentation (30 minutes)
- Discussion (10 minutes)
- Table Reports (10 minutes)
- Break (10 minutes)
Discussion - refers to creating a dialog at the individual tables (6-8 participants) of how to effectively use the information presented. It creates interaction and builds ownership in the findings. It drives home the learning and if the attendees know that this part of the meeting is coming, they are will be more engaged as they are going to have to do something with the information. They are no longer simply passive spectators at safety events - they are participants.
Table Reports - one table at a time, a representative from the table rises to offer practical strategies from the Discussion.
Then take a break for ten minutes for a job well-done. Reward them for their work and allow informal discussion to take place at the refreshment tables or even hanging outside with the smokers.
Dump The Q&A
Then, get rid of the formal Q&A from the stage at the end of each presentation. A Question and Answer session at the end of a highly-engaging presentation is like driving your car at sixty miles an hour directly into a brick wall. Questioners can’t be heard. Questions are usually self-serving and end up going off-topic - all while those who take no interest in the question wait to go to the bathroom or out for a smoke break. Q&A sessions are selfish and hold the meeting hostage.
A better suggestion is to arrange for the presenter to make their way to a place at the back of the room near the entrance and also near the refreshments to entertain specific questions. People feel more encouraged to ask a question one-on-one than they do to rise in the meeting and to be judged by all of their peers.
Also, by removing Q&A sessions from the program, you keep the meeting on-track and prevent it from going off the rails and turning into a bitch-session - every meeting planner’s nightmare. One or two malcontents can hijack your agenda and hold it hostage for the rest of the day and any attempt to wrestle back control would be seen as undermining the employees.
If you want to connect better with your people and to keep the energy high in the room, remove the Q&A sessions from the formal program and move them informally to the back of the room.
Make each presentation slick. Make them short and punchy. Force your presenters to cut down the useless, extraneous information and streamline their presentation. Really, has anyone ever felt ripped-off that the safety meeting was too short?
Get your copy of The Perfect Safety Meeting free below. And if you want help in building better safety meetings, I work with companies offering consulting advice and strategies to improve engagement and help your people look forward to safety meetings.
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