Commercial Actuarial Practice Business Writing - Creating clear presentations


Course Material Introduction Key themes – creating clear presentations Purpose Begin with the audience in mind Introductions and Conclusions Selecting and Grouping the content Structures – ordering the content Summary statements

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perhaps as an afterthought to the “real stuff”. During the CAP Course. Communication is not something that can simply be tacked on as a separate subject. it is an essential component of the broader actuarial control cycle. you have already demonstrated that you have the technical capability to become an Actuary. The second is when he has learned to use these freely and can thus freely exchange ideas with professional colleagues. Only at the third stage can he claim to be a professional man” Jim Peglar. Congratulations! The challenge that lies ahead for you is to apply this knowledge and capability in the different contexts that you will be confronted with in your professional career. you will have the opportunity to explore the communication principles and to see how you can out them to best use. and to communicate this to the varying audiences who rely on actuarial advice. 1969 IoA President As you are about to embark upon the Commercial Actuarial Practice course. The third is when he has learned not to use them and can thus communicate freely with the layman.Introduction “There are 3 stages in the education of a professional man……the first is when he is learning the meaning of the technical terms in order to be initiated into the mysteries of his profession. Enjoy! Andrew Brown 2 .

what their key concerns are. logical order. The close should leave the audience in no doubt as to what the major points were and what the next steps are. if you can group your material in a way that the audience can see the connections. Use introductions to set the scene and closings to highlight the main points – The introduction is typically of the form situation -> complication -> question -> solution.the mind organises information in clusters by forming associations. It should provide the context for the paper or presentation. Group your material into like areas . and structural. it will be much clearer to them. what will you say? Only include information that supports the summary statement – If information doesn’t relate directly to the summary statement then it may confuse the audience and will reduce the focus and hence impact of your report or presentation. and provide the audience with an expectation that they will get something out of reading the paper or attending the presentation. ie how you might order the information in your memory. It must be compelling to your audience and must deliver on their expectations. Be ruthless! • • • • • 3 . review your summary statement and material again.Key Themes – Creating clear presentations • • The fundamental themes in creating clear presentations are : Begin with the audience in mind – As you consider who your audience is. provide a link back to what the audience already know and agree with. Summarise into one key statement – what is they theme emerging from your data and analysis? If you have 15 seconds to explain what the summary of your presentation or report is and gain the attention of your audience. what their key convincers will be and. The basic types of order are: order of importance. Order the Groups – structure the information in an order that the audience can easily follow. chronological order.

then it’s a certainty your audience won’t know the purpose either. A clear purpose will drive the material your presentation will contain (Step 2). Purpose 1. When your purpose is crystal clear. This was so clear and so compelling a purpose that the first question asked for any new proposals for money or staff was ‘does this help put a man on the moon?’.1 Why purpose is essential to a successful presentation Purpose is the reason you are delivering a presentation. It also helps guide the audience. to inspire 4 . The purpose for NASA during the 1960s was to put a man on the moon. and what content is superfluous. it becomes obvious what content or structure will support the purpose.1. even the vocal and physical style you will use to deliver your presentation (Steps 4 and 5). Be clear in your own mind as to what the purpose of the presentation is. It is the goal you are trying to achieve with your presentation. The success of course is history. and how you will structure the material you deliver in your presentation (Step 3). All the elements for a successful presentation must be directly related to achieving your Purpose!!! What do we mean when we say purpose? The primary purposes are: • • • To inform To persuade To motivate the audience to act. If you don’t really know why you are delivering a presentation.

start with a point that the reader can agree with Establish needs . to be ‘natural persuaders’? Have you ever been frustrated that despite your knowledge on a topic and belief in the importance of the recommendations you are making. the audience has not been convinced? If you have.demonstrate understanding by stating their request and the context in which the advice is provided Plan . the good news is that like most skills in written communication. Be sure that your subject is relevant to the audience and be sure that they are interested and engaged by your subject.To Inform It is almost impossible to write a presentation without informing your audience of something. The key steps in the persuasion process are: • • • • Build rapport . building persuasion into a presentation is all about building the right process. To Persuade Have you ever noticed that some people just seem to have that ability to influence. This club includes just about every person who has had to give a presentation with the purpose of persuading an audience to a particular outcome or course of action! Well. “I want to inform the audience about …” By this we mean that we want to specifically inform the audience of a fact or item which can be identified. but what we need to identify is if it is primarily what we want to do.gain buy-in / commitment 5 . then welcome to a very auspicious club.align with audience needs Next steps .earn the right to influence.

come back and review the purpose. motivation is getting the people excited enough to take action. How do I go about selecting a purpose? You should write down the purpose of your presentation in one sentence (e. • That you have clearly defined what that action is and how they should go about performing it. 6 .’ You have a single purpose and a single topic. 2. The structure and content that supports a motivational presentation may be very different from that which supports a persuasive presentation.To motivate an audience to act. Paint such a dire picture for the audience of the awful consequences of not acting that they feel compelled to act. to clarify and refine it. When submitting a written proposal with this purpose you must ensure two things • That the audience actually has the power / authority to affect the action you have called them to. This is called ‘towards’ motivation. “The purpose of my presentation is to inform my audience about the benefits of daily exercise”). After a little time. You should be consistent in your purpose throughout. Build in the audience’s mind such a compelling picture of all the good things that will come of action that they simply must act. The heart of motivation is to: 1. to inspire While persuasion is involved with convincing people of a particular course of action. Keep your topic as clearly focussed on your purpose as possible.g. This is called ‘away from’ motivation. Make sure you have a clear goal in your mind. As you can see from the example sentence it should contain two key elements • The Primary Purpose “ to inform” • The Subject or Topic “the benefits of daily exercise” Avoid the temptation to use long-winded sentences joined by ‘and’ or ‘as well as.

Begin with the audience in mind The key to any successful presentation is making sure you pitch the presentation at the appropriate level for the audience. and make sure that you meet their needs. compliance. and how may you overcome these? 7 .2. Key questions to consider: • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Who will be reading the presentation? Who are the key decision-makers? What level of detail will they require? What is their level of knowledge on this topic? What are their major concerns (E. what are the pros and cons of different alternatives? WIIFM (What’s in it for me?) – How will you keep their attention by letting them know what is in it for them? What are their key convincers? How can you relate the topic or issue back to their own experiences? What do you want them to understand (INFORM)? What do you want them to feel? What do you want them to believe (PERSUADE)? What do you want them to do (MOTIVATE)? What are the likely objections.g. resources etc)? What questions are they likely to have? Do you need to provide alternatives or straight forward recommendations. value. profit. capital.

An opening. should gain an audience’s attention. unless you are doing it for dramatic effect. This is your final opportunity to get your message across. Provide the following elements: situation –> complication -> question -> solution Somewhere in your opening you must tell the audience why they should continue. This is often referred to as the WIIFM (What’s In It for me) approach.3. A long conclusion with multiple finales will drive an audience to distraction! • Keep it sharp – no more than 10% of your presentation Don’t fill your conclusion with pointless jokes or quotations – avoid padding Be prepared to answer questions at the end of a verbal presentation. Be careful that once you have flagged the ending make sure you wind up quickly. Conclusions People remember the first and last thing you write or say. When people don’t know who you are outline your expertise in the context of the presentation. In a number of cases people will know who you are in which case there will be no real need to tell everyone about your expertise. so that you can build rapport. Start with background that the audience can agree with. Never create controversy early. Introductions and Conclusions Introductions The opening of a presentation is that critical point where you need to get an audience wanting to listen to what you have to say. It is important to prepare your opening carefully. so it is important to prepare your conclusion carefully. Some of the standard WIIFM’s are • • • • • Solve my problem Support my project Align with my interests Provide me with resources Help me to understand Once you have the attention of the audience it is important to establish your purpose and credibility. try to find out about them!) and it is always a good idea to think of what it is about your presentation that will get them excited. It should neatly summarise your key points in a fresh and memorable finish. first and foremost. Generally you will know your audience to some degree (if you don’t know your audience. some key concepts: • • • • • Keep it sharp – no more than 10% of your presentation Do use stories or analogies that are relevant to the subject and will engage the reader. 8 . Getting an audience interested at the start is 10 times easier than trying getting them listening again if they have switched off! So. They need some selfish reason to read the document.

Look for analogies to make complex information more understandable and find relevant examples to support your ideas. Try to assess the amount of critical material which your audience can retain.4. Remember that the conscious mind can’t hold more than seven (plus or minus two) pieces of information at any one time. Always try to select material that is appropriate for your audience. Remember to establish the credibility of your material before presenting it to an audience. Selecting and grouping content The way that the mind creates associations and recalls information means that they way information is grouped in a presentation can have a very big impact on audience understanding and recall. so have seven or less groupings. Be careful not to overload them. Rules of thumb when grouping material are: • • • Look for common themes or associations between material Get rid of material that is not relevant to your summary statement. • • 9 .

Deductive: Overview Major Premise Minor premise Conclusion This is just to whet the appetite! There are many more structures. target markets etc For example. software packages. regulations. Whatever structure you use. competitors. with variations on these. systems.5. Structures . Structural – how you might remember or recall this information Components could be geographical locations. Signposting and linking 10 . Comparatively – begin with the most important point and then group and present information in the order of importance. and combinations of these. products. bare your audience in mind.Ordering the material The following are common ways of ordering material for a presentation: 1. distribution channels. Who What Where How Why When What if? 4. Conclusion / recommendation: Rationale: Point1 Point2 Point3 Re-state conclusion & next steps 1. subsidiaries. Chronological Past practice Present situation Future needs (proposal) 3.

Signs or symbols that travel with you throughout the journey. Signs that remind you of the destination. disconcerting. to let the audience know where they will be travelling to. whether a detour is part of the journey or just a wrong turn and what the relevance of each detour is.summary of section1 lead in to opening of section 2. and what the key milestones along the journey will be. to help them to integrate and remember the learnings from your presentation. That refer you to the topic. To get the audience to concentrate on the road you are driving down. with unintelligible symbols. Signposts give the audience a sense of where the presentation is heading. signposts farewelling you from this section or welcoming you to the next section of the journey. The symbol that comes in and out of the presentation. How does signposting achieve this? • • • Sets a clear direction Links the presentation together Highlights the relevance of each section to topic Types of signposts include: • • • • Setting out a map at the front of presentation. that sets an atmosphere for the presentation. that remind you of what freeway you are on. there are barely any signs at all. As you drive along. and when you come across a sign. 11 . Can signposts be over used? Signposts can drag a presentation down if too much focus is placed on them. Links . You are in a foreign country. you need to clearly signpost the journey for them. particularly if the audience is very familiar with a topic and know exactly where it is going to. the signposts may need to be more subtle or be used to engage or challenge the audience and add interest to a presentation. In this instance. how far you have to go or how you are even going to know when you’ve reached your destination? Or does it feel discomforting. wanting to know where you are going before going any further? Signposts in a presentation are like signposts on that 7 lane freeway. they will know when they have reached their destination. How do you feel? Relaxed and comfortable in the knowledge that you have no idea where you are heading.Imagine yourself driving along a 7 lane freeway that you’ve never been on before. it is in a foreign language.

each group will have a distinct characteristic. Summary Statements When the content is grouped appropriately. The summary statement consequently either (1) describes a particular situation. When information is grouped deductively. the summary statement is simply a statement of the conclusion of the deductive reasoning. 12 . However. How this group can be described is the summary statement. or (2) provides a cohesive narrative that describes how the different pieces fit together. when information is grouped inductively the summary statement must state what the relationship of the information grouped implies.6.

2002 Owen Nick. “More Magic of Metaphor”. Crown Publishing.” 2006. 2005 Rostrum Victoria.Recommended Reading List Gelb Michael J. 1999 13 . 1996 Minto Barbara. “Thinking for a Change”. 2001 Owen Nick.” Kogan Page Inc. Prentice Hall. “Five Steps to Confident Speaking. “The Pyramid Principle – third edition”. Crown Publishing. “The Magic of Metaphor” . Rostrum Victoria Tierney Elisabeth. Aurum Press Ltd. “101 Ways to Better Presentations.

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