The Five Rs of an Effective Briefing

In the first segment of this three-part series of articles, we learned that fighter pilots and meeting planners have much more in common than most people would imagine. Both work in high-speed, rapidly changing environments that are fraught with numerous perils. We also discussed how pilots and planners can develop standards within their organizations to improve execution and to prevent them from having to “reinvent the wheel” every time they plan a new mission. Finally we introduced the concept of “The Feedback Loop” as a simple system to ensure that teams are aligned and flying in formation during your events and as a tool to drive continual improvement.

At the heart of The Feedback Loop is a system of regular “Briefing and Debriefing” that takes place around key meetings and events. As previously discussed, the briefing is not a planning session or a two-way conversation. Similar to a quarterback calling a play in a team huddle, a briefing is a one-way communication from a team leader on how she expects her team to execute. (See sidebar “How and When to Solicit Input.”)

In this article we will provide a template you can use to conduct a clear, concise briefing before your events, as well as at the beginning of every week when you are back in your office. This template is based on “The Five Rs of an Effective Briefing.” The Five Rs should be used by a leader to make sure that he has his bases covered during the planning process, and to also provide a checklist of the key details that must be communicated to a team prior to a successful meeting. The Five Rs ask the question, “R U Ready?”

The Five Rs also stand for the following:

• Roadmap
• Results Desired
• Room and Logistics
• Roles and Responsibilities
• Risks

The Roadmap paints the big picture and brings everyone up to speed. The team leader recaps where the team has been, where it is now, and where it wants to be at the end of the mission. In your world, the mission might be the events scheduled for the current day of a client’s global sales meeting, or it could be a Monday morning look ahead at the week to come. Whatever the occasion, the roadmap is a way to bring everyone up to speed and provide context to the rest of the briefing.

Results Desired enumerate specific measurable objectives for a mission. In other words, what will success look like today, and how will we measure it? For a meeting these might include:

• All events for the day begin and end within five minutes of schedule.
• All attendees move from the luncheon to the breakout sessions within the allotted 15 minutes.
• During Q&A, runners ensure that no question is asked from the audience without a handheld microphone.

Results Desired also set up our Feedback Loop. During the debrief, we will only debrief against the objectives that we set out to accomplish in our briefing. This approach provides structure to our debrief and prevents a 15-minute constructive debriefing from turning into a 45-minute, disorganized conversation.

Room and Logistics encompass all the things that must happen during an event and the resources needed to make them happen. A meeting planner cannot be too granular in plotting out these details. Start with the basics. Does everyone know the location of the meeting rooms? Do we have a map of the venue with all of our spaces clearly marked out? How will our attendees know how to go from one room to the next? What’s our communication plan? Do team members know how to contact each other, the client, and the hotel? Who is in charge of A/V? Is appropriate A/V set up for each meeting room? These elements may seem pedestrian, but they must be worked out before the brief begins. Last but not least, confirm with your team where and when you will meet for the debrief. While many planners have standardized that the debrief always occurs 30 minutes after the last event of the day, I can guarantee you that if the debrief is not scheduled in advance, it will never happen.

As the team leader, you might delegate Room and Logistics to a teammate. That wingman would then be responsible for both the actual logistics of the event and the Room and Logistics portion of the brief. Finally, if you develop standards around logistics you will find that your team is more efficient, and that this portion of your briefing will become much more succinct.

Roles and Responsibilities. This is “the meat” of your briefing and should warrant the greatest portion of your time. This section clarifies every team member’s role in the meeting and paints a picture of the flow of a perfect day. For example, you are the overall leader and the primary contact with the client. Susan is responsible for all rooms and logistics. She will be stationed in your team meeting room. Joe is responsible for all speakers, and Mary is the primary hotel contact and is responsible for all meals. Creating key roles for each member of your team empowers them to perform at a higher level and drives accountability within your team. This portion of the brief can also provide the team leader an opportunity to test the readiness of her wingmen by having each take the floor for a minute or two to run through his/her area of responsibility during the upcoming meeting.

Risks. Once you have laid out the perfect plan to your team, now it is time to rip the plan apart and talk about risks. For fighter pilots, risks come in two varieties: controllable and uncontrollable. Controllable risks are potential roadblocks that you can plan for and manage around. For example, if you suspect a CEO’s speech is likely to run long, you might pad the schedule a bit to accommodate. Limited elevator capacity could be another risk that you can plan around in order to keep your attendees moving and on schedule during breakouts.

Uncontrollable risks, or contingencies, are events beyond your control that you nonetheless must plan for as best you can. What if the keynote speaker’s flight is delayed or cancelled? What if one of your teammates gets sick or injured? Plan for these “what if” scenarios in the cool calm environment of your meeting room, so when you’re flying at Mach 2 and people start shooting at you, you’ve already worked through the contingencies and can stay on your flight plan.

I hope you can see once again, that the fighter pilot’s world and the meeting planner’s world are not so far apart. Using the fighter pilot’s Five Rs to prepare for your meetings and communicate your plans to your team will answer the question “R You Ready?” and guarantee that your team will fly in formation for the entire event.

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Source: Successful Meetings

Anthony Bourke: Anthony “AB” Bourke, CEO & Founder Mach 2 Consulting

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