Safety Speaker Tip – Conducting Effective Safety Meetings – Audience First
Safety Speaker Tip – Conducting Effective Safety Meetings – Audience First
The challenge for many safety meetings is they are driven by what the leader wants to share. “I have to get this information to my audience.” is their logic. This gets the communication focus off in the wrong direction. This direction is Speaker to Audience. Given that, most, if not all, safety meetings are content-driven. How do we solve this dilemma? If you want to be an effective safety speaker there are several elements to consider.
Want vs. Need
Ask yourself this question, “Do all the audience members need or want this information?” The answer may, in fact, be yes except they don’t realize it. As a safety speaker, our first job is to move them from not wanting, needing, or caring to needing, wanting and caring about the material we offer. That need or desire for the information must come before we present it. The absolute best mental state you want them in is wanting. Wanting is emotional and emotions drive our actions. I want a new truck. I back up that emotion with the logic of why I need the new truck. Reasons 1, 2, 3, 4….
If you are going to move people to want something as a safety speaker you must think from their perspective. Your viewpoint doesn’t matter. Do you think like the 25 year veterans in your company who have heard it all before? Are you thinking like the young person who feels invincible? Can you think like the person who is too busy and doesn’t have time for this safety stuff?
To have a effective safety meeting you have to give people a good reason to want to listen and pay attention.
Don’t Skip This Step
It is easy to skip this step and only think of giving them the reasons to do the processes or procedures you are teaching. Without this step they may not attend your meeting physically or mentally. You can’t force people to pay attention.
If they aren’t listening or wanting the information you have lost them before you even began. That is why I begin each of my presentations with a magic trick. It gets their attention right away. It also helps them realize there is something unique here. Peak their attention. What do you do to get your audience’s attention?
Questions Get Them Thinking
Begin with a question – to get them thinking ask a question they can answer.
As a safety speaker, you could use:
What do you think is the biggest risk to you and others? (On or off the job.)
What is the most dangerous part of your day? Avoid offering answers such as, “Driving to work.”
Where in our company are you most likely to experience an injury?
How is safety important to your family?
What is the most important safety lesson you want your son or daughter to understand?
The key to the questions are they are not yes or no answers, they are opinions and therefore not technically right or wrong.
A big mistake many speakers make is to ask a question and then point out how wrong the answer was. That shuts down audience participation.
Overcoming Previous Boring Meetings
If previous meetings have been a waste of time or boring, people have the belief this meeting will be the same. When you do something unique like a magic trick or a cartoon, it jars people out of the old pattern. As a safety speaker, what could you do that would make your meeting or presentation opening unique and attention getting?
If you have a previous record of poor meetings you need to shake it up.
The advantage I have and a key reason to bring in a professional safety speaker like myself is your audience has no preconceived opinions of what I am about to do and say. That is also why, no matter who you bring in, you will hear comments like, “That was the best safety presentation ever.” It doesn’t take much to be different than what they have been disinterested in before.
Give Them A Reason
So how do you get someone to want to attend and pay attention? You must give them a big enough reason why they would want to pay close attention.
What about attending repeat (yearly refresher) trainings? I have watched safety team members pay close attention for an entire week worth of meetings. Not using their laptops or phones but actually paying attention. The reason is they know if they pay attention their peers are more likely to pay attention.
I can still see the entire safety team at PBF Energy’s Paulsboro refinery and also when they were Valero, at a table to the left of the presentation area. The union president, plant management, safety team members and shop stewards were an active part of the team.
That also has the value of people looking at each other. That’s why a horseshoe or chevron seating arrangement for seating in a room is something I recommend. With straight auditorium style seating it is easy to be anonymous.
Pay Attention to Your Audience
This brings up a different point – if you want the audience to pay attention to you, you must pay attention to them. I pay close attention to the entire room. I react to people in the room if they do anything I can comment on or play with. If I see them talking, I engage them. I’ll say, “He’s explaining it to him.” Then I make the joke that we don’t have enough time for that, you’ll have to fill him in later.
You must grab the audience’s attention and keep it. Once I get their attention, I begin giving them reasons why they would want to listen and watch. Ask yourself if your content and presentation is worthy of their attention.
Have High Expectations
Expectation and appreciation of your audience are important. If you value them, they are more likely to value you. Having been an international safety speaker for over 27 years I always have high expectations of my audience members.
It is amazing how often your audience is a reflection or mirror image of you. What you put out there is what you get back. People respond to what you put out there. You have to believe they want what you have for them. Maybe they don’t know they do but that is only because they don’t have your perspective. It is your job to give them those insights so they do want it.
“How do we get through to the dinosaurs?” is a phrase I have heard too often when teaching how to be effective with an audience. This phrase itself speaks of a huge bias against the audience. This clearly comes across in your words, physiology and tone of voice. That by itself will diminish your effectiveness. Better to think of these people in a positive way. They are your most experienced workers. They are leaders within the employees at your site.
Make Them Want What You Have
You are often giving the new worker information, however, you still need to make them want to get it. You can show them how what you are teaching them has prevented injuries. Having an older experienced worker teaching these concepts gives credibility.
A great approach to helping the experienced worker go along with new policies and procedures is to ask them to do it the new way for the new people. Ask the experienced workers to pay attention to repeat training so the new people will also. I can assure you with all the miles I fly every year I could give the safety briefing for the flight attendants. I still put down my phone or book, stop any conversation and listen for the few minutes of announcements. It encourages those around me to do the same. They can tell by various factors I am a frequent, experienced flyer. If I’m paying attention they unconsciously realize they might want to pay attention.
Talk With People Individually
If you want to be most effective, this is a conversation to have personally with your experienced workers. As a safety speaker, I talk to as many people as I can. Elicit them as behind the scene supporters of your safety initiatives. I guarantee you when they pay attention others will do the same.
This uses the concept of social proof and peer pressure to reinforce your safety process. Also, using testimonials of experienced workers about safety procedures and techniques can be a great way to engage them and get them on-board.
Make it fun and entertaining. Many people do not know Walt Disney felt a great mission to educate people. He knew to be effective in teaching people you had to be entertaining. This doesn’t mean you have to be a showman in order to train or educate. Find a way to be interesting and entertaining that fits you. If you can’t tell jokes either learn (it’s a skill) or do some other technique. There are many ways to be entertaining from good storytelling to cartoons, video, and others.
Do What Fits You
Do what fits you if you can’t tell jokes. Either learn how or do something else. Don’t do magic or something you don’t do well or enjoy. Pre-shows get their attention before you even begin. Use workers’ photos and names. People want to see their friends.
A way of making a meeting fun and entertaining even if the content doesn’t lend itself to this approach is to do a pre-show while people are gathering. I recently saw a great example of this while people arrived for a meeting where I was speaking. They had gone out and taken pictures of workers doing their job and created a slide show. This was played in a continuous loop which grabbed people’s attention. You could see them pointing at the screen and nudging the person next to them. People enjoy seeing themselves and their friends.
If you need help getting people’s attention or would like to have a dynamic safety meeting, give my meeting planner, Diane Weiss a call at 209-745-9419 or firstname.lastname@example.org and let her make your next event a success.
I’ll be, “Watching Out For Everyone’s Safety™”
© 2016 John Drebinger Presentations
Permission to use granted when credited and contact information included. www.drebinger.com +1 209.745.9419