While this is the first year that the IIA has offered the course, Stan Dormer FIIA anticipates considerable demand from members at every level. “Having run similar events in-house for professionals in the private and public sectors, this is clearly something that strikes a chord with internal auditors,” he says.
Why? Because internal auditors are more likely than most to need to give presentations in the course of their work. What’s more, the outcomes of those presentations matter, he adds. “If an internal auditor conveys their information logically and persuasively, it’s more likely that this will be accepted and acted on.”
Inevitably, there are many internal auditors who, while being highly skilled in most areas, are uncomfortable when presenting their findings directly to others. “It can be a particularly challenging prospect for an internal auditor, because they are often conveying disturbing news,” Dormer says. “Being the bearer of bad tidings and trying to encourage your audience in a constructive way is hard, especially if you’re inexperienced. Furthermore, when an internal auditor gives a presentation, the audience tends to be quite intimate – with no more than a dozen people in the room – and very senior, which makes it even more intimidating.”
Using repetition and gently graded practice, the interactive new IIA course helps people to address their audience naturally, as if they were talking to friends.
“Central to this is the recognition that, whoever you are and however experienced you are in making presentations, it’s always nerve-wracking,” Dormer says. “If it isn’t, you probably don’t care enough. We all have these fears, but it’s important to remember that the audience is on your side. We teach you how to work through the audience a little at a time.”
This piecemeal approach is essential, he explains, because to take a complex audit report and present it verbatim simply doesn’t work. “We encourage people to break their presentation down into small, logical elements and then rehearse each of them until these can be delivered with confidence.”
Dormer tackles the beginning and end first and then works on the tricky bits in the middle. “We start with the introduction, which is often the most difficult element, because your mind is buzzing with worry and embarrassment,” he says. “Once people on the course are polished at making introductions, we move on to how to finish the presentation.” While the end might seem the easy part, many people leave a dire lasting impression by tailing off with an apologetic ramble, he says, rather than simply shutting up.
The course also helps people to understand how much material can or should be covered in a presentation – something that many of us get wrong.
“It’s far better to have less material than you need and be confident in this than it is to overrun,” Dormer says. “There’s no shame in finishing early if you’ve got the job done – and done professionally. And it’s far better than seeing people shifting in their seats and looking at their watches.”
There are also ways to help people overcome the inevitable nerves. Delegates on this course will learn a variety of techniques for staying calm while keeping control of their audience.
Improving the quality of your presentations can not only help you get your message across; it can also help to advance your career, according to Dormer. “People who shout the loudest and take more risks get further in life,” he says. “And you really do never get a second chance to make that first impression.”
Stan Dormer FIIA is director of education and training at MindGrove, which runs the “Presentation skills for the less confident” course on the IIA’s behalf.