Let’s start by being realistic, attending a poorly planned safety meeting may not be seen as a highlight in anyone’s working day! The likely preparation for some attendees is to grab a very strong, extra-large coffee and wait to be met with a droning dialogue of ‘routine and predictable’ facts.
If the content and delivery of your safety meeting doesn’t make the audience sit up and listen, they won’t remember what was discussed. So perhaps it’s time to overhaul your strategy by making it your goal to ensure your safety communication and meetings are anything but tedious. That means not just relying on statistics, figures, graphs and performance charts, and coming up with some new ideas.
You’ve got to make safety engaging. Otherwise, the audience may not understand or retain the knowledge they have learned. So here are my top tips for better safety meetings that will engage the audience and reinforce your company’s commitment to workplace safety.
People Engage With Other People
Stop using PowerPoint! Safety is too powerful a message to be left to a supplementary medium – the human element is needed to push the message across. PowerPoint (or similar) may keep you organised and is a good way of storing your information and images, but to help you carry a more powerful message, there is no substitution for the face-to-face personal method of engaging people. Your audience switch off the moment you put up a slide with bold type and a bright background. People don’t engage with slides; they engage with other people, their knowledge and experience.
Keep It Simple
Safety meetings are crucial to the ongoing safety of your employees and adherence to safety regulations, so it is essential you do not get into the “tick box” mindset of, “OK that’s it we’ve had our safety meeting, what’s next?” It’s not about ticking a box; it’s about making sure that you set a clear message and create a call-to-action. Your organisation needs to become better, not just better-informed.
The easiest and most effective way to do this is to keep it simple, protect your audience from being exposed to conflicting or excessive information at any one time. Simplify your training, talks and presentations into a drip feed style of communication, only deal with one thought at a time, and consider providing supplementary information in a handout, on a safety board or sent as a follow-up email. Always keep in mind if you can plan a safety procedure, you can plan a safety meeting around it in order to get your message across.
Don’t Watch the Clock
Stop thinking in blocks of time. Rather than think “I have an hour to fill” start thinking in blocks of digestible information. Give a presenter a block of time, and they will fill it, even if they only have twenty minutes of content, the rest will be padding and filler. A safety meeting should always be delivered with a specific purpose in mind. For example, key safety representatives, PPE requirements, corrective actions etc.
Engage, Engage, Engage
Ask for input. If a speaker is just sharing information and isn’t asking for any participation, typically it won’t be as engaging if you can get people involved with the content. Encourage two-way conversation. If you’re going to bring employees to a safety meeting, involve them, engage them, and ask them questions, it’s their meeting too.
“It’s How We’ve Always Done It!”
One of the biggest mistakes made in safety meetings is to take previously unsuccessful agendas and use them as a benchmark, this only results in one person’s bad example being repeated.
You must always keep in mind that people are in the room because of safety, they want to learn about it, to improve it, and to engage with safety and the content you’re sharing, but if you cannot focus their attention and gain their engagement, it will fail.
Create A Call-To-Action
What do you want your people to do differently at the end of the meeting? Be specific about the step or action that you would like them to take. Then, once you’ve figured out what you want them to do, you can start to plan what will be covered in your meeting. Start your planning from the end and work backward. Figure out what you want them to do and then point everything covered in the meeting to support that happening. Every point of discussion should go to support the call-to-action. Make sure each point of discussion leads to that one specific thing.
It’s not enough to know the information that you want to pass onto your employees; it’s all about knowing how to make them sit up and listen, absorb the content, engage with your plans, interact with each other and ensure that safety is taken seriously in your organisation.