In this article I share a trick to help you with presentations, list some resources to help staff write quality reports, reflect on the value of getting the first draft done, and mention an excellent book for people developing workplace training

These notes are all inspired by working with Auckland Council to develop and deliver a Political Report Writing workshop. (As New Zealand’s largest council, Auckland Council generously shares its approach with other councils.)

How to share your written content as a presentation

Have you ever developed written content to present, then worried about forgetting what to say?

I developed a lengthy session plan for a workshop. I needed to accurately reflect that content when I presented the workshop, but wasn’t sure how to translate that meticulous plan to talking to an audience, speaking directly to them rather than reading from my written notes.

I downloaded ‘Easy Voice Recorder’ on to my phone to record my notes, and listened to that a couple of times. For most of the workshop, I was greatly relieved to find I could speak freely, only resorting to reading directly from my session plan for key messages that I absolutely had to get right.

It’s definitely worth trying a pre-recording if you are in a similar situation. I’m not sure exactly how it works, but maybe things we listen to (rather than read) get stored differently in our brain?

Resources for report writers

Auckland Council has an impressive range of resources available to support its staff to write high quality reports. These are available in an online hub and include:

  • Links to reports which have scored highly in external review of sample reports (by NZIER)
  • Quality Advice Standards (which have been adapted from the central government version). These standards are a list of statements about what quality looks like for each key aspect of a report (context, analysis, advice and next steps)
  • A page of valuable questions for a staff member to discuss with their manager when they are asked to write a report, to gain a deeper understanding of what needs to be considered in the report
  • A style guide, which includes both standard grammar and the Council’s chosen way of dealing with capitalisation and spelling, where two versions are correct (e.g. decision-making and decision making; Tuesday, 9 April or Tuesday 9 April; 10km or 10 km; and punctuation to use with lists).

First drafts

One of the topics I talk about at writing workshops is the importance of breaking through our natural resistance to write the first draft – ideally all in one session.

I am writing this article while recovering from a bad cold, so my brain isn’t at full capacity. And in this state, I am SO glad to have a scrappy first draft already in place. My ‘downhill energy’ is good enough to make improvements and finalise the content, but it would have been a real struggle to muster up the ‘starter energy’ required to get that first draft onto the page.

Give yourself quality time for writing your first draft – schedule a good chunk of time so you can complete the draft in one session, at the time of the day when you feel most creative, and in an environment that allows you to concentrate.

Don’t let your fear of not doing a good enough job drag down the creative energy you need to get that first draft on the page. And don’t worry about writing rubbish when you’re generating the draft … you will be surprised how much of it is useful.

And having something on the page will help you to see what needs to be different.

Book recommendation

If you need to design training of any kind I highly recommend ‘Map It – The Hands-On Guide to Strategic Training Design’ by Cathy Moore. She shows you how to give people the tools and experiences they need to learn how to do something, rather than flooding them with excess information.