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Written by
on 05 August 2014


Start with this idea – any talk can be interesting.

It’s true Health & Safety has a reputation for being among the duller of subjects, but believe me, your talks don’t have to be boring!  And if the audience is engaged, and even relaxed and enjoying themselves, your lessons will go in and be remembered.

And your workers will be safer because of it.

5 Keys to an Engaging H&S Talk

1. Keep it concise – not too long

You have to adopt some world-class speaking skills here. And a key one is to manage people’s attention and energy during the talk.

To do this firstly, watch the time.  Plan how long it will take, and keep it going at a strong pace.  Just enough to deliver the information, with any stories and jokes included.  Then when you’ve said what you need to say – stop!

It can be far better to follow up with leaflets, notices and maybe other meetings to drum in the lessons. Don’t drone on and bore them.

2. Open with a story

This is an extremely powerful trick to get the audience engaged.  Open the talk with a story – just plunge right in, from your first words;

‘Let me tell you a quick story…’

And the trick here is, don’t finish the story!  Cut it when it’s at the most exciting point.  Then give your talk, and only finish the story right at the finish of the talk.  It’s incredibly powerful and makes people listen right until the end.

Of course, make it related to health and safety – the exact lessons you plan to teach. This also makes the lessons Very Real to your audience.  So they pay more attention and remember it all better.

An even more powerful tip – open with 2 or 3 stories.  Cutting them all and not finishing until the end.  Works wonders, you’ll see.

They don’t have to be jokes or funny stories, but if they are, all the better!

3. Don’t overuse PowerPoint

PowerPoint is a very dull thing to look at, I think you’ll all agree.

Maybe use it for a chart or two. But far better to talk the whole time, and illustrate things by writing on a flipchart in a variety of coloured pens. This is powerful and studies have shown it to engage people much much more.

4. Don’t patronize or punish – connect with your audience

[Tweet “No ranting and patronising. Connect with them.”]

Sometimes health and safety talks mean giving information which is common sense, but you have to say it anyway.  So deliver it in a way that tells them you know they already know it.  And drill it home with a story or real examples.

But focus on connecting the whole time. You’re on the same team. With the same goal in mind.

5. Make it real

There’s no need to make the talk a scare or all about doom and gloom. But it’s worth illustrating how accidents happen to normal people too.  Just like your employees and workers.

To make it real for them, find examples with people they know.  Or in situations, they are regularly in.  But don’t make the whole talk about this. Too much and it tends to turn people off.

There you have it if you follow these 5 steps your talk should be twice as engaging and twice as effective.

Have you given any health and safety talks recently?

Got any tips to add to these ones?

A chartered safety and risk management practitioner with 20+ years of experience. David provides a healthy dose of how-to articles, advice and guidance to make compliance easier for construction professionals, Architects and the built environment. Get social with David on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

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