The art of the five minute briefing

Barndoor Strategy’s Roger Evans writes….

One of my first encounters with Boris Johnson came shortly after he was elected Mayor of London in 2008. In the absence of the then Conservative Group Leader, I was summoned to the top floor to brief the Mayor on the political views of colleagues.


After I had been speaking for a while, I noticed his attention wandering, his eyes gazing at something out of the window. I wound up swiftly and asked him what he thought.

“This morning I saw a clock on a building and it was telling the wrong time – let’s have a campaign to get everyone to set their public clocks correctly.” he replied.


I had lost his attention and my words had been wasted.


With such a short attention span, we all became accustomed to briefing Boris in less than five minutes. It’s a useful skill that deserves wider application.


The most important thing is to start with the conclusion. State the purpose of the briefing and your recommendations right at the beginning. This feels unnatural but it frames the discussion that follows and holds the interest of the person you are briefing.


Follow up with the arguments in favour of the proposal, using statistics – sparingly – to give your opinion the necessary authority and examples to illustrate the point and make it memorable. The argument should be constructed by stating the problem, the action proposed to remedy it and the expected result, preferably with some targets to assign responsibility.


Plan for possible questions. If you know your audience you can anticipate these, otherwise use the so called PEST model to consider the Political, Social, Economic and Technical implications of the policy.


Finally, you need to secure clear agreement before leaving the room. This should include timescales, responsible individuals and targets, and it should be minuted preferably at the meeting or in notes completed immediately afterwards whilst memory remains fresh.


Briefing in five minutes saves time and focusses on the arguments and possible objections. It leaves people free to get on with their jobs and cuts the time spent in meetings.


Contact us to find out how Roger and Barndoor Strategy can help you with your presentation skills.