How to Improve Your Crisis Management Training

Five ways you can improve your crisis management training and provide a better experience anyone attending your training.

First published by Grant Rayner on 01 Mar 2022

4 min read

Crisis Management

This essay was originally published on 51CM on 01 Mar 2022, and was edited and re-published in 51CM in 2023.

Training is a fundamental aspect of building a robust crisis management capability. Training not only educates members of the crisis team, but also sends a message to anyone involved how seriously the organisation regards the crisis management programme.

If an organisation doesn’t conduct high quality crisis management training, it’s entirely possible that the organisation doesn’t take crisis management that seriously. At least, that’s a valid assumption one could make.

In this article, I’ll share some thoughts on how to conduct high quality crisis management training. As you’ll learn, even minor improvements in how you deliver this training can improve the learning experience and send an unambiguous message that the organisation takes crisis management seriously. Many of these points will be relevant to other training, including security training.

The first aspect of crisis management training you should review is the content.

Broaden your training content

The content of most crisis management training decks is almost exclusively focused on two subjects:

  1. The organisation’s crisis management policies
  2. The organisation’s crisis management process

Both subjects are essential and must be included in training.

However, the problem is that many organisations stop there. As a result, people walk out of the room not really knowing how to actually manage a crisis. That’s obviously problematic.

This is a key reason why many people on Crisis Teams lack confidence in performing their role in a crisis—they are aware that they don’t really know what to do in a crisis. Policy and process can only take you so far. Instead, teach members of your Crisis Team the skills they need to actually manage a crisis.

What are these skills? Here’s a few of the core skills that are essential for all members of a Crisis Team:

  • Responding effectively to calls
  • Synthesising new information and making sense of the situation
  • Managing information
  • Assessing the current and potential impact of an incident
  • Managing tasks
  • Identifying and managing resources
  • Planning and managing communication with stakeholders

The challenge here is that a lot of people delivering the training may not have the skills or experience to teach these more technical topics. If that’s the case in your organisation, consider bringing in an external specialist to deliver the training. You can use an internal trainer to focus on the organisation-specific aspects (policy and process), while the external trainer can teach the technical skills necessary to actually manage a crisis.

End all training sessions with an exercise

Do not complete the training session without conducting a short (60-90 min) exercise at the end of the training. If you can, conduct a small-scale simulation exercise involving a few role players. Select a relatively simple scenario that offers broad functional engagement, and that will allow the team to work through the initial phase of a crisis.

By providing the opportunity for participants to immediately put theory into practice, the exercise will help to synthesise what the participants have just learnt. They’ll walk out of the room feeling more confident that they do actually know how to manage a crisis. If you’re running the activity, you’ll also get a sense of the team’s capabilities and whether there is a need for additional training or exercises to bring the team up to job standard.

Use high quality training materials

The quality of your training materials matter.

Refresh the design of your training presentations. Use a clean layout. Experiment with different typefaces. Avoid clip art, or random and unrelated stock images.

If you are a crisis management professional, get into the habit of taking photos during different assignments. Use these photos in your training sessions. Not only will they be more interesting for attendees, but they’ll provide you with the opportunity to share a relevant story. Certainly, the fact that you’ve been on the ground responding to incidents will help establish your credibility.

Make sure any case studies you provide are relevant. Don’t even think about rolling out the Tylenol case study (or others of the same, worn out vintage). Instead, use case studies that are relevant to the location and to the type of business your client is in.

Don’t use low resolution pictures or crappy videos. Seriously, it’s a terrible experience for participants. If you’re working across different countries, with people who may not be native speakers of your language, add detail to your slides to allow people to read and learn (in addition to listening to you speaking).

Improve the quality of your remote training

If you’re conducting training sessions over Zoom, Teams or another application, invest in good equipment. At the minimum, use a high resolution camera, a good microphone, and an audio interface. Set up key lights to improve how you appear on screen. There are lots of online tutorials explaining how to set up a home studio.

My training setup at home consists of a Sigma fp camera with a 35mm lens, a condenser microphone, a Universal Audio interface, and Elgato key lights. I use a Elgato multi-mount rigging system to mount the camera and lights. It cost a bit to set this up, but it’s made a huge difference to the quality of my online training. Earlier in the year I gave a presentation to a Harvard MBA class. Aside from a couple of complimentary comments on the content, the most interesting feedback I received from this session was that the quality was almost cinematic.

When using Zoom or Teams, avoid using the virtual background feature. Instead, spend some time cleaning up the space behind your seating position so that it looks appealing without being distracting. I use a wide aperture on my camera lens to softly blur the background. Doing so helps to minimise distractions and helps participants to focus on me as the presenter.

Evaluate your training

At the end of each training session, provide a short questionnaire to participants. Your objective is to gather feedback on the training so that you’re able to make iterative improvements to your training materials.

I’ve never delivered the same training twice. Even for clients where I have ongoing yearly training commitments, I’ll make tweaks to the training after each session. Every couple of years, I’ll do a full refresh of the training material. I’ll also regularly update examples, case studies and scenarios to keep the training fresh and relevant.

If you’re a consultant or contractor, maintain a record of your training evaluation results and use this as social proof when submitting proposals. For current customers, if you’re receiving high ratings for training evaluations, then it will be difficult for them to justify switching to a different provider (of course, they still can, but you have the basis for a strong argument to be retained based on evidence of your performance).

Wrap Up

Training is an essential aspect of building a robust crisis management capability.

If you have existing training decks, it’s possible they may be due for a review. Try to improve the design and layout of the slides where you can. Make sure case studies are relevant.

Think about the content of your training package. Are you teaching people how to actually manage a crisis? If not, you may want to add additional modules to your existing training.

Ensure team members leave the room confident in their new knowledge by ending each training session with a short exercise.

If you conduct online training, invest in your hardware. You’ll be amazed at the difference in quality vis-a-vis your laptop’s camera and microphone.

Finally, always look for opportunities to improve. Conducting evaluations after each exercise is a great way to gather feedback and identify areas of improvement.

Happy training!

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