Updated: Mar 30
There are some integral aspects to communicating with First Nation counterparts that facilitate a more engaging and effectual exchange of information. Some may seem obvious, but others may surprise you.
Knowing and respecting your audience is first and foremost. However, here are three exceptional ways in which you can effectively communicate technical information to First Nation communities that will assist in efforts to form a powerful engagement strategy and supporting protocols.
Teach Your Audience
If you would like the First Nation community to have a solid foundation of understanding with respect to what and why you are presenting your detail, and why you are the expert, teach your audience. Provide more than just the basic facts of your technical information.
Related: Indigenous Engagement
Explain who you are and why you are the best individual to be sharing this detail. Then proceed to demonstrate each of the facts you are acknowledging within your material.
Remember the Confucius quote: “I see and I forget. I hear and I remember. I do and I understand.” Active learning happens when a presenter has a participatory discussion, including real-life examples or simulations. If you can manage your information, audience, and approach in a fluid fashion that focuses on facts through interactive learning, you will achieve success.
Who is at the Table?
First Nation community audiences can consist of a variety of participants. They can be community members, welcomed to learn at an open forum. They can be a group of First Nation staff members, the various departments that operate within the community, and technicians that work on behalf of their projects. And, they can also be members of Council, the Chief, and other such community leadership. Depending on who is at the table, you will want to adjust your presentation of technical information accordingly. (Related: Doing Business With First Nations Communities: A Beginners Guide)
· In a presentation to First Nation membership, ensure full disclosure and have copies of all necessary technical reports available for pick up and review. In advance of the presentation, familiarize yourself with the community history and come prepared to mitigate a natural suspicion which may arise (i.e. a feeling that information is being withheld – “What aren’t we being told?”)
· In an administration or departmental presentation, ensure that you speak to the facts and details with the support of technical reports. This audience may be required to continue working with you and should therefore be offered wrap-around support services such as ongoing access to information and technical guidance. They will accept your information as presented, however, may require additional time for feedback. They will anticipate a longer-term relationship of follow-up, and it is recommended that firm timelines be established in anticipation of a project wrap-up or completion date.
· In a presentation that requires you to give technical information to Chief and Council, there are two ways to broach the subject matter:
1. Non-Controversial Information
a) Explain how to apply the information to community-related issues.
b) Clearly define any “holes” or limitations in your technical information.
c) Ensure the data is valid and can be supported under a thorough review.
2. Controversial Information
a) Provide options or alternatives for community support and/or political agendas.
b) Ensure the technical information is thorough and detailed.
c) Include members of the group at the early stages of the project – i.e. the design and development stage.
d) Be prepared to accept peer review.
Form an Effective Approach in Advance
When communicating technical information to any audience, keeping it simple while safeguarding the basic facts are incorporated is necessary. Ensure that you target your audience – no matter the number of valid and exciting data points you may have, make your point. Credibility is far more valued than being entertaining. Yes, be yourself. Yes, be honest. But, always remain professional. (Related: Achieving a meaningful engagement with Indigenous Communities)
Although a bland presentation is easily forgettable, some creative approaches aren’t necessary valued by a First Nation audience. Games, complex audience participation, and making use of an individual as an example to accomplish your presentation goals are not as productive as pure relevance given in a relatable and professional manner. Customize your material with insights and analogies of value to the community you’re presenting to and make use of varying mediums to support the facts, such as community-based videos and flyers, and subject matter that engages the youth as well as Elders. (Related: Two eyed seeing services)
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