How to handle a Select Committee grilling!
Earlier this month Five in a Boat had our first Select Committee experience which, for those of you who don’t know what they are, it means being sat in front of a bunch of ‘good cop / bad cop’ MPs being grilled unceremoniously about a usually contentious subject. In this instance, the grilling was focused on immersive technologies and gaming addiction and my role in the proceedings was to get my client Jagex fully prepared for the 2.5 hour question session, the answers of which more often than not being used to inform and shape policy.
Here are my top tips on how to prep for and effectively handle a Select Committee.
1. If you are invited to act as a witness in a Select Committee think very carefully about the pros and cons before committing. My personal advice is that if you have nothing to hide you have plenty to gain and that by agreeing to participate you buy goodwill and show your company and your employees to be socially responsible.
2. Don’t go in blind and think you can wing it. Select Committees are often complex and the subjects sensitive so ensure that you have done the relevant training and practice ahead of the session. This can mean leveraging an expert internally or bringing someone in who is trained to guide you through the process, the messaging and how to present yourself in the best possible way.
3. Prepare thoroughly. Think about what you want to present and how you want the audience to receive it. Plan your narrative. Don’t try and memorise a hundred answers to a hundred questions. Instead focus on a few specific areas and learn them well.
Ahead of the session, get to grips with the motivations and backgrounds of those holding the inquiry and any pre-determined views, or misguided beliefs. Monitor previous and forthcoming evidence sessions to ensure that you are up to speed with what others are saying (potentially about you) and to identify avenues of questioning and of how to respond appropriately.
5. At all times, play it with a straight bat. Don’t bluff, don’t lie and don’t conceal information. It will only come and bite you on the backside at a later date.
6. Divide and conquer. If you are presenting information with someone else, carve up the subject areas and master the ones for which you are responsible.
7. If you don’t have the relevant information, state that you will revert with it. There is always the opportunity to follow up with statements and further facts post session. If this is the route you decide to go down, be sure you do the requisite follow-ups within the given timeframe.
8. Keep notes to hand – you are not expected to remember every single statistic. Referencing written information during the session is both accepted and recommended.
9. Remain calm and friendly. Avoid coming across as defensive and try not to take the questions personally regardless of how aggressive they might seem.
10. As much as you can, embrace it as an opportunity to help present your business as a thought leader in which you operate and to help shape potential legislation.