Inputs and Verbal Reports

What is in this guide?

  1. What do you use inputs and verbal reports for
  2. Important things to know about inputs and reports
  3. How to structure an input or verbal report
  1. Example of a three minute report
  2. Example of a one minute input

  1. What do you use inputs and verbal reports for

In your work for your organisation you will often have to speak in meetings and either make a short input or a verbal report on a particular issue. For example, you may give your view on an issue that is being discussed, report from a conference to your organisation, or make an input to a workshop on a particular issue you have investigated or present a report to a community meeting on some local developments. (This guide does not cover organisational or work reports that are usually done in writing).

In every large or small meeting you participate in you will have to give your views and participate in debates. You should take short inputs you have to make very seriously and make sure that they have the maximum impact. You can only get your information and message across if you can make clear and powerful presentations that take your audience along with you. It does not matter whether you are speaking for ten minutes during a formal presentation or just saying something in a meeting for one minute – you should always make sure that your input or report is structured and presented in such a way that you persuade your audience to agree with you.

See Guide on Public Speaking for more on presentation style

  1. Important things to know about inputs and verbal reports
  • Credibility: people will listen to you if you sound as if you know what you are talking about and if you make it clear that your position is supported by other organisations or interest groups.
  • Facts: prepare carefully and make sure that you have the correct facts and figures to back up proposals you make.
  • Be strong and clear: speak in a strong and logical way and never undermine yourself by saying things like "I’m not really sure, but I think…"
  • Keep it short and simple: make your ideas seem simple, easy to implement and the most sensible solution. Avoid complicated and longwinded arguments that will confuse people or put them to sleep.
  • Always stress how the organisation and/or the community will benefit so that people can see why it is worth supporting your proposal.
  • Prepare for counter arguments: try and think beforehand of all the things your opponents will say and include it in your input in a way that already answers it e.g. "We all know that the business people oppose the development of a taxi-rank near the shopping areas because of their fears about crime. But, we have to put the interests of the whole community first. The present taxi-rank is too far away and is a very dangerous place especially for women."
  • Be open to suggestions and listen to others: once debate starts try to listen to other arguments and be open to compromise especially on smaller issues. People may come up with useful ideas you did not think about. If you behave like a reasonable person who looks for sensible answers you are more likely to win support for your position.
  • Stress points of agreement and try to find a constructive way forward.
  • Avoid aggression and humiliating other people. Try not to get angry and never make personal comments or attacks on another person. Focus on the issue not the person.
  1. How to structure your report or input

If you want your reports and inputs to be effective you must ensure that you cover all the most important information in a logical way that people find easy to follow. The same recipe that was used for public speeches can be used:

  • Issue –in your introduction make it clear exactly what you will be talking about.
  • Facts - give the basis facts about the issue or describe the reasons for the problem so that you audience can also understand the situation.
  • Options – briefly tell people what could be done about this issue or problem. Here you can describe a number of alternatives, deal with costs, timeframes, benefits, etc.
  • Proposal – clearly state what you believe is the right way to deal with the issue or problem and what should be done right now as well as in the long term. Always try to end on a positive note giving a clear way forward.

Keep all reports and inputs as short as possible.

Example of a three minute report by a local councillor

This report deals with the proposals from the Community Policing Forum on what the council can do to combat crime in the area.

Our town has one of the highest crime rates in the area with more than 1000 rapes and almost 200 murders reported last year. Housebreaking, theft and assaults have also increased dramatically and almost every family in our area has been affected in some way. The youth are organised into two strong and competing gangs that rule the township through terror. Unemployment is on the increase and most young people have little to occupy them or give them hope for the future. Crime is killing our town and the CPF has appealed to all stakeholders to unite in the battle against crime. Our three police stations are understaffed and have only five vehicles between them. The police alone cannot solve the problem. The business community has agreed to support the police by hiring private security for the CBD and sponsoring two extra police vans. The civic and youth organisations are recruiting volunteers to become police reservists so that the police can be freed from administrative duties. The churches have agreed to use their facilities to set up youth clubs especially over weekends. This is a small but important beginning and the council has been asked to support these initiatives in any way possible.

At present we have little additional funds available for any new work but I believe it is vital that we show our commitment and that we do what we can within the present budget. There are a number of options. We can support the development of youth facilities by making council venues available at a lower than normal rate, we can add to the vehicle fund. We can improve the street lighting around the taxi-rank. We can support the rape counselling centre. We can supply direct support to the police by deploying council security staff to work in partnership with them. What is clear is that we cannot afford to do all of the above. We therefore have to choose options that are cost effective, have impact and show that the council cares.

I propose that we do two things immediately. Firstly, we should fix the soccer-field since we already budgeted for it, and form a partnership with the churches to set up a proper soccer league in the area. Secondly, we should offer part of the old rent office next to the police station in town to Rape Crisis to use as a counselling facility. This would also enable the police to use the facility as a victim-friendly interview room for abuse cases. In the long-term our Exco has to take the issue of crime and employment as absolute priorities and put them high on next year’s budget.Example of a one minute input by a councillor during a council meeting

I strongly disagree with Councillor Jabavu’s proposal that the old soccer clubhouse should be given to the Junior Pirate’s soccer club.

The clubhouse is the only council facility in the informal settlement and it should not be used by young men only. There are 4 choirs, 2 sewing groups and a pensioner’s social group that are all looking for venues. Whilst we are committed to provide facilities for the youth we should not forget the needs of other groups in our community.

The council can make a decision on the matter today or we can take a more careful route and consult the community directly about their needs and preferences and be seen to practice openness, transparency and gender-sensitivity.

I strongly propose that together with the civic and community organisations we call a meeting in the informal settlement to discuss the use of the facility. Together we may find a way to share this one facility in a way that will benefit a number of different groups.