5 tips for attention-grabbing crisis management exercises

We spend a lot of time designing, researching and creating scenarios for crisis and emergency preparedness exercises.

We have a wide range of tried-and-tested scenarios to use as a starting point, but our clients are always best placed to outline something that meets their needs. However, this requires organisations to be brave: the most appropriate scenario isn’t always the easiest to acknowledge, or test.

This should be your starting point for choosing an exercise scenario:

Image credit: iStock.com/phalat

1. Ask yourself, ‘why are we doing this?’

What has happened to the business lately, or what do you fear happening, and why? The best exercises are those grounded in the reality of your work. Sometimes these scenarios are complex and frightening, or they may be routine but frustrating. Either way, they meet the needs of the organisation.

2. Start with a scenario that all attendees can buy into.

This is particularly important where multiple organisations are taking part. Every participant should feel that, if this were to happen, they would have a role to play. Scenarios that are too catastrophic, complex or broad risk making some participants redundant.

3. Let the exercise be guided by what you want to test.

Social Simulator can handle a limitless number of angles, escalation points, audiences and timescales. Perfect for stress-testing an experienced and highly-competent team. Less useful if your aims are to improve a specific set of processes or channels.
Sometimes a simple exercise with a clear set of objectives is best.

4. Make sure your objectives are relevant to the location and audience.

If your exercise is centred on a country in, say, Africa then yes, let’s test global comms channels, such as twitter. But remember that apps like Messenger, interruptions such as power cuts and simulating state-owned media are essential parts of the mix.

5. Leave the detail until last.

In order to be realistic, exercises need to be flexible. Too much detail planned too soon can quickly reduce exercises to a piece of theatre.
Make sure you structure your plan around:

  • 2-3 clear objectives. If you have more than this, nest them within each other – this will help keep you and your participants focussed   
  • A scenario overview of 2-3 paragraphs
  • A list of escalation points, for example an intervention from a regulator

It’s not uncommon for participants in crisis response exercises to feel nervous. Overwhelm people with an extreme scenario and they’re likely to lose confidence or give up.

Present a scenario that’s realistic, with clear objectives, and you can help people stay focussed, and grow their confidence at the same time.

Download our free resource: 5 tips for attention grabbing crisis management exercises (PDF)


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