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Engaging Senior Military and Community Leaders

Overview

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In partner recruitment, establishing relationships is key.

In the partner recruitment phase of the partnership development process, establishing relationships with senior military and community leaders is essential. You will engage senior military and community leaders within key stakeholders in order to establish mutual partnerships that align the AOS mission with the capabilities of the partner. Senior military and community leaders have influence and are ultimately the decision makers when it comes to bringing real resources to the table.

Hone your conversation and presentation skills to communicate effectively with senior leaders.

By the end of this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Recall effective techniques for establishing relationships with senior military and community leaders;
  • Recall effective listening and interview/conversation techniques when engaging senior military and community leaders;
  • Apply strategies to use data effectively in presentations and conversations;
  • Apply strategies to tailor templates for call plans to highlight concrete outcomes for Service members and Families; and
  • Apply risk management strategies to account for potential “pushback” and increase the likelihood of partner engagement.End of text

Senior Military and Community Leaders

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Target senior military and community leaders within the organizations you identify as potential partners.

Once you have identified partners to recruit, you will want to target senior military and community leaders within the organization. Senior military and community leaders are the decision makers who have access to resources and a broad network. There are special considerations for senior leaders. For example, time is scarce for an individual at this organizational level—be aware of how much time you have and even confirm by asking, “I understand we have 30 minutes… is that right?” Then try to end a few minutes early. Get to the point and make sure the point is clearly relevant to the person and the organization.

You also want to be aware of the culture of the organization – understand and use their language. In addition, respect and acknowledge the leader’s position in the organization and their authority. For example, use the proper terminology to acknowledge the leader’s position, authority, or degree:

  • In the military, know the rank and form of address
  • In the behavioral health field, make sure you know whether to address the person as “Doctor”
  • In the legal field, addresses judges as “your honor”
  • If faith, may be dealing with Pastors, Reverends, Rabbis, Imams, etc.End of text

First Impressions

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Do your research and have full command of the needs for the state when you first make contact.

The first contact is a critical time to make an impression on potential partners. Communicating effectively and honing interview skills will help you establish rapport and identify the best ways to get buy-in from a potential partner. First, you will want to leverage your network to make contact and pique interest. Before making the initial call, prepare with research using the call plan template, which walks you through all the things you need to think about and do before reaching out to or meeting with potential partners. Tailor the call plan to meet partner-specific needs by identifying the partner’s mission and finding specific places where it overlaps with the AOS mission.

Your first contact may be a phone conversation or message. It may help to use a standard presentation or script so you can easily articulate the mission of AOS and the value of collaboration to the partner. Focus your message on engaging the partner in the AOS mission and making it easy for the partner to call back by asking for just 15-30 minutes of their time to discuss how the AOS initiative can help the organization achieve its goals. At the end of the conversation, ask for a brief face-to-face meeting. Without a concentrated effort to get in front of the senior military and community leaders, the relationship may not be as strong. Make sure to follow up with the partner by thanking them for their time and reviewing action items to move forward.

Click the resources link to access a template that you can use to create a call plan.

Ask questions and listen effectively at your first meeting.

When you have the opportunity for a face-to-face meeting with senior military or community leaders, you should leverage that time not only to communicate your message, but also to ask questions and actively listen. The more you can hear from the partner about what their organization is currently doing, the better understanding you will have of how their capabilities align with the AOS mission. Use the following active listening techniques when communicating with potential partners:

  • Door opening is when you invite the person to elaborate on what he or she is saying. You are showing interest and not allowing personal judgments to discourage the invitation.
  • Probing is when you raise a topic related to what the individual is explaining and ask him or her to elaborate on that topic.
  • Perception-checking involves paying attention to non-verbal cues, such as body language, eye contact, topics being avoided, and unmentioned or implied feelings.
  • Paraphrasing is when you restate, in your own words what the individual has just said to verify the message.End of text

Effective Presentations

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Develop presentations that are well researched, structured, and customized.

Preparing content for a presentation and adapting it for specific audiences is a crucial part of public speaking competence. Studies indicate that the effectiveness and success of a presentation is directly proportional to the amount of time spent conducting research, structuring and creating the content, and preparing visuals. When you make presentations to senior leaders, take the time to prepare so that you deliver a tailored and powerful message that incentivizes your audience to establish a partnership.

An effective presentation includes a clear introduction, body, and conclusion, and most importantly, includes a bottom line or call to action – what you want the audience to do as a result of your presentation and why they should care. The call to action should be communicated clearly up front and reinforced throughout the presentation with solid research and data.

Click the resources link for a template you can use to prepare content for formal presentations to senior leaders.

Incorporate visuals to bring content to life.

Presentation visuals bring content to life and are helpful in clarifying a difficult concept, presenting a complex idea, or demonstrating a process. If poorly used, visuals can detract from the presentation, but if used effectively, can significantly enhance it. Avoid “death by PowerPoint” by following some basic principles:

  • Keep it visual – use images, charts, timelines, etc.
  • Use keywords – avoid lengthy sentences and paragraphs of text
  • Use sans serif fonts that are 24 pt. or larger (i.e. Calibri, Arial)
  • Face the audience when speaking, not the slides

Engage your audience with a dynamic delivery.

Being a memorable and engaging presenter requires dedication and practice. You must take time to improve your skills in the core areas of presentation delivery, including movement, gestures, vocal variety, eye contact, and managing nervousness. It helps to focus on one or two skills at a time so you can master your presentation delivery without becoming overwhelmed or over thinking it. The following are some strategies you can use to improve your skills in the core areas:

Movement

  • Become aware of unconscious movements – videotaping yourself will help with this
  • Utilize the space provided – practice a step and plant technique: walk to a certain point and plant your feet for 2-3 minutes to avoid pacing
  • Step forward when making an important point

Gestures

  • Use gestures that complement or reinforce your message
  • When you aren’t gesturing, let both arms relax and drop to your sides
  • Smile often – it will make you look and feel better because it releases endorphins in your body

Vocal Variety

  • Vary your volume and project your voice out to the audience member farthest away from you
  • Mix up the pace by slowing down for technical information and speeding up for straightforward and exciting information
  • Increase pitch variety as it will make you sound more interesting

Note: If you are presenting online, enhancing your vocal variety is essential because it will be your only asset. You will want to project your voice and vary your rate and pitch in a slightly more exaggerated way than if you were face-to-face.

Eye Contact

  • Divide the room like the face of a clock and sustain eye contact for two to three seconds with each section of the room throughout the presentation
  • Maintain eye contact with more than just one or two people

Managing Nervousness

  • Nervousness is simply adrenaline – energy. Use the energy to convey passion and enthusiasm and release the energy by moving during the presentation
  • Nervousness peaks during the first 1-2 minutes of the presentation for most people. Carefully craft and nail the opening, almost to the point of memorization
  • Take deep belly breaths to relax. Your body cannot be nervous and relaxed at the same time. This will help with nervousness and with projectionEnd of text

Overcoming “No”

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Clearly state the value proposition.

The first thing to do to overcome a “no” is to make a solid case for “yes.” The preparation you have done should give you a clear way to state the value of participating in an alliance. This statement should connect the alliance’s purpose and desired outcomes directly the organization’s values, mission, goals, and activities. In addition, you may be able to leverage the alliance itself. The community leader may be interested in joining the alliance because his or her peers are already on board. In addition, they may see valuable ways to leverage the other partners’ resources to amplify the impact of the alliance and their own organization’s work.

Equip yourself with ways to respond to pushback or uncertainty.

One of the most challenging aspects of engaging potential partners is responding to pushback or “waffling” and knowing what steps to take if the partner says no, or does not say yes. In addition to the initial ask, you should prepare alternative ways the partner could help. Even if the partner does not engage to the extent you originally desired, some engagement is better than none at all. Break down participation into pieces so the commitment looks small and the outcomes big. Then the partner can engage to the extent they feel comfortable – posting information on their website, giving one hour per week on the phone, or a few hours per month in face-to-face meetings. If the potential partner is unsure, ask for more information or clarification and ask many questions. The more you can hear from the partner about what their organization is currently doing, the better understanding you will have of how their capabilities align with the AOS mission.

When the answer is ultimately “no,” you can still gain value from the conversation.

If the potential partner ultimately says no, you can still get additional value from the conversation. Ask the individuals if there are additional people or agencies that would be helpful in achieving the goals of the AOS initiative and ask for a referral. You can find a “side door” and meet with others in the division or other related agencies to gain support, which may later generate more participation from the targeted partner if his/her peers are involved.

Click the resources link for examples of potential responses to “no.”

Summary

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Do your research, hone your conversation and presentation skills, and arm yourself with tactics to overcome “no.”

Now that you have completed this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Recall effective techniques for establishing relationships with senior military and community leaders;
  • Recall effective listening and interview/conversation techniques when engaging senior military and community leaders;
  • Apply strategies to use data effectively in presentations and conversations;
  • Apply strategies to tailor templates for call plans to highlight concrete outcomes for Service members and Families; and
  • Apply risk management strategies to account for potential “pushback” and increase the likelihood of partner engagement.End of text

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