Briefing Ministers and Senior Officials

A face to face presentation to your Assistant Deputy Minister, senior management team, Deputy Minister or Minister can be a career-defining moment for any public service executive. You know your subject but can you communicate it effectively? How will you be remembered after, rising star or the opposite? Happily, successful face to face briefing is a learned skill and there are proven techniques which can help you excel in this challenging task.

The Program

The course will provide an opportunity for you to increase your oral and written briefing skills in a safe environment and learn the keys to preparing and delivering presentations to public sector decision-makers. It will cover the real-world preferences of senior officials and Ministers, the most common questions they ask and advanced techniques for briefing them effectively. The course is highly interactive and practical. It will enable you to experiment with various real-world scenarios such as the elevator briefing, the five minute briefing on a complex file, the PowerPoint presentation to a committee and the briefing in a Minister’s office for example. You will get feedback from peers and one-on-one coaching from the instructor, and come away with new skills you can apply with confidence on return to the job. This course will be tailored and customized to the specific needs of your department or a particular branch or division within it. It can be offered as a one, two or three day course with the following flexible modules:


  • The real-world context in which Ministers and senior officials function;
  • The factors they consider when making decisions;
  • The style of policy documents and briefings which best helps them do their jobs;
  • Strategic policy analysis – what it is and how to do it.


  • Best practices - elements of a “good” briefing note;
  • How to make the departmental template work;
  • Techniques for writing different types of briefings -- information notes, decision notes, and notes for meetings;
  • Techniques for writing briefing notes under time pressure;
  • Practical exercises – writing a briefing note.


  • How to identify and target the audience’s core concerns;
  • How to structure ideas simply and persuasively;
  • How to simplify complex information and avoid information overload;
  • How to handle objections positively and effectively;
  • How to deal with unpleasant situations and emotional issues;
  • Body language;
  • Role playing, practical exercises and feedback.


  • Most common errors in designing and delivering PowerPoint presentations;
  • Best practices –elements of a “good” PowerPoint presentation;
  • Practical exercises to design and deliver a PowerPoint presentation;
  • Feedback from peers and consultant.


  • Understanding PCO expectations and the Cabinet process;
  • Best practices – strategies for designing a Cabinet submission;
  • Practical exercises on key elements of a Cabinet submission.

Who Should Attend

The course is for public service executives, senior policy analysts and senior specialists who have briefing experience but want to enhance their skills.

 Quotations from previous participants

“Excellent in the way some of the most challenging parts of writing notes were boiled down to clear principles of communications.”

 “Great use of the expertise of the group and feedback.  The exercises provided much value.”

“The greatest emphasis was on the idea of planning.”

“What a great facilitator.  Extremely credible and experienced.  I really enjoyed the balance between theory presented and practical exercises.”


David Holdsworth

The program is delivered by a highly experienced practitioner. David Holdsworth is a former Senior Assistant Deputy Minister and Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet in the Privy Council Office with over thirty years experience briefing Prime Ministers, Ministers and Deputy Ministers. During the past ten years as a consultant, he has conducted more than thirty programs in policy writing and briefing in public sector departments and agencies.


Centre on Public Management and Policy
University of Ottawa
Odell House, 180 Waller Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1N 9B9


Please contact Guylaine Morin-Cléroux at, phone: 613-796-6100 if you would like to receive a proposal for your organization.

The course can be offered in English and French.

For Futher Information on the Course

Please contact: David Holdsworth:

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