Delivering bad news

Caroline Brewer

I recently completed my final project from the advanced “Speeches for Management” manual – delivering bad news.  Through the introduction by both the evaluator and the Toastmaster; I made sure the audience was aware that they were role playing. They were to be the workforce of a manufacturing plant in the UK, which was under threat of closure due to the US parent company considering relocating manufacturing to the States.  Below are the key lessons that I took from preparing and delivering the speech.

  • Delivery of the message was going to be even more important than the message itself. I needed to come over as calm, professional but also approachable.  I wanted to inspire the audience to feel that despite receiving bad news, there was hope; especially if they had an optimistic view of the future.  So I gave far more attention to what I was wearing (professional attire) and how I was standing (confidently anchored and holding a clip board so that it didn’t appear that I was speaking off the cuff or unprepared).  There were plenty of pauses to enable people time to take in the bad news, although some of the feedback suggested I could have made even more of the pauses!  I allowed for questions so that I could demonstrate my commitment to each member of the audience.


  • Definitely don’t waffle; give the bad news clearly and concisely. I did give reasons behind the decision, but again these were brief and to the point.  I found it easier to think of the speech in two clear halves – the first was the bad news, the second was the potential opportunities to mitigate that news.  Each half had a different pace and feel.


  • I looked to positively recognise both individuals and the overall team’s contribution to performance to date, so that despite the overall feeling of bad news there were still positives to take away.

I had been concerned ahead of giving the speech that it would feel odd given that it was effectively a role play, but once I was in front of the audience I found it easier than I’d expected.  I actually enjoyed being in ‘role’.

Caroline Brewer completed her Advanced Silver Communicator with this speech.

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