Characteristics of a World-Class Internal Audit Department, Part I

A few weeks back, I was asked by one of my Audit Senior School attendees what are the key attributes of a world-class internal audit department. I have honestly not ever thought about this since, in my opinion, there are so many and they could be very different based on size, industry and geographic location. After some research and deep thought, here are the ten that I believe permeate through all of the differences previously outlined and are necessary for all world-class audit shops (WCAS):

  • Forward Thinkers – Many auditors only focus on compliance-related risks or only on the past. As Richard Chambers likes to say, auditors must be able to “audit at the speed of risk”. WCAS need to be able to audit strategy and assist the company in assessing future risks.
  • Communication – Auditors must be able to communicate at a high level and communicate transparently and continuously. This builds trust and creates more opportunities where we can assist the business in meeting its objectives.
  • Diverse staff skills/background – A few years back, I spoke at the GAM conference and had an in-session disagreement with an attendee that stated the best auditors are usually CPA’s. I might have agreed with this in my 20’s but as I have gotten more experience, I realize the need for as much diversity as possible in an internal audit shop. WCAS need CPA’s, industry personnel, people from the business, anything and everything that helps gives diverse perspectives to any audit.
  • Add “Value” to the Organization – I have always disliked the term “Value” because that term is subjective and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. WCAS define value through that view and understand what the clients and organization views as value. With that defined term, WCAS constantly strive to deliver this to their clients through their audits.
  • Understand the Objective of Internal Audit – Having a mission/vision statement is key; however WCAS always keep in mind the red book definition of internal audit:

Internal auditing is an independent, objective assurance and consulting activity designed to add value and improve an organization’s operations. It helps an organization accomplish its objectives by bringing a systematic, disciplined approach to evaluate and improve the effectiveness of risk management, control, and governance processes.

It is imperative that WCAS remember we are assisting the organization in meeting its objectives. I ask my classes what the definition of internal auditing is routinely and I would estimate 90% do not remember this key phrase in the definition. If auditors do not remember this, trust me the business easily forgets this key point. This is something WCAS constantly stress through the audit process and this should help connect the audit client with a message they can buy into.

Those are five of our ten; next week we will introduce our next five attributes of a WCAS.

What Makes a Great Keynote?

What should organizations look for in a Keynote Speaker? As a frequent conference presenter, I am always looking for ways to distinguish myself from my peers, especially as a concurrent presenter looking to continue to progress to keynote sessions. We have identified five qualities keynote speakers must have in order to be successful:

  • High-Energy – Keynotes usually kick off a conference or end a conference; in these time slots, you need a presenter that energizes the entire group and gets them excited about what’s to come or what has been heard. It has to have a fun, invigorating feel and make the audience leave excited and enlightened.
  • Entertaining – Keynotes must be extremely entertaining and fun and excite and energize the room and all attendees. They must connect the audience with the overall message.
  • Engaging – Keynotes have to engage the audience and converse with them, not to them. Get them involved in the conversation, make them emotionally connect to the message. The more engaging, the more the audience will feel the message and connect with each person on a personal level.
  • Message/Material must applies to EVERYONE in an Audience: Keynotes have to be able to connect with everyone in the audience and must a message that is universal.
  • Unique – Finally, a very important trait that is usually not pointed out is the uniqueness of the presenter. Keynotes need to differentiate themselves from the pack; it might be as simple as a different way to think or that they dress differently or do not use a microphone or podium…whatever the trait, it needs to stick out and be remembered.

A few months back, I had the great pleasure of attending a fundraiser that ex-Chief of Dallas Police David Brown spoke. I assumed he would connect the audience with the attacks on Dallas in July 2016 and how he graciously handled these events. I was completely surprised when this was never mentioned and he told a wonderful story from his youth and connected the whole room with his message. It was a truly excellent presentation and his speech exemplified all of the qualities outlined above. What else is necessary to make a great keynote presentation?

Creating Effective Webinars

We have all listened in on boring, ineffective webinars. What are the keys to creating a truly effective webinar? Would love to here your comments on what is key. Here are my thoughts:

  • Voice Inflection – One of the pieces of advice I was given when I first started delivering webinars is to have a mirror in front of you when you are speaking. People can hear when you are smiling/showing emotion; it is important to not become monotone when the audience cannot see you.
  • Interaction – My greatest concern when I started delivering webinars is I would not be able to interact with the audience as I like to do live. During our webinars, I engage attendees as much as possible and not just through CPE questions. We have many informal polls and try to answer questions real-time throughout the presentation. The interaction is not the same as live but we still strive for a high-level of interaction on our webinars.
  • Quick Moving Subject Matter – We try to keep the subject matter constantly moving, capturing key points but not dwelling on any slides for very long. I utilize the same methodology (to a certain extent) in live classes; if the slides do not keep flowing, you risk losing the attention of your audience. I tend to have more slides for webinars when compared to live courses as well.
  • Dialogue – As we spoke about previously when we discussed Interaction, we strive to make each attendee feel like they are in a live course or they are in a 1:1 coaching session. We implore attendees to ask questions and lend their experiences to the topic at hand. This perspective adds significant value to all attendees experience.
  • Take breaks (if over an hour) – We currently conduct webinars that run from one to eight hours; we break up the eight hour courses into fourths or two four hour sessions. Regardless, if you are hosting a webinar over one hour, take breaks. Take five minutes at the top of each hour. It is difficult enough sitting through live training but sitting in front of your computer, hour after hour, trying to focus on listening? Very difficult to do, even for the most focused attendee.

Do Speakers Need Introductory Slides?

I saw a comment on Linkedin that questioned a speaker’s need to have introductory slides when kicking off a presentation. A speaker that I know and respect greatly stated that introductory slides are pointless; people know who you are and why you are there and they are unnecessary and a waste of time. Do you agree?

My opinion differs greatly from my fellow speaker and friend, possibly because I am one who utilizes introductory slides. My initial thought is who actually reads through the speaker background prior to a training/speaker session? I know a have certain attendees that attend my courses because they enjoy my presentation style. On the other hand, I think many attendees sign up based on subject matter and if it is a speaker they know and like, even better.

Based on that assumption, I find that introductory slides are necessary but maybe not for the reason that you think. Yes they are to help establish creditability. On the other hand, creditability, in many respects, is inherent in being up on the stage. I believe the introductory slides are to set the mood or tone for the day. I tend to take a very light-hearted approach to most if not all subject matters. I use the intro slides to talk about myself but definitely outline my background with some self-deprecating humor. I also like to be flexible with the subject matter at hand and begin dialogue with attendees on what they are looking to learn from the class. It does serve that main purpose but also gets everyone in the class talking and more importantly, comfortable with a high level of interaction.

Now, here is where introductory slides tend to go awry: when speakers use them as a straight sales pitch. That is when a speaker can lose attendees in the first five minutes of the day.

In summary, speakers should use introductory slides for the following purposes:

  • Establish creditability (to a small extent)
  • Establish the mood for the class
  • Gain the attendees’ comfort and get them to relax
  • Force interaction by attendees

What are your thoughts? Yay or Nay on Speaker introductory slides?

Audit Transparency in Action

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Professional trainers have many opportunities to speak to companies and organizations about leading practices in the internal/IT audit industries. Trainers have the luxury of opining on internal matters while remaining outsiders, which enables them to stay removed from inter-company politics and corporate culture.

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